Previous best: Champions, 2012
Corinthians qualify for this year’s Libertadores as 2012 winners and the reigning World Club Champions, following their defeat of Chelsea in Tokyo. Their success has been built around a compact, talented midfield who give very little away. Their full-backs are far more reserved than those of many other South American sides, and the combination of Paulinho and Ralf in the heart of the midfield, means that they are very difficult to break down. Last year the club relied on Romarinho and Emerson Sheikh to support Peruvian target-man and former Bayern Munich striker Paulo Guerrero. This year a lot will depend on the success of €15 million signing Alexandre Pato, while Renato Augusto will add some extra creation in the final third. Corinthians have shown that they are extremely adept at defending a lead, and if Pato can provide an additional attacking thrust, Sao Paulo’s Timão may be celebrating a famous Liberatdores double.
Expectations: The reigning champions will expect to reach the latter stages of this year’s competition
Star Man: Paulinho
Previous best: Semi-Final, 1960, 1973, 1974
The club reached the semi-final of last year’s Copa Sudamericana, picking up impressive wins over Palmeiras and Gremio along the way. The team clinched the Colombian Clausura on penalties in December to qualify for this year’s competition. Much of their success has been built around a solid core and two talented creative midfielders: Harrison Otalvaro and the experienced Mayer Candelo. Following a successful year in the US, fan favourite Rafael Robayo’s return will add strength and composure to a strong midfield. Fredy Montero is also hoping to make an impact on his return to Colombian football. Despite scoring regularly in the MLS, he has remained uncapped at international level since joining the Seattle Sounders and it is hoped that an impressive Libertadores for the composed striker will lead to a lucrative European move. Montero should provide the perfect foil for the skill, pace and power of Renteria in attack. Reported Manchester City target and Colombia under 21 captain Pedro Franco provides pace and composure at the back.
Expectations: An impressive run in last years Copa Sudamericana and important additions mean that Millonarios will expect to make the last 16.
Star Man: Wason Renteria
Club Deportivo San Jose (Bolivia)
Previous best: Round of 16, 1996
Based in the mining town of Oruro, San Jose may well pull of an upset or two at home, with a stadium that sits at over 12,000 ft above sea level. While Millonarios will be more accustomed to the physical strains of playing at altitude (El Campin is 8,700 ft above sea level), Club Tijuana and Corinthians may struggle. They boast a tight defence and Brazilian playmaker Marcelo Gomes makes things tick in midfield, however, it is prolific goalscorer Carlos Saucedo who can make the difference. The 33-year old striker has had an incredible 2012; baggin 40 goals in 43 games, and grabbed an excellent hat-trick against a very strong Uruguay team in Word Cup qualifying. He will be joined in attack by well-traveled fellow Bolivian international Diego Cabrera, who returns to San Jose following a spell in Colombia, where he lead Santa Fe to their first silverware in 34 years. Despite the threat of their front two, if San Jose are to pick up points a lot will depend on a series of brave, resolute defensive displays.
Expectations: A respectable showing in the group stage is realistically all San Jose can hope for this year
Star Man: Carlos Saucedo
Club Tijuana (Mexico)
Previous best: N/A
The club was founded in 2006 by flamboyant billionaire Jorge Hank Rhon; an eccentric casino mogul, who is best known for his collection of exotic animals, his stint as city mayor and his alleged mafia connections. The club is owned by ‘Grupo Caliente’, who have invested heavily to establish Tijuana as a new force in Mexican football. The team was promoted to the Primera Division in 2011 and within a year they were Mexican champions. Skillful Ecuadorian winger Fidel Martinez will provide a constant threat cutting in from the left and has developed a lethal partnership with Colombian striker Duvier Riascos. Riascos made an instant impact for rivals Puebla before moving to Tijuana at the start of the 2012 Aperatura. He is partnered in attack by Alfredo Moreno, an experienced Argentine who has already picked up two Libertadores titles, in 2000 and 2003 with Boca Juniors. Leandro Augusto, Brazilian born former Mexican international, will be key - sitting in front of the defense, the 35-year breaks up play well and can dictate play with great composure.
Expectation: The club has invested heavily, and they will hope to qualify for the knock-out stage in their first Liberatores appearance.
Star Man: Leandro Augusto