It is the number one club competition on the continent, but the Libertadores Cup has its flaws. It has nothing to do with the final being over two legs, nor does it have anything to do with it being a South American club competition in which North American teams play.
As the South American ChampionsÃ¢ÂÂ League, it is steeped in tradition. Its name Ã¢ÂÂ The Liberators Ã¢ÂÂ adds far more gravitas than any choral arrangement at the beginning of the transmission does for its European counterpart.
Quality of football aside, however, the problem with the Libertadores Cup is how it gets going. It inspires next to no emotion. The draw is a farce.
On Thursday, we had the sight of eight groups of four being decided. Of the 32 balls in the mix, only 11 were real teams, with real players, and real aspirations to win the trophy. The remainder were hypothetical league winners, league runners-up, cup winners and playoff winners.
Group 7, is the worst offender for anonymity, looking like this:
Argentina 2Apertura Champion
Paraguay 2either GuaranÃÂ, Apertura champion, Clausura champion or someone totally different
Brazil 4BrasilerÃÂ£o runner up
Game 1 winnerwinner of preliminary play off between BrasilerÃÂ£o 3rd place v. ColombiaÃ¢ÂÂs best placed team in the annual league table
It is complex, speculative, confusing and thoroughly under-whelming.
Yet despite knowing just three teams' identity in Group 3, it has already been labelled the Group of Death. Argentinos Juniors, Nacional (Uruguay) and AmÃÂ©rica (Mexico) will be joined by the BrasilerÃÂ£o champion. Danger.
While we have to wait for the anonymous slots to be taken up, in Argentina the race to qualify is reaching its climax. Estudiantes and Argentinos Juniors have already done so via their yearly performance and having won the Clausura Ã¢ÂÂ10, respectively.
The remaining four slots go to teams based on their annual performance Ã¢ÂÂ results from the Clausura Ã¢ÂÂ10 and this season, the Apertura Ã¢ÂÂ10 Ã¢ÂÂ making the last four games of this season for those involved all the more vital.
So far the teams to go through would be this seasonÃ¢ÂÂs title winners, Godoy Cruz, VÃÂ©lez and then NewellÃ¢ÂÂs. Just behind them are Banfield and Racing, making this weekendÃ¢ÂÂs clash between the two vital for the Libertadores qualification.
In and amongst all this is the King of the Libertadores, the team whose new stadium is named the Libertadores of America, Independiente.
With seven Libertadores trophies from seven finals, the Rojos are the Real Madrid of the competition - the ultimate champs.
On Thursday they did that tradition proud by making it to the final of the Sudamericana. If they go on to win that, then they will steal a place in next yearÃ¢ÂÂs Libertadores Cup.
So while we now keep track of who is qualifying for the Libertadores Cup, keeping track of the league action is an even more drawn out exercise. Action starts Friday night, and endsÃ¢ÂÂ¦ on Tuesday.
FIXTURES Friday Gimnasia v Godoy Cruz, Arsenal v San Lorenzo Saturday Quilmes v All Boys, Banfield v Racing Sunday Independiente v Estudiantes, NewellÃ¢ÂÂs v Boca, River v Olimpo Monday HuracÃÂ¡n v LanÃÂºs, Argentinos v ColÃÂ³n Tuesday VÃÂ©lez v Tigre.
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