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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Macará (Ecuador) vs. Deportivo Táchira (Venezuela)

Macará is appearing in the Copa Libertadores for the first time in the club’s history. Based in the Andean town of Ambato at over 8400 feet above sea level, Macará has bounced between Serie A and Serie B in domestic play over much of its modern history. Los Guaytambos finished fourth over the full 2017 season, earning a ticket into the first qualifying stage.

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They landed a challenging opponent. It has now been 14 years since Deportivo Táchira made its only quarterfinal appearance in the Copa Libertadores, but the Venezuelans reached the Round of 16 as recently as two years ago. Historically, Deportivo Táchira has been one of the elite clubs in Venezuela. With eight titles and eight runner-up finishes, they are about to play in their 22nd edition of the Copa Libertadores.

The Aurinegro head to Estadio Bellavista in Ambato for the first leg hoping to gain an unbeatable edge and reach the next round after getting knocked out in the first qualifying stage last season. Deportivo Táchira has to go on the road for the first leg.

Ultimately, that could make the difference in this opening match. Though Deportivo Táchira plays in San Cristóbal at 2820 feet above sea level, Estadio Bellavista is three times higher above sea level than their home. Deportivo Táchira will manage a critical away goal, but Macará will pull out a draw in its inaugural Copa Libertadores match. It won’t be enough in the return.

Aggregate Prediction: Deportivo Táchira 3, Macará 1