Expect goals in La Paz
The Strongest v Boca Juniors
Live on Betfair
This is probably one of, if not, the most exciting games in the opening group matches. A Bolivian side at home to one of the biggest sides in South America will offer plenty, but most importantly, there should be goals on show.
If this match was being played in Argentina, you aren’t getting the 13/10 odds on a Boca victory, that’s for sure. Altitude plays a big part in Bolivian teams’ success in this competition. You only have to look at their home and away records to see this.
A great example would be Jorge Wilstermann v River Plate in the quarter-finals back in 2017. Wilstermann beat the Argentine giants 3-0 on home soil, looking to become the first ever Bolivian side to progress to the semi-finals. However, they were embarrassed in the second leg. River Plate ran out 8-0 winners, and it could have been plenty more.
The Strongest, one of Bolivia’s best outfits, have a similar record in the competition. They’ve been handed a severely challenging group, however, and their main chance of achieving any points in this year’s group is at home. With Boca expected to struggle in the conditions, The Strongest should be able to find the net, as they often do.
They’ve scored 14 goals in their opening four league matches this season, but despite their clear ability in front of goal, the lack of fiery Bolivian supporters, which are banned in the Copa Libertadores at present, will benefit Boca tremendously here.
Although the odds are rather generous on Boca, I’m sticking up both teams to score in this one at 1.738/11. We should be able to benefit from both The Strongest and Boca’s attacking lines in Group C’s curtain raiser.
Champions to prevail in Peru
Universitario v Palmeiras
Live on Betfair
Last year’s Champions begin their campaign in Peru, and despite the tough conditions due to high altitude, Peruvian teams tend to struggle against much stronger opposition.
Universitario have been handed one of, if not, the toughest groups, facing current holders Palmeiras, Sudamericana winners Defensa y Justicia and Independiente De Valle, who knocked out 2017 winners Gremio to qualify for the group stages.
Despite Palmeiras heading to Peru as clear favourites, 1.402/5 is far too short to propose, nor do they have the form to back that price up.
Palmeiras have had a busy schedule and perhaps that has caught up with them a little. They lost the Supercopa do Brasil to Flamengo on penalties, before the same outcome happened in the Recopa Sudamericana against Defensa y Justicia.
A 1-0 defeat has since followed against Sao Paulo, before a 0-0 draw with Botafogo just three days before this match with Universitario is due to take place.
The home side aren’t in a rich vein of form either, having won one of their last five. They’ve also lost five out of their last six home matches, something which hasn’t happened to them since 2014.
Palmeiras will be expecting nothing less than six points against the “whipping boys” in this particular group and their significant class should be reflected in the end result.
The Brazilian side to win and over 1.5 match goals is 1.834/5.
Racing bet of the round
Rentistas v Racing Club
Live on Betfair
Debutants Rentistas will feel very privileged and proud to be competing in the Copa Libertadores, as their rise to the top domestically has been highly impressive.
However, the gulf between them and their opponents, Racing Club, will be a swift reminder of the tough tasks they will face in this competition.
Despite finishing top of the Uruguayan Premier Division last season, the pandemic hit Rentistas hard, and several key players left the club. The season was cut to just 15 games, in which Rentistas finished bottom, with a goal difference of minus 15, winning just two matches.
Eight first team players left the club and most recently their top goalscorer, Diego Vega, has joined Club Nacional. They are really struggling both on and off the pitch, and the timing of this competition couldn’t come at a worse time for the Uruguayan club.
On the other hand, Racing Club have endured a steady start to their domestic campaign. They currently occupy 5th in their domestic league, just three points behind River Plate in second place.
In truth, if this match was to be played 12 months ago, it would be a difficult game to size up. But unfortunately for the home side, it isn’t, and the future looks bleak, with the club struggling financially. They don’t have the players to compete domestically, let alone in a competition of this magnitude, and so everything points towards an away victory.
Even on a plastic surface, which isn’t ideal, Racing Club will know anything less than three points will be a missed opportunity. As an experience side in this competition, Racing will know how to do a professional job in Uruguay.
With this in mind, and the current state of Rentistas, Racing Club win and over 1.5 match goals 2.111/10 looks a great bet.
I’m also very happy to tip them up to win the match at a rather generous 1.625/8 in the grand scheme of things, as this price will certainly not be reflected in the rest of Rentistas’ group matches.