Copa Libertadores Tips: Palmeiras to make home advantage count in semi-final first leg

Copa Libertadores Tips: Palmeiras to make home advantage count in semi-final first leg

Five months since the last qualifying round, we are left with just four teams in this year’s Copa Libertadores, where Brazil represent three of those sides. With both Palmeiras and Barcelona, my antepost selections, still left in the competition, I’ll be as unbiased as I can as I analyse the first semi-final matches this week…

Palmeiras to place one foot in final

Palmeiras v Atletico Mineiro
Wednesday, 01:30
Live on Betfair

I really don’t want to state the obvious here, but this is a huge match for both sides – even more so for Palmeiras. I emphasise this because the current champions will need to make their home advantage count before their away tie next week.

Their opponents, Atletico Mineiro, have arguably been the most impressive side in the tournament, having really shown their ability in the knockout stages, knocking out both Argentina’s two giants Boca Juniors and River Plate.

Palmeiras will know that Mineiro can blow anyone away on home soil, especially since fans have been welcomed back in recent weeks – a privilege Palmeiras are yet to have.

Mineiro’s fans witnessed a 3-0 demolition job over Argentina’s River Plate and the result was very much justified with a dominant performance from the Brazilians.

Mineiro’s Copa Libertadores top goalscorer, Hulk, has only strengthened their attacking prowess this season and since the last round they have snapped up ex-Chelsea striker Diego Costa, a deadly partnership no defence will want to face.

The home side, however, have continued to silence their critics and score goals for fun at home18 in five matches to be precise – and they have a striker of their own Mineiro should fear.

Rony has scored six goals, just the one behind Hulk and will be Palmeiras’ main threat. If Palmeiras continue to play to their strengths and attack, rather than worry about their opponents attacking prowess, they can continue to see the goals flow at home. They will be very much aware that a two-goal margin from the first leg will be the target if they are to reach back to back finals.

Whilst I feel this is achievable, the odds on Palmeiras to win the first leg are already rather generous at 2.506/4, which is worthy of a 1pt stake.

Ecuadorian’s defence to be heavily tested

Flamengo v Barcelona
Thursday, 01:30
Live on Betfair

Priced at 1.201/5, the market fully expects this tie to be over in the first leg. Flamengo, who have been the clear outright favourites throughout the competition, have endured an easy route to the semi-finals but just because the betting suggests they’ll breeze into the final, they definitely shouldn’t underestimate their Ecuadorian opponents.

Barcelona defeated last year’s finalists Santos twice in the group stage on their way to the semi-finals, which included a 2-0 victory in Brazil. They held Boca Juniors to a 0-0 draw in Argentina as well as holding Fluminense in the quarter-finals away from home, only drawing 2-2 thanks to a late, late Fred penalty.

The Ecuadorian champions did lose their first leg in the round of 16 to Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield, but that was only 1-0 and it has been clear throughout the tournament they rarely get turned over, having only lost once by two goals in the Bolivian heat.

However, Flamengo on home soil can be lethal and they know this is their opportunity to lay down a marker to both Palmeiras and Mineiro who will be keeping a close eye on this fixture.

Gabriel Barbosa has ten goals and three assists to his name, whilst Giorgian De Arrascaeta has five goals and four assists to his, although it is likely he will miss out due to injury.

With the market being incredibly tight, value is hard to find in this one. However, I’m taking a chance on Barcelona’s defence not folding and for the neutral and all those on my 23.022/1 Barcelona outright tip, it will be an exciting second leg in Ecuador if Barcelona are still in the tie.

Flamengo to win but for there to be under 3.5 goals in the match is priced at 1.9520/21 and is also worthy of a 1pt stake.