By Gabriel Pessoa
The wheat has been separated from the chaff.
Of the eight teams left standing in the 2019 Copa Libertadores, four reached this same stage last year. Boca Juniors, Gremio and Palmeiras are all back in the rarified air of the quarter-finals along with reigning champions River Plate.
And while the quarterfinalists consist of clubs from four different South American countries, one entire half of the bracket is comprised exclusively of teams from just one: Brazil.
Fittingly, this week’s action kicks off with an all-Brazilian match-up with Gremio hosting Palmeiras on Tuesday.
Gremio (BRA) vs. Palmeiras (BRA) – Tuesday @ 8:20pm ET / 5:20pm PT
Gremio is on track to make its third consecutive Copa Libertadores semi-final. Having won the competition in 2017, the Imortal Tricolor will look to make the most of this extremely rare opportunity in South American soccer.
Standing in their path are the defending Brazilian champions, Palmeiras, who also progressed to last year’s final four, before being eliminated by Boca.
The sideline battle between Renato Gaucho and Luis Felipe Scolari, two coaches who have lifted the Copa Libertadores title before, promises to be box office.
Players to watch
Keep an eye out for Copa America breakout star Everton Soares as he looks to put Palmeiras’ power house defender Felipe Melo through his paces.
The Verdao possess firepower in their ranks, too. Case in point: Gustavo Scarpa. The versatile midfielder has netted five goals in six games during this Copa Libertadores campaign, and will be central to Scolari's plans at the Arena do Gremio.