As the biggest club competition in South American soccer, Copa Libertadores attracts plenty of betting interest. This competition is unique and only those who invest time into research will be able to find value in the available markets. What do you need to know to make Copa Libertadores predictions? Read on to find out.
Copa Libertadores is the premier club football tournament for South America. The 2019 tournament features 47 clubs from each of the ten CONMEBOL nations. Brazil has a potential for eight clubs in the group stage, Argentina has seven, and all other nations have a potential for four. The tournament draw ensures each country will have at least four teams in the group stage.
Betting markets during Copa Libertadores receive plenty of action and prices are quick to move. Those who can price games accurately can quickly build equity in bets, and often get well ahead of the closing number. Here are some betting basics I focus on when pricing and handicapping Copa Libertadores betting markets.
Why playing styles are important
Playing style should have a big influence on your approach when it comes to Copa Libertadores predictions. The added pressure of international play and lack of familiarity with opponents often results in managers putting forth their most comfortable game plan.
In the qualifying and knockout stages when the away goals rule plays, tactics can vary drastically between the first and second leg. During the group stage when goal differential plays a factor, teams tend to try to maximise scoring at home and then protect on the road.
Knowing which managers prefer to put together aggressive and conservative game plans is a tremendous asset. It doesn’t take a great deal of research to acquire this kind of knowledge and it will certainly be of benefit when trying to make accurate Copa Libertadores predictions.
The impact of player news and domestic form
The player rotation has a massive impact on Copa Libertadores match prices. In South America, each country has a domestic league and domestic cup in play at the same time as Copa Libertadores.
Teams are often participating in two or three competitions simultaneously. Depending on where a team ranks in Copa Libertadores and domestic tournament table, priority on player availability can differ competition to competition.
Getting a feeling for how managers rotate their players can make a big difference in getting ahead of the betting market as the majority of bettors falsely believe international play always draws the best possible lineup.
How to assess the talent gap
The talent gap of clubs in Copa Libertadores is enormous. Clubs in Brazil and Argentina have an average squad value of £30,000,000+ while clubs in Venezuela, Paraguay and Bolivia have an average value just below £5,000,000.
Given that soccer teams can often take time to reach optimal levels of fitness, how much competitive soccer they have played when Copa Libertadores begins can be crucial.
Of the teams that qualified for the group stage, Boca Juniors of Argentina in Group G are the most expensive club with a market value £110,000,000. Zamora FC of Venezuela in Group E is the cheapest club market value of just £4,000,000.
In order to conduct more thorough research into the value of specific squads, there are various websites online with this kind of information - transfermarkt.com is one such website that bettors may want to use.
Keep an eye out for schedule conflicts
With South America spanning half of the globe, domestic leagues begin at very different times. At the beginning of Copa Libertadores qualifying play in late January, Argentina will be at the halfway point of the local club season and Brazil will be on summer break.
Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia will just be starting their new season and Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay will be starting preseason friendlies. For five of six first qualifying stage clubs, the first leg will be their first competitive match of 2019.
Given that soccer teams can often take time to reach optimal levels of fitness, be able to adequately implement the manager’s tactics and more generally perform at the level they are capable of, how much competitive soccer they have played when Copa Libertadores begins can be crucial.
The importance travel time and fatigue?
Clubs in Copa Libertadores deal with extreme travel time and fatigue that is incomparable to other leagues and competitions. The geographic range and lack of direct travel routes mean teams can spend a full day - or two - travelling to face their opponent.
Examples of extreme travel exist in each group. For example, the teams in Group F include Junior (Barranquilla), San Lorenzo (Buenos Aries) and Palmeiras (Sao Paulo). That means each side will have to make at least one 10+ hour (8,000km) flight to cross the continent to play a mid-week game - often after a domestic league competition 72-96 hours prior.
A bookmaker will incorporate a team’s travel requirements and potential fatigue into their Copa Libertadores predictions but it could still pay to keep on eye on where and when teams are flying to games. Any disruption in travel plans could lead to a value play that the bookmaker is yet to catch up to.
Remember to take altitude into consideration
CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is often said to be the most difficult qualifying region of the world. The range of conditions and climate means that even the greatest players in the world struggle every four years during World Cup qualifying. Ecuador’s success at home but poor performance away is evidence of how big of an influence the altitude can have on performance at international level.
Clubs in Brazil and Argentina have an average squad value of £30,000,000+ while clubs in Venezuela, Paraguay and Bolivia have an average value just below £5,000,000.
The same conditions destroy domestic clubs every year in Copa Libertadores. Teams travelling from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil to Colombia and Ecuador can find themselves playing at 2,000-3,000 meters above their familiar home altitude.
Teams that go to La Paz in Bolivia will compete in one of the highest elevations of any city on the planet at 3,600 meters. Climate swings dictate playing styles in a big way too; at any time during the competition the temperature between the North and South of South America can show a difference of 20-25 degrees Celsius.
Failure to account for the impact altitude can have when making Copa Libertadores predictions is a mistake that bettors simply cannot afford to make.
Don’t forget about the referees
Copa Libertadores matches require referees from a non-participating division to call each game. Referee assignments are determined in advance to account for travel and preparation. Looking at a referee’s experience at the international level can give insight into how he will call a match.
Often penalty and card frequency are increased for international play in comparison to domestic league play due to the stature of the game. While a penalty or red card can determine the outcome of a match, doing research into the referees prior to each game can help inform your Copa Libertadores predictions in terms of cards betting.