Copa Libertadores 2018: Qualifying Round 1 preview and predictions

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) /
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Copa Libertadores action begins on Monday with the first-leg matches of the first qualifying stage. Who will prevail in each of the three draws?

The 59th edition of the Copa Libertadores kicks off on January 22 with the first leg of the opening qualifying round. A total of 47 clubs will participate in the tournament. The first six will take to the pitch next week hoping to advance in South America’s preeminent intercontinental tournament.

This is the first stage of a long journey, one that spans annually from these first qualifiers in late January until the two-leg final in November. Over the coming months, some of the best talent in the world will take to the pitch to vie for the honor of becoming the next South American champion.

For fans of the beautiful game looking to discover the next great stars of their favorite European superclubs, the Copa Libertadores is a great place to see the great at a young age. For instance, Neymar elevated his stature in 2011 while still a teenager as he helped lead Santos to the title over Uruguay’s Peñarol with the opening goal of the second leg in the final.

Among the first half-dozen teams are a three-time champion, a former losing finalist, and a team making its first-ever appearance in the Copa Libertadores. There is some real quality even at this early point in the tournament.

Keep reading for a closer look at each of the three showdowns that will transpire on Monday, January 22 across South America.