The Copa Libertadores returns this week after a brief summer break for international action. There are plenty of intriguing ties in the Round of 16 – with all three Paraguayan clubs still alive in the tournament and three Brazil vs. Argentina fixtures in this first knockout round, intensity promises to be high.
Here’s what you need to know for the eight first-leg matches this week:
River Plate (ARG) vs. Cruzeiro (BRA)
Tuesday, 6:05 p.m. ET Live on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS CONNECT
The last time we saw River Plate in CONMEBOL competition, the Argentine club was lifting the Recopa Sudamericana trophy in front of their fans at the Estadio Municipal. River will be hoping star striker Lucas Pratto is still sharp after the international break because scoring against Cruzeiro is no short order.
The Brazilian side conceded just two goals while topping their group, thanks in part to having seasoned captain Fabio between the pipes.
That being said, defending Copa Libertadores champions River are undefeated at home in the tournament so far. Expect that trend to continue in this first leg.
Godoy Cruz (ARG) vs. Palmeiras (BRA)
Tuesday, 8:20 p.m. ET Live on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS CONNECT
Among the favorites to win this year’s Libertadores, Palmeiras may have been the most consistent thus far. The defending Brazilian champions tallied five wins and 15 goals in six group matches. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men conceded just a single goal in that span.
While Argentina’s Godoy Cruz made it through a hard-fought Group C campaign in second place, they are the clear underdogs in this knockout stage matchup. A strong first-leg performance will be crucial if they want to have a chance of advancing.
LDU Quito (ECU) vs. Olimpia (PAR)
Tuesday, 8:15 p.m. ET Live on beIN SPORTS CONNECT 6 and beIN SPORTS en Español
Ecuadorian side LDU Quito produced one of the shocks of the group stage on the final matchday, when a 4-0 win over San Jose led to the elimination of Uruguayan powerhouse Penarol.
Quito will need to produce more big-time performances to have any hope in the knockouts as they have been matched up with three-time Libertadores winners, Olimpia from Paraguay.
Look for Olimpia to come out on top and keep the strong Paraguayan presence moving onto Quarterfinals.
San Lorenzo (ARG) vs. Cerro Porteno (PAR)
Wednesday, 6 p.m. ET Live on beIN SPORTS CONNECT 5 and beIN SPORTS en Español
That being said, Cerro Porteno has done a good job of surprising bigger clubs so far. The Paraguayan side defeated 2013 Libertadores Champion Atletico Mineiro twice in the group stage (1-0, 4-1). Cerro also finished top of their group with a +5 goal differential, while San Lorenzo took second in their group with a +2 goal differential.
A note for our TV audience: do your best to not mix the two clubs up as their crests and colors are seemingly identical.
Nacional (URU) vs. Internacional (BRA)
Wednesday, 6:05 p.m. ET Live on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS CONNECT
With five Libertadores titles between these South American powerhouses, this matchup promises to be a legendary battle. While the Uruguayan side may have more Libertadores titles, the clear favorite in this tie is Brazilian side Internacional. The club from Porto Alegre qualified from the group stages undefeated, scoring 11 goals and conceding six. Look for striker Paolo Guerrero and winger Wellington Silva to give Nacional’s defenders plenty of trouble.
Emelec (ECU) vs. Flamengo (BRA)
Wednesday, 8:20 p.m. ET Live on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS CONNECT
Before the Copa Libertadores group stage began, we mentioned Flamengo had made some pretty big moves during the winter transfer window. Well, here we are ahead of the Libertadores knockout stages and the club from Rio de Janeiro has added even more big names to its roster in hopes of fortifying their title chances.
After topping Group D, the six-time Brazilian champs added Portuguese manager Jorge Jesus and veteran right back Rafinha, while the addition of Filipe Luis looks imminent. It would be considered a huge upset if the Cariocas do not top Emelec and advance to the quarterfinals.
Athletico Paranaense (BRA) vs. Boca Juniors (ARG)
Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. ET Live on beIN SPORTS CONNECT 7 and beIN SPORTS en Español
If déjà vu is kicking in it’s because this is the third time these two sides will face each other in this year’s Libertadores. Boca Juniors and Athletico Paranaense qualified first and second respectively from group G. In both meetings, the home team was victorious.
Since then, Athletico were defeated in Argentina in the Recopa Sudamericana final against River Plate. Unfortunately for fans of the ‘Furacao,’ Boca should survive the storm and qualify to quarterfinals.
Gremio (BRA) vs. Libertad (PAR)
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET Live on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS CONNECT
Here we have another rematch and this tie is one of the most balanced in terms of talent on either side of the pitch. Both teams qualified from Group H with one win a piece in their head-to-head battles. Oddly enough, it was the away team who won on both occasions. Libertad have been the pleasant surprise of the tournament, winning Group H. After overcoming a scandalous coaching change ahead of group stages and righting the ship, the Paraguayan side have scored some of the nicest goals and played some of the most aesthetically pleasing soccer of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Gremio finished two-points back in Group H and look set to lose breakout star Everton Soares. The Brazilian winger has been linked heavily to Arsenal after winning the Copa America golden boot this summer. If Gremio aren’t careful, Libertad may very well send the Libertadores 2017 champs home early.