It’s the first time in Copa Libertadores history that the reigning champions meet the previous year’s champions in the final and one which was highly expected – well, from me at least.
It has certainly been a slog tipping in a ten month long tournament, especially with 95% of it being played behind closed doors – fans are everything in football, that’s a given, but in this tournament which can often see 60,000 plus fans crammed into stadiums in testing conditions, matches can often be won before a ball is even kicked.
Nevertheless, it’s been a successful competition as we head into the final +11.37pts, as well as an antepost selection in the final, although Palmeiras are firmly the underdogs in Montevideo.
Unlike the vast majority of the tournament, the final is set to kick off at 8pm UK time on Saturday, with the match available to watch live through Betfair’s Sportsbook – so there’s no need to pull out the energy drinks in order to stay awake for this one.
Hats off to the traders
Flamengo have been the favourites since day one and were as short as 11/4 after the group stage, when drawn in by far the easiest side of the draw.
It was at that point in the competition I looked at alternative teams who could potentially dethrone the Brazilian giants. Barcelona, tipped up at 20/1, fell short to Flamengo in the semi-finals, whereas Palmeiras, tipped up at 6/1, defeated plenty of top sides to make it to the final in hope of defending their title.
Unfortunately for me, I’m admitting defeat and siding with the traders for the final. It may see as though I’m covering myself by opting to back Flamengo, but it’s at this stage I’ll admit Flamengo were priced completely right to win the competition and they will lift the trophy, as expected, on Saturday evening.
Henrique to steal the show
The formidable partnerships they have within their attacking ranks is arguably the best in South America, with Gabriel Barbosa the clear top goalscorer in the competition with 10 goals and four assists to date, alongside Bruno Henrique who has six goals and four assists to his name.
But with Henrique leading the line and having scored a brace in both legs against Barcelona in the semi-finals, he’s the headline act for the Bet Builder selection. He’ll no doubt be looking to find the back of the net once more and backing him to have two shots on target at 1.804/5 represents plenty of value.
However, adding Flamengo to have four shots on target, alongside Palmeiras having three of their own creates a nice 4.03/1 bet for what should be an entertaining final.
Palmeiras will need to prove the doubters wrong, again
Dubbed as one of the weakest winners in Copa Libertadores history, I’ve continuously defended the Brazilian outfit and they’ve proven time and time again that they deserve to be in the final. They may well be fragile at the back, but their goal scoring prowess has served them well throughout the tournament.
20 group stage goals, followed by seven during the knockout stage, which saw them defeat Sao Paulo and Atletico Mineiro, is well worth noting and they’ll look to be lively in front of goal once more on Saturday, especially if they do fall behind.
They will, however, need to step up their recent form if they are to match Flamengo’s talent.
Palmeiras have lost three of their last four matches, the first time they have lost three on the spin in 13 months. Whereas on the other hand, Flamengo have won four out of their last five matches and they’ve not tasted defeat for ten games now.
I’m not a firm believer of “form goes out the window” when it comes to finals, which is another reason as to why Flamengo are favourites for this match – and shortening. Palmeiras may well huff and puff and prove to be a threat in front of goal during certain periods but preventing Henrique and co looks a bridge too far for the reigning champions.
I’m more than happy to back Flamengo at 1.9520/21 with a two-point bet, and I’m certain this will shorten to around 1.804/5 before kick-off, so jump on now.
Best of luck and enjoy the final.