The annual club battle between Brazil and Argentina is picking up again as the Copa Libertadores moves into the playoffs this week.

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Since the format change in 2017, when the event became a year-long event instead of being limited to the first few months, the two big countries have dominated, and in 2022 they provide all but four of the 16 teams, which will be reduced to eight. over the next two weeks.

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In the last few campaigns, Brazil has been on top, supplying the last three winners (Flamengo, Palmeiras x2) and both finalists from the previous two years (Palmeiras v Flamengo; Palmeiras v Santos). Brazilian clubs continue to grow, but for a number of reasons, the Argentines feel they can do better this time around.

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The country didn’t lose a single club in the group stage, with all six teams making it through safely, with the likes of Talleres and Colón performing better than expected, while young Vélez Sarsfield managed to bail out after a poor start. And there is the guarantee of an Argentine semi-finalist as Talleres and Colón now face each other, with the winner advancing to the quarter-finals against the winner of the clash of Velez Sarsfield and River Plate.

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River, the 2019 champion, is the undisputed favorite for this Argentine mini-championship, despite the fact that they will soon be saying a warm goodbye to their star, Manchester City striker Julián Alvarez. It’s true that River had a poor start to the season in Argentina, as did Velez, Talleres and Colon. However, perhaps more important is the fact that the Argentine parties are in a state of competition.

Over the past few years, Argentine clubs have paid their price at this point in the year. The Libertadores are resuming the knockout games, and at the very moment when the action is getting more serious, the country is still coming back from vacation. Due to the fact that the domestic season traditionally ends at the end of May, the teams did not play for a month and were active in the transfer market, which could unbalance the squad in the early stages. This is clearly poor preparation for the decisive game of Libertadores.

However, Qatar has undergone a reorganization this year due to the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November. Argentina started their new league earlier than usual and the teams have been in the game all June so they don’t get rusty.

This should help a lot in the two matches between Brazil and Argentina in this round. A glamorous draw between two giants, Boca Juniors and Corinthians, is a repeat of the 2012 final and the third meeting this year after they both won their home games when they matched up in the group stage.

Another clash between Brazil and Argentina will close the round on the next two Thursdays. In the first match, Fortaleza hosts Estudiantes in the northeast of Brazil. Under the guidance of the impressive Argentine coach Juan Pablo Voivoda, Fortaleza are thoroughly enjoying their first campaign for Libertadores and it will be interesting to see if the team faces an Estudiantes team that combines tough defense and skillful game management with bursts of talent.

Six Brazilian teams managed to avoid each other in this round, although future clashes seem inevitable as they are clear favorites against non-Argentines. Two of them meet with clubs from Paraguay. The champions of the last two years and the leaders of the first division of Brazil, Palmeiras are the absolute favorites in the game against Cerro Porteño. while Atlético Paranaense, resurrected after the appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari, will support themselves to get past Libertad, whom they have already faced in the group stage. It was a win for everyone then, but Scolari has Atlético Madrid roaring up the Brazilian first division table and confidence is high.

In the remaining matches, Brazilian clubs are fighting rivals from the north of the continent, who find themselves in opposite situations. 2019 winners Flamengo are up against Colombia’s Tolima, a team that could be suffering from too much football considering they are also in the midst of a two-leg final of the Colombian Championship, losing 3-1 to Atlético Nacional. de Medellin in the first match. Win or lose in Sunday’s second leg, Tolima only has a few days to regroup before facing a Flamengo team desperate to salvage a disappointing year.

Meanwhile, Emelek of Ecuador had been out of action since the end of May. Their domestic season, in which they finished sixth, was on hiatus and the resumption was delayed by a wave of protests against a hike in the prices of fuel, food and basic necessities that swept the country. Protests have been stronger in the capital Quito than in the port city of Emelec Guayaquil, but Brazilian league and cup champion Atlético Mineiro will wait for assurances before heading out to take part in the play-off game. Tuesday evening.