The group stage of this year’s Copa Libertadores is now up and running, with Matchday 2 commencing this week. What stood out last week and what can be expected from this week’s matches? Adam Chernoff previews the upcoming fixtures.
Copa Libertadores group stage Matchday 1 recap
The opening round of fixtures featured upsets by Libertad Asuncion (who closed at 4.33) and Independiente Del Valle (4.95) against Independiente Medellin and Barcelona SC respectively. However, the biggest surprise was the overall dominance by the away teams. In total, eight won their opening match, which was a shock in a tournament with historically strong home results.
Teams with an elevation advantage enjoyed a strong start. Binacional won as a short underdog (2.45) against Sao Paulo in the hills of Juliaca, LDU Quito (1.72) dominated River Plate in Ecuador and Jorge Wilstermann (1.95) defeated Colo-Colo at home.
Quito were also the biggest movers of the week, opening at 2.45 (equating to a 40.8% chance of victory) and closing at 1.72, a 58.1% chance. This near 18% move will likely rank as one of the biggest adjustments observed during the tournament and was again impacted by player and lineup news.
Indeed, River Plate elected to field a number of secondary players and ultimately lost 3-0, illustrating what to expect going forward when teams competing at the top of their domestic league are faced with a cross-continent and mid-week journey to play in adverse conditions.
Copa Libertadores group stage Matchday 2: Key matches
Bolivar vs. Tigre predictions
As highlighted, teams enjoying an elevation advantage earned victories across the board in the opening Matchday and Bolivar will be hoping to maintain the trend. They play at the Estadio Hernando Siles, which is the highest stadium in South America at 3,640 metres above sea level and poses considerable difficulty for any foreign opponent.
Bolivar are scoring more than 2.5 goals per match in the Bolivian Primera Division.
This week they host Tigre, who are the only team in this year’s tournament who do not compete in their country’s top domestic division. Instead, they play in Argentina’s Primera B after being relegated last season and have thus far struggled in their attempts to return, sitting in fifth after 19 games having recorded eight victories and seven defeats.
Relegated teams are often susceptible to having their best players poached, as Tigre can testify. They possess a somewhat threadbare and hastily assembled squad, who will be making arguably the most treacherous trip in South American soccer.
Bolivar are scoring more than 2.5 goals per match in the Bolivian Primera Division and can call upon a solid midfield including talents such as Emiliano Vecchio, Erwin Saavedra and Victor Abrego. The Asian Handicap prices could be set to shorten in favour of Bolivar leading up to kick-off.
River Plate vs. Binacional predictions
Ten-man River Plate may have suffered the largest margin of defeat in Matchday 1, but unlike their fixture last week in Quito, manager Marcello Gallardo is expected to field a full-strength complement of players at home versus Binacional. Los Millonarios should also benefit from playing an early match on Saturday, providing an extra day of rest ahead of this week’s game on Wednesday.
Defending Peruvian champions Binacional earned a comfortable victory against Sao Paulo in their opening match, but are predicted to struggle away from home. It was observed last year during their surprise title win that their team has been specifically crafted to play at altitude, prompting deficiencies in other areas.
Indeed, Binacional often deploy a pure press upfront and in certain respects, their best defence is their offensive press. When playing at sea level, their lack of depth is exposed, and the prospect of a match without their habitual elevation advantage at a difficult venue against a full-strength and rested River side is a formidable test.
River are well-placed to earn a home victory by a large margin in what will likely be a one-sided affair.
Racing Club vs. Alianza Lima predictions
After losing their Copa Libertadores opener at home against Nacional, Alianza Lima were comprehensively defeated by Universitario in their following Peruvian Primera Division match, producing only one shot on target.
Racing Club are yet to lose a match in any competition during 2020.
The concerns surrounding Los Blanquiazules continue to grow, especially considering their domestic title hopes in a somewhat weak division are rapidly fading after just six games. To exacerbate matters, manager Pablo Bengoechea resigned after the defeat, with a full-time replacement yet to be announced.
This week, Alianza Lima travel to Buenos Aries to face Racing Club. La Academia are yet to lose a match in any competition during 2020 and looked impressive in their opener away to Estudiantes Merida, coming from behind to win a match they largely controlled.
The mismatch in talent, particularly between the Racing attack and Alianza defence, is enormous and will be heightened by the latter’s current absence of a manager. This is another fixture where a home victory by a considerable margin is certainly a plausible outcome.
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