la u universidad de chile
The Copa Libertadores hasn't featured too many upsets thus far, meaning the quarterfinals are stacked with eight high-quality teams.
Atletico Nacional, Bolivar and Deportivo Quito tried to spoil the Copa Libertadores party in the Round of 16, but all of the favored clubs came roaring back. The top six seeds all advanced to the quarterfinals, while the lower-seeded but historically bigger teams progressed out of the toss-up 8-9 and 7-10 matchups. The eight teams left in the competition are arguably the eight best teams on the continent. There are no underdogs.
Libertad vs. Universidad de Chile
Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. ET
Stylistically, this is a fascinating matchup. Libertad will attempt to pack the midfield, and at this level, Victor Caceres is usually able to control games. They're going to have to be at their best to contain Universidad de Chile, who are not only brilliant passing on the ground, but extremely fast and lethal on the counter. La U have the attacking talent to score in bunches, but if they're not in rhythm early, it's going to be key for them to get back into position to cut off counters when they lose the ball.
Libertad's set pieces have been great so far in the competition, and La U will have to be alert while defending them. Jorge Sampaoli's men will have more of the ball, but they might struggle to break down Libertad's organized midfield while stopping them from scoring on set pieces and counters.
Vasco da Gama vs. Corinthians
Wednesday, 8:50 p.m. ET
Based on the two Brasileirao meetings between these two teams last season -- featuring mostly the same squads -- Vasco is going to need a healthy Dede to progress in this tie. Their star defender, who is key not only defensively but going forward on set pieces, has been battling injuries for a couple of months. He could make an appearance against Corinthians, but even if he does, he might not be at his best.
Corinthians defeated Vasco 2-1 at home, then drew 2-2 on the road to keep Vasco in second place and capture the Brasileirao title. Vasco probably don't have the athleticism in midfield to deal with Ralf and Paulinho, so defense and set pieces will be key for them.
Boca Juniors vs. Fluminense
Thursday, 6:45 p.m. ET
It's difficult to say things about this tie that will sound appealing to neutrals and/or people who are not complete football nerds without resorting to euphemisms. Both of these teams are excellent defensively and both managers play style that is conservative relative to other top teams in South American football. Neither team can be described as 'attacking' and they both rely on the individual talents of a couple of stars to generate goals.
Fluminense might have the slightly stronger and more in-form defense, and for that, they should have a slight edge. If they can grab a draw in Buenos Aires, it's tough to see Boca overturning it. Juan Roman Riquelme and Santiago Silva vs. Deco and Fred is a virtual push. Thiago Neves probably pushes Flu over the top with his creativity.
Velez Sarsfield vs. Santos FC
Thursday, 9:00 p.m. ET
This should probably be a rematch of last year's final, but Velez managed to get upset by Peñarol in the semifinals. This is a much less interesting version of Velez, without all of Maxi Moralez, Ricky Alvarez and Santiago Silva. It's actually a bit astonishing that they've been able to remain one of South America's top sides without them.
Crazier things have happened in the Copa Libertadores than Velez upsetting Santos, but it really shouldn't happen on this occasion. The defending champions just have too much talent for Velez to deal with, based on the way they've played in Copa and domestically this season. Velez can mask their flaws against solid teams, but they're unlikely to have an answer for Santos' ridiculous firepower.