Talking Tactics: Which Team Has The Edge Ahead Of 2019 Copa Libertadores Final?


The football world in South America will stop for roughly two hours this Saturday, as Lima will host the 2019 Copa Libertadores Final. Reigning champions River Plate and Brazilian giants Flamengo will go head to head to claim one of the biggest club titles in the world. River will aim to win their second straight Libertadores title, while Flamengo will aim to lift the trophy for the first time since 1981.

Flamengo have a clear edge since they enter this game on a 25-game undefeated streak in all competitions (W20, D5) – they have kept a clean sheet in 13 of those contests and have been in sizzling scoring form. However, River Plate can’t be taken for granted. They have been the most successful side in the decade, and aim to win their third title in five years following the ones of 2015 and 2018.

Knowing both sides are loaded with quality on both sides of the ball, the main reason why this game could be decided lies on the tactical side of things. Which team has the edge ahead of Saturday match?

Expected Lineups for 2019 Copa Libertadores Final

Flamengo (4-2-3-1): Diego Alves; Rafinha, Pablo Marí, Rodrigo Caio, Filipe Luís; Willian Arao, Gerson; Éverton Ribeiro, Georgian De Arrascaeta, Bruno Henrique; Gabriel Barbosa

River Plate (4-1-3-2): Franco Armani; Gonzalo Montiel, Lucas Martinez Quarta, Javier Pinola (Paulo Diaz), Milton Casco; Enzo Perez; Exequiel Palacios, Ignacio Fernandez, Nicolas De La Cruz; Matias Suarez, Rafael Santos Borre

Why could Flamengo win the Libertadores title?

What Jorge Jesus has done with Flamengo this year has been absolutely amazing. The Brazilian giants have assembled an extremely talented squad, and the numbers back that up.

During 12 Copa Libertadores matches, Flamengo have scored 22 goals, but they have also looked solid defensively. The additions of Pablo Mari and Filipe Luís have strengthened a unit that also has one of the most exciting prospects in South America in Rodrigo Caio. Plus, they have scored 73 goals in only 34 matches, good for a 2.14 goals per game average.

However, Flamengo’s biggest strength lies on their attacking. Gabriel Barbosa has been one of the deadliest attackers in South America with 29 goals and 10 assists between the Copa Libertadores and the Serie A. Bruno Henrique has 23 goals with nine assists. And Georgian De Arrascaeta adds 12 goals and 12 assists counting both competitions. These three players can create havoc against either defensive line in the world.

Why would River Plate have the edge?

Three words: Marcelo Gallardo and continuity.

River Plate have most of the squad that won last year’s title. And while they lost some key names such as Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez, they still own a dominant squad whose strength lies on the collective side of things. It’s incredibly tough to defeat River Plate and as a boost, they also have one of the best goalkeepers in the CONMEBOL region in Franco Armani, while the likes of Gonzalo Montiel, Lucas Martinez Quarta and Paulo Diaz are already internationals with their respective countries.

However, River’s path to the final wasn’t as smooth as Flamengo’s one. They struggled against teams such as Cruzeiro and Cerro Porteño, and they could have a tough time dealing with Flamengo’s attacking line. But they have one of the most talented midfield units. Plus, the likes of Juan Fernando Quintero and Lucas Pratto could prove an impact off the bench.

River do not have as many standout players as Flamengo. However, they are a tough team to break down due to their tactical approach and ability to work together as a team. That’s something not many teams are able to do as smoothly as River.

Manager comparison

Jorge Jesus has a huge amount of experience as manager on the international stage. However, his Champions League pedigree could give him a plus ahead of this contest. But his counterpart, Marcelo Gallardo, is the best manager in the CONMEBOL region. We could call it a tie at this point.

Which team has the edge in the end?

This is going to be an epic game, that’s a sure thing. Flamengo have the better squad overall and are riding an impressive form. But River Plate can’t be counted out, especially due to their Libertadores baggage.

This match will be decided by tiny details. With that in mind, Flamengo should have an edge and they should be listed as favourites ahead of the 2019 Copa Libertadores final.