Copa Libertadores Futures

by Amedeus Mastrangelo

The Copa Libertadores quarter-finals are approaching, the first matches scheduled to start on August 2. With just a few weeks away it is time to discuss which of these teams have a real shot at going all the way and taking all the glory for themselves, and which of these teams are just frauds that do not belong despite the great journey they have been on. The round of 16 concluded with a lot of obvious choices making it through. There were a few surprises like Boca Juniors getting eliminated 6-5 in penalties after two scoreless draws with the Corinthians, and also the shocking exit of Argentina giant River Plate. The path is set all the way to the finals now and some teams have an easier road than others so it is time to take a look at who can go all the way and lift the trophy here.


Copa Libertadores Outrights

Flamengo +250 - Flamengo has been a giant in the Brasileiro Serie A for many years now. They have had plenty of success over the last few seasons, winning the league title 3 straight years (2018, 2019, 2020), and they have finished in the top 2 of the league the last 5 straight seasons, including last season where they finished 2nd place to Atletico Mineiro. They have had some success in this competition as well as they have appeared in 3 Copa Libertadores finals in their club history, winning in 2 of those 3 finals appearances. A lot of that success has also been recent, winning it back in 2019 with a 2-1 win over River Plate and they even went to the FIFA Club World Cup finals that year, losing to Liverpool 1-0 in a match that needed extra time to settle. Their last appearance in the Copa Libertadores finals was just last season as they lost 2-1 to Palmeiras, but they have consistently shown their dominance in this continent and even around the world over the last few years. They are getting the Corinthians in the quarter-finals who they have already suffered a 1-0 loss to very recently on an own goal but the Corinthians have not been scoring many goals recently either while Flamengo is playing in some of their best form all season. If Flamengo can make it through to the semi-finals, they will be facing the winner of Velez Sarsfield and Talleres Cordoba. Neither of those teams are really near being the strongest in their own Argentina league so Flamengo has a pretty nice road to the finals if they can through to the semis. Once in the finals, they could be facing either Palmeiras, Atletico Mineiro, Athletico Paranaense, or Estudiantes. That side of the tournament is a lot stronger than what Flamengo had to go through, with the 2 top contenders there being Atletico Mineiro and Palmeiras. Flamengo lost to Palmeiras in the finals last season but they have had a lot of success against them overall in recent head-to-head matches and they will surely be out for revenge here so it is very possible for Flamengo to take them down with the talent on that team. On the other hand, they have not had a lot of success against Atletico Mineiro recently if they end up making it through but Atletico MG has also been slipping in form recently, still playing great defense in their matches but their attack has not looked good and Flamengo is a scoring machine that could overpower them in a potential final. Flamengo is the favored team to win the tournament but for very good reason as they are one of the best teams on the continent and a bet on them to win the finals here would not be throwing money away.


Palmeiras +300 - Palmeiras is another team that is a Brasilian giant and they have had plenty of success in their league and Copa Libertadores over the many years. They have a very long history of being dominant in South America, finishing in the top 3 of their league 5 of the last 6 seasons and they even won the league title back in 2016 and 2018. They are coming off of a 3rd place finish in the league last season but they did win Copa Libertadores for the 2nd year straight. They have made 6 finals appearances in their club history, winning 3 of those trophies, and they have won the Copa Libertadores the last 2 straight years now and looking to defend their title again here, trying to make it 3 straight years. They have one of the best teams in Brasil by far with their talent level and they blew their opponent away in the last round with an 8-0 win on aggregate. They will have a much tougher road to the finals on their side of the tournament, taking one one of the toughest teams left in the quarter-finals. They will have to go through Atletico Mineiro first, who won the Brasileiro Serie A title last season, but they have not been in their best form recently and if they do not get things figured out quickly then Palmeiras will be sure to dispose of them. These two teams have drawn many times in their last few head-to-head matches though and this could be a very close round between these two. If Palmeiras manages to get by Atletico Mineiro then they will be facing the winner of the Athletico Paranaense and Estudiantes match in the semi-finals. Both of those teams have been playing very well in their respective domestic leagues and they have both been very focused on their Copa Libertadores matches as well, playing extremely well in those matches and excelling at home especially. It will be tough to go on the road and face either of these teams but Palmeiras still has one of the best teams in South America and they should be able to dispose of either side after 2 legs against them. If they can get past the semis and go all the way to the finals then they will be left with facing either Flamengo, Corinthians, Velez Sarsfield, or Talleres Cordoba, and considering the strength of field here it will very likely be Flamengo in the finals. Palmeiras beat Flamengo in the finals last year and they could very well do it again here. If they end up facing a different team in the finals that is not Flamengo then they will likely win for sure but Flamengo is a team that could really challenge them after what happened last season. Palmeiras could very well go all the way here and win the whole competition, they have the talent and the team to do it as back-to-back defending champions, but the reality is that this is not a very good bet considering how low their odds are with the strength of the competition they would have to face in every round just to get to the finals. 


Atletico Mineiro +400 - Atletico Mineiro is coming off of a great year where they won the Brasileiro Serie A title but their rise back to glory has been very recent as they have only finished in the top 3 of their league the last 2 season and were a struggling club for many seasons prior to those. They may be working their way back to the top of Brasil again but they have not had much success throughout the years in this Copa Libertadores competition, only making 1 finals appearance in club history and winning it that 1 time. They were kicked out of the semi-finals last year by Palmeiras and now have to go through that same Brasilian powerhouse in the quarter-finals here, with them being back-to-back Copa Libertadores champions as well. Atletico Mineiro has had a lot of success against Palmeiras in recent matches but that success has not translated over to Copa Libertadores, where Palmeiras focuses most of their efforts, and Atletico Mineiro has also been slipping in form recently as they struggled to get by a club from Ecuador that had not played any competitive matches in over a month before facing them. Atletico Mineiro is likely not going to get by Palmeiras in this round, they might do it but even if they do Athletico PR and Estudiantes could easily give them trouble with how good those teams are at home and the road seems like it is just too tough for Atletico MG to make it all the way to the finals where they would have to face another tough team, and they just have not shown that they are up for the challenge with their lethargic effort in the last round. Atletico Mineiro may be the reigning Brasilian champions but do not let that fool you, they are not a real contender in this competition this year.


Corinthians +900 - Corinthians is a team that has been very mediocre in their league over the years. They have been qualifying for these tournaments by going through the process and focusing on their matches but they have not been making it easy on themselves year after year. Corinthians won the Brasileiro Serie A title back in 2015 and 2017 but every year since then has not been good for them as they have had no top 4 finishes in the league. They finished 5th last season having to play some extra matches and have still ended up here in the quarter-finals through great defensive performances but their defense is going to be their downfall here. They have not been scoring any goals in their recent matches and those are troubles that they cannot be dealing with this late in the tournament. Their form has been slipping in both their league and Copa Libertadores, and they just advanced to this round through two scoreless draws. They have a very good defense that can keep some clean sheets in their matches but their attack is also nowhere to be found and that is going to be a big problem for them with some of these Brasilian powerhouses left in the competition that have defenses just as good as the Corinthians do, but also have a strong attack to score goals and put them on top. They have to face Flamengo in the quarters who is one of those teams with a great defense but can score a lot of goals and has been doing so in their recent matches. Corinthians will not be able to get by them here but even if the manage to somehow, they would have to face the winner of Velez Sarsfield and Talleres Cordoba who are both not as strong as Flamengo, but they both play a similar defensive style that either could end up beating Corinthians in penalties if it really came down to defense. Then in the finals, they would have gone through the easiest route to get there putting themselves in a position where any of the 4 teams on the other side of the bracket could lay a beating on them as they all have great defenses but can score goals as well. The odds may look tempting here, but Corinthians is the weakest Brasilian team left in the field here. Even Athletico PR is a better team and has a better chance of winning than Corinthians but the road will just be too hard for both. Corinthians is not a real contender here and will likely be out after the next round. 


Recommendations

After breaking down the 4 best teams left in the competition the only thing left is to say which bets are the best to make here. When looking for an outright winner, Flamengo at +250 is the best way to go here. They are the favored team to win the tournament but they also have the easiest road to get to the finals as they are the best team on their side of the bracket by far so the value is with them to make a deep run. They have also won it in the last 3 years and have been performing at elite levels as a club consistently for the last few years. They can match up against any team they face in the finals and winning the competition is a very real possibility for them this season. Another great bet to take with Flamengo is them to reach the finals at +100 as it has been discussed before about how their road to the finals is very easy and if they lose in this tournament it will most likely be there. One other team to consider when picking an outright winner in Palmeiras as they are the back-to-back defending champions here, beating Flamengo in the finals last season, and they have a good chance of beating any team that ends up in the finals from the other side as long as they can get there. Their more challenging matches will be their actual road to the finals as they will have to face some of the toughest teams left in the next 2 rounds but if they do make it through to the finals, you could be laughing with futures on both them and Flamengo who will likely be the 2 teams in the finals. Flamengo to win outright +250, Palmeiras to win outright +300, Flamengo to reach the finals +100.


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