Copa Libertadores, the most riveting club tournament on the planet, will decide on a new champion this Saturday. Although two-time winners Palmeiras is out of the picture this time, two Brazilian teams will be determining the title for the third year straight.
The contenders? Flamengo and Athletico Paranaense.
Flamengo, the favorite
Considering their history and the players in the team, the Rio de Janeiro giants are the big favorites in the final.
The Mengão have won the tournament two times in the past (1981 and 2019) and they really, really want to add a third trophy to their already stacked gallery. No wonder they built a superpowerful and experienced squad led by David Luiz, Filipe Luís, Arturo Vidal and Gabriel Barbosa to achieve it.
But the resources do not end there. Players like Thiago Maia, Everton Ribeiro and Uruguayan Giorgian de Arrascaeta have been outstanding during the tournament. And then, they have Pedro.
The 25-year-old strike is having a sensational season, especially in Copa Libertadores, scoring 12 goals in 12 games.
Road to the final, Flamengo is still unbeaten. They won their group by collecting 16 of the 18 points available. And in the following rounds, they destroyed Deportivo Tolima 8-1 on aggregate, got a comfortable 3-0 against Corinthians and dispatched Velez Sarsfield 6-1.
Definitely not someone you want to run into a night before Halloween.
Athletico Paranaense, the underdog
In the other corner are Athletico Paraense and their dreams.
Usually labeled as the strongest team outside the Big 12 that rules Brazilian soccer, the Furacão have slowly been creeping up the continental ladder, recently winning two Copa Sudamericana (2018 and 2021).
Of course, lifting their first Copa Libertadores will be the cherry on top.
The road to the final has been way rockier than Flamengo's. Athletico Paranaense escaped the group stage in the second position with 10 of 18 points available and, in the following rounds, always advanced by the slightest margin: 3-2 on aggregate vs. Libertad, 1-0 vs. Estudiantes de La Plata and 3-2 vs. two-times champions Palmeiras.
The pillar of the team is former Manchester City captain Fernandinho while the spark comes at the feet of Uruguayan David Terans. The tactics? From Luiz Felipe Scolari.
The 73-year-old coach – champion with Brazil in the 2002 World Cup – has previously won the Libertadores twice, leading Gremio in 1995 and Palmeiras in 1999, but would love to add a third time. This is mostly because he recently recognized his career was "coming to an end."
Felipão's last dance?
How to watch Copa Libertadores final?
The last and most important game of the 2022 Copa Libertadores will be played this Saturday, October 29, in the Monumental Stadium in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The kick-off is at 4 p.m. ET and will be broadcasted in the United States by BeIN Sports.