This Wednesday, April 21st, Palmeiras debut against Universitario from Peru for the 2021 edition of the Libertadores Cup, a.k.a. Copa Libertadores, or simply the tournament Palmeiras won epically last season.
We always expect the title, but the mission is very hard. The last team to win two consecutive Libertadores Cups was Boca Juniors, in 2000 and 2001. For Palmeiras, this season comes with the added difficult of a calendar crazier than ever and a small but very vocal fragment of supporters acting as a spoiled child that needs to have all the toys.
Palmeiras have enlisted 50 players for the tournament, as the rules permit, and if a newcomer arrives, he can only be enlisted for the knockout stage.
The opponent in the first match is the only Palmeiras have played before in the Libertadores Cup. Our Libertadores history against Universitario reads three victories and one defeat, with 11GF and 5GA.
Our second opponent are the runners-up of the 2020 Ecuadorian League and sent Grêmio packing in the qualifiers to earn a spot in Group A. Thus, Independiente do Valle are an opponent that mustn’t be underrated. Detail: they have never lost at home playing in the Libertadores Cup.
The last opponent is a recent close encounter. Defensa y Justicia got their spot in the 2021 season by being the champions of the Sudamericana and in our first duel against them in history, we lost the Recopa to them after being beaten in a penalty shootout.
The format is the same as the Champions League. There are 32 teams in the group stage of the Libertadores Cup. These have been divided into eight groups, with four teams in each. In the first stage, each team plays all other teams in their group home and away, totaling six games.
After the six rounds in the group phase, the top two contenders in each group go to the round-of-16, defined through a draw where the teams that finished top in their groups face the runners-ups in home and away games. The home and away games continue in the quarterfinals and in the semifinals. The team with the best performance in the group stage has the advantage of playing the second leg at home. There is the away goal rule and the games go directly to penalty shootout if the aggregate scored is a tie.
Only the final is single legged. The stadium of the final is yet to be decided upon. Last year, it was at the Maracanã Stadium and the year before that, at the Monumental, in Peru.
Palmeiras have already bagged the Libertadores Cup twice and is the current reigning champions of the tournament. The other time Palmeiras won the title (1999), the following year we went all the way to the final, losing to Boca Juniors in a penalty shootout after being absurdly robbed in the first leg in Argentina.
Since 2018, Palmeiras have consecutively been the best team of the group stage, reaching the semifinal in 2018, the quarterfinals in 2019 and the title in 2020.
As the reigning champions, the pressure will be considerable. The games in the group stage will be mixed up with appearances in the São Paulo state Championship, which will surely divert the focus of the team and take some players out of combat due to injuries. Coach Abel is in for quite a ride.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi
*Here at Anything Palmeiras, we love football. We love Palmeiras. We are always keen to see Palmeiras play, and keen to write about it for you. But we’re against the return of football in a country that still hasn’t controlled the coronavirus pandemic. We express our deepest sympathy to the families whose loved ones have been taken by the disease.