Previous best: Runners-up, 2008
For Fluminense, the Copa Libertadores is everything this year. So much so that last season's top scorer Fred admits the mad obsession with winning the tournament for the first time is even perhaps a cause for concern. At least the defending Brazilian Serie A champions do look well set for a tilt at the title they missed out on in 2008 in a penalty shootout. In addition to keeping the majority of the squad that took them to domestic success last season, they have added left-back Fabian Monzon and experienced midfielder Felipe from Vasco da Gama. According to Fred, their pre-season preparations have been some of the most intense he has ever done, and there is little doubt why. Fluminense want to break their Libertadores duck and this could be one of their best opportunities.
Expectations: With a well-balanced squad, Flu are rightly regarded as one of the favourites to win the title.
Star man: Fred.
Previous best: First round, 1975
Nearly 40 years after making their only Copa Libertadores appearance, Huachipato are back. Los Acereros (the Steelers) only finished sixth in the 2012 Chilean Clausura, but earned a spot in South America's premier competition by beating Union Espanola on penalties in the final of the play-offs. Since that victory in early December they have lost top scorer Cesar Cortes to rivals Universidad de Chile but brought in former defender Carlos Labrin on loan from Palermo. The Chilean international is sure to add some spice to a solid squad that has the potential to cause a few upsets in Group Eight. Head coach Jorge Pellicer, who has previously competed in the Libertadores with Universidad Catolica and UA Maracaibo, admits it will be difficult to qualify from the group, but that his side should enjoy the challenge.
Expectations: Anything other than bottom spot would be a decent return for Huachipato in their first Libertadores campaign.
Star Man: Braian Rodriguez
Previous best: Quarter-finals, 2009
After missing out on the Copa Libertadores group stage last year, Caracas make a welcome return in Group Eight. The most successful club in Venezuela failed to pip Deportivo Lara to either the 2011/12 Apertura or Clausura but had enough aggregate points to qualify as Primera Division runners-up. Unfortunately, their chances of making it out of the group were dealt a blow when they lost talented youngster Fernando Aristeguieta on loan to French side Nantes. The 20-year-old Venezuelan international bagged 14 goals to help Caracas finish in second place in the 2012/13 Apertura. His absence means that another up-and-coming forward, Daniel Febles, and the more experienced Rino Lucas, will need to step up to the plate. Ceferino Bencomo’s side face a struggle to trouble either of the Brazilian heavyweights in Group Eight.
Expectations: Qualifying ahead of Fluminense or Gremio will be tough so Caracas will have to make the most of their home matches if they are to do so.
Star Man: Daniel Febles
Previous best: Winners, 1983, 1995
Gremio made it through to the Copa Libertadores group stages by the skin of their teeth after beating LDU Quito 5-4 in a penalty shootout. Now they are here, the two-times winners are determined to make their mark. Head coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo has strengthened the squad that finished third in the Brazilian Serie A by bringing in a couple of useful additions. Most notable are talented strikers Eduardo Vargas, who arrives on a 12-month loan deal from Napoli and Hernan Barcos, who has joined from Palmeiras. They could be joined up front by promising forward Willian José, a signing from Sao Paulo; while in midfield, Souza has made his loan deal permanent and veteran Ze Roberto has extended his contract with Gremio by another year. The transfer window dealings point to a promising campaign for a Gremio and it would be a surprise if they weren’t competing for a Brazilian one-two in Group Eight.
Expectations: With a new stadium and new signings, Gremio will be looking to make the quarter-finals and beyond.
Star man: Hernan Barcos