Previewing Copa Libertadores Qualifying Second Phase

Copa Libertadores

 

By Gabriel Pessoa, beIN SPORTS

Last week, Defensor Sporting, Delfin and Deportivo La Guaira all moved on from the first stage of Copa Libertadores qualifiers. They will have their work cut out for them, as this week they join 13 other sides in the second stage of qualifiers, battling for advancement to the third stage and eventually toward the group stage, when South America’s premier competition begins in proper. It only gets tougher from here on out.

Here is a look at all you need to know going into the second round of Copa Libertadores preliminary phase qualifiers.

 

Danubio (URU) vs. Atletico Mineiro (BRA)
When: Tuesday, Fed. 5th @ 4:05pm ET/1:05am PT – 1st Leg
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Danubio, the four-time Uruguayan champions, are set to host Atletico Mineiro in Montevideo for the first leg.

Oddly enough, this will be Danubio’s first official match of the new year since finishing 10th in the Uruguayan Clausura last year. Meanwhile, the Brazilian club – known as ‘Galo’ – began its campaign in its state tournament, the Copa Mineiro. Although state tournaments in Brazil are largely considered a preseason for the teams, Atletico Mineiro is currently in third after five matches.

‘Galo’ has maintained steady top five performances in the Brazilian league ever since winning the Libertadores back in 2013 with Ronaldinho. Look for former Milan and Real Betis man, Ricardo Oliveira, to lead the Brazilian side to glory in this matchup.

The Strongest (BOL) vs. Libertad (PAR)
When: Tuesday, Feb. 5th @ 6:20pm ET/3:20pm PT – 1st Leg
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The aspirationally named Bolivian side, The Strongest will begin its Copa Libertadores campaign at home against Paraguay’s Libertad. The Paraguayan side advanced to the round of 16 in 2018 before being eliminated by eventual runners-up Boca, so look for them to come back for more success this year.

Both sides lack in the bells and whistles department. However, what they lack in star power they make up for in one huge shared aspect: each team has the same chance as any other of its competitors to win the title. This will be as good a chance as any for either side to make themselves known in the biggest South American soccer stage there is.


FBC Melgar (PER) vs. Universidad de Chile (CHI)
When: Tuesday, Feb. 5th @ 6:20pm ET/3:20pm PT – 1st Leg
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While FBC Melgar are two-time Peruvian champions, they will be playing the role of David in this battle against Goliath. Universidad de Chile is one of the biggest clubs in the country. Although they finished third in last season’s tight race for Chilean dominance, ‘La U’ is rich in titles and history alike.

An embarrassing fourth-place finish in the group stage of last year’s Libertadores will surely motivate the Chilean side to seek revenge on anyone standing in the way of making amends for that disappointment. Veteran left back Jean Beausejour will look to lead ‘La U’ back to the Libertadores group stages.

Defensor Sporting (URU) vs. Barcelona SC (ECU)
When: Wednesday, Feb 6th @ 4pm ET/1pm PT – 1st Leg
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Sporting will face Barcelona! Although the players, uniforms and stadia will not be as familiar as the names, fret not, the play on the pitch will be nothing to scoff at.

Defensor Sporting finished the 2018 Uruguayan Apertura in fourth place just behind the aforementioned Danubio. The Uruguayan side, which last won anything of note back in 2008, has not tasted success in the present decade so this qualification tie presents a shot at glory against a noteworthy opponent.

Barcelona SC has won the Ecuadorian title a total of 15 times; its most recent title coming in 2016. Will Uruguayan grit and determination prevail against Ecuadorian domestic glory? This one is a toss-up you’ll want to tune in to see.

Delfin (ECU) vs. Caracas FC (VEN)
When: Wednesday, Feb 6th @ 4pm ET/1pm PT – 1st Leg
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We were all formerly introduced to Delfin in the first round of qualifiers. Two convincing wins over Nacional may have even convinced neutral viewers to root for the scrappy Ecuadorian underdogs.

Delfin star Roberto Ordonez, who had three goals and an assist in the two-leg first round, will look to repeat that success against Venezuelan side Caracas FC in what is sure to be a tough matchup for both teams.

Caracas FC joins the party via a third-place finish in its domestic league. There is nothing to lose and a group stage berth is up for grabs. Don’t doubt either side will put everything on the line.

Talleres de Cordoba (ARG) vs. Sao Paulo (BRA)
When: Wednesday, Feb. 6th @ 6:20pm ET/3:20pm PT – 1st Leg
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This may seem like another David versus Goliath matchup, however, there is one crucial layer to this narrative that should not be overlooked. Argentinians and Brazilians do not like each other on a soccer pitch.

Just because the side from Cordoba doesn’t have a trophy case anywhere near the size of Sao Paulo’s don’t think for a second that Talleres won’t do everything to cut Sao Paulo’s Libertadores run short. Keep in mind, Sao Paulo has won the Libertadores three times. That being said, Sao Paulo does have a cast of veterans the likes of Nene, Diego Souza and Hernanes. Look for the trio to do whatever it takes to catch a taste of glory at the end of their already successful careers.

Palestino (CHI) vs. Independiente Medellin (COL)
When: Wednesday, Feb. 6th @ 6:15pm ET/3:15pm PT – 1st Leg
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Chilean side Palestino has not seen much success since the 70s. They will begin their 2019 Libertadores campaign by hosting a tough opponent in Independiente Medellin. The Colombian side won a domestic title as recently as 2016 and finished in fifth place last year. Neither side took part in Libertadores last year.

Deportivo La Guaira (VEN) vs. Atletico Nacional (COL)
When: Thursday, Feb. 6th @ 6:20pm ET/3:20pm PT – 1st Leg
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First-time Libertadores competitors Deportivo La Guaira squeezed past Real Garcilaso in a thrilling two-legged battle during the first round of qualifiers. The Venezuelan side’s reward? Facing Colombian giant Atletico Nacional in the second phase.

Nacional – the 1989 and 2016 Libertadores champions and 16-time domestic champs – bowed out in round of 16 last year in Copa Libertadores. The team from Medellin is favored over the young Venezuelan side in this matchup and will be looking to move on and qualify for a chance to add to their history of Libertadores glory.

Nacional’s coach Paulo Autuori is no stranger to the tournament, having won it twice in the past with Cruzeiro (1997) and Sao Paulo (2005).

Sixteen teams vying for four group stage spots. Over the next two weeks these 16 sides will be whittled down to eight for the third and final stage of preliminary qualifying, then playing two more legs to earn those last four spots in the group stage. These teams could be forgotten within February, or they could enter the fray as contenders in the most prestigious south American soccer tournament known to man. This is what they’re playing for.