Nublense v Racing Club
Racing Club won two domestic trophies last campaign, and head into the Libertadores full of confidence. Despite losing their top goalscorer, the club have started life well in the Primera Division and are far superior on paper compared to their Chilean debutants.
Star player Matias Rojas has scored five in his last five for both club and country, and Nublense may not be able to stop him from getting on the scoresheet once again.
Racing play with an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, preferring to move the ball quickly into attacking positions and are more than capable of breaking down their opponents or striking on the counter.
Nublense debut in the Libertadores but will have to go to battle without last season’s two top goalscorers. Manager Jaime Garcia has already expressed his side are up against it and will be prioritising the league over the Libertadores.
With that in mind, Racing Club are priced at a rather generous 20/23 to win the three points in Chile.
Sporting Cristal v Fluminense
Sporting Cristal had to battle their way through the qualifying rounds in order to earn their spot, who are up against it in their opener against Fluminense.
The Brazilians look strong this year, and with German Cano leading the line, every club they face will be terrified. The 35-year-old scored 26 league goals in 38 appearances last campaign, and he’s already scored 14 in 11 matches in 2023.
That included two hat-tricks and three braces. He’s going to take some stopping and Sporting Cristal may not be able to handle the Argentine.
Sporting Cristal can be dangerous themselves, having put five past Nacional Asuncion in their second qualifier, and despite their being a gulf in class here, the Peruvians are capable of getting on the scoresheet.
With Cano expected to lead the line, Fluminense are expected to win and score a couple of goals. However, don’t rule out Sporting on home soil, and over 2.5 goals at 10/11 looks a solid bet.
Bolivar v Palmeiras
The 2021 and 2022 champions head to La Paz as they look to kickstart their 2023 campaign with an important three points. Travelling to Bolivia is never easy due to the extremely high altitude, but Palmerias simply possess too much quality.
Despite losing a couple of key players to Nottingham Forest, Palmeiras still have top-class players across the park, including recently capped Brazilian duo Rony and Raphael Veiga.
Palmeiras travelled to Bolivia last campaign and comfortably beat Independiente Petrolero 5-0, which bodes well for our selection against Bolivar. Admittedly, Bolivar are a much stronger team than their domestic rivals Independiente Petrolero, who will look to offer more a more attacking threat on home soil. However, it’s their inability to defend against high-quality opposition which will see them struggle, and Palmeiras should get the job done.
You won’t see a price anything like this in the reverse leg, and while Bolivar are capable of causing Palmeiras problems, anything close to evens is too big to ignore for a team capable of winning the Libertadores.
Annecy v Toulouse
Toulouse are overpriced significantly against Ligue 2 opposition prior to their Coupe de France semi-final in the far east of the country.
For a start, TFC have proven themselves thoroughly adept at overcoming lower-league opponents in this competition to date. They beat Lannion 7-1 in their first match and routed Rodez 6-1 in their last game in the competition, which they are treating seriously as it opens the door for possible European qualification. Incidentally, Rodez are ahead of Annecy in Ligue 2.
Annecy, meanwhile, do have a famous victory on penalties against Marseille to recall going into this match, but their form overall in recent weeks has been dreadful. They have failed to win any of their last six matches in all competitions through 90 minutes and have struggled increasingly in recent weeks. On Saturday, for instance, they were defeated by Nimes, who are thoroughly entrenched in the relegation zone, 4-0.
Annecy do tend to fare better at home than they do on their travels, but they have been rather bumbling their way through in the Coupe de France in recent rounds, winning their last three matches on penalties. If it goes that far, they might have a chance, but look for the quality difference between these two clubs to tell in this game.
Against Marseille, the Ligue 2 side played an opponent that was distracted; don’t expect Toulouse to be so generous in what is the first competitive meeting between these clubs.
Liverpool (Uruguay) v Corinthians
Corinthians start their Libertadores journey with a trip to Uruguay, where they will face one of the smallest teams in the competition.
The home side’s ground can only hold 10,000 and Corinthians should be able to handle the atmosphere, and will look to silence the crowd as early as possible.
Liverpool’s squad is predominately made up of Uruguayans, and the lack of foreigners within their ranks may see them found out at this level.
Corinthians have two quality attacking players within their squad, who they’ll be relying on as the tournament progresses – however, this should be a comfortable win and an opportunity to get off the mark nice and early.
Roger Guedes is Corinthians’ star player, who has scored 24 goals in 74 appearances for Corinthians, who can prove to be a tricky customer on the left wing. In the box is where you’ll find Yuri Alberto. The 21-year-old striker scored 11 goals last campaign and is already off the mark with three goals in 2023.
Liverpool look likely to struggle in this year’s Libertadores, and a visit from Corinthians is far from an easy task. Corinthians at just below evens looks a very generous price and one I can’t avoid.
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