Grêmio begin Libertadores title defence

Staying. At least until June. (pic: AFP)

The 2018 Copa Libertadores group stages get under way this week, just three months after the 2017 competition finished. Defending Champions Grêmio play Defensor Sporting, from Uruguay, on Tuesday. While Corinthians play Millionarios (Colombia) and Flamengo take on River Plate (Argentina) on Wednesday.

Grêmio have been boosted by the fact that their two best players – Luan and Arthur – have stayed with the club, despite being linked with a move to Europe during the recent transfer window. After reaching the pinnacle of South American club football it is thought that they would both leave. (Arthur, has been linked with Barcelona, while Luan gets linked with a host of top European teams every single transfer window.)

A move to Europe seems likely, eventually, for both players, but it seems that they have their eye on a spot on Tite’s World Cup squad; instead of going to Europe now, in the middle of the season and spending time on the bench while they adapt, they are staying in Brazil where they can be top dog, for at least the next six months.

Brazil’s State Championships started in mid January and Grêmio’s form in the Gaucho has been terrible. Admittedly, they have been fielding weakened teams (as they give their first team time off after a long season last year), but you still would have expected their reserves to have done better than lose five out of their eight games.

Corinthians, meanwhile, have also been poor in their state championship games so far. They are struggling to replace the goals of Jo, who left the club in December. Kazim, Junior Dutra and Emerson Sheikh just don’t really hack it. But things are looking up for Corinthians. Not only did they beat their city rivals Palmeiras on Saturday, but they are pushing to sign Alex Teixeira on loan until December. Yep, that’s the Alex Teixeira who used to bang in the goals for Shakhtar Donetsk for fun, who has been linked with a move to Liverpool and who moved to the Chinese Super League for 50 million euros two years ago.

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