Chapecoense will play its first game in the Copa Libertadores on Tuesday night in Venezuela. The team opens Group 7 of the tournament. Brazil’s beloved team will play against home club Zulia, which is also in the cup for the first time. Chapecoense will also face the Argentinian club Lanús and the Uruguayan team Nacional.
Its only the team’s third game after a tragic plane crash three months ago killed most of its players. The team’s first time back on the field following the accident was back in January, against the Brazilian champs Palmeiras. Chapecoense also played Criciúma, and beat them 2×0, in last Saturday’s local championship in Santa Catarina.
Chapecoense qualified for the tournament after receiving the Copa Sud-Americana title from the Colombian team, Atlético Nacional.
And this year, the team is looking at a lot of field time. After last year’s stellar performance, the team is looking to play at least 72 games in 7 major competitions. 38 of those games will be in the Brazilian Championship, 18 in state competitions, and six in the Copa Libertadores. The rest will be split between Premier League games and regional tournaments. Of course, if the team does well, they could be competing in dozens more games. That number exceeds even that of the reigning Brazilian champ, Palmeiras, who will close 2017 with 80 games.
Finally, the beloved Brazilian team has also received invitations to play friendly matches in Europe by a number of Spanish and Italian teams, including Barcelona.
A long journey
Players on the team traveled nearly 30 hours to reach the site of the Copa Libertadores, which they reached Monday at dawn.
Left midfielder Alan Ruschel and forward Neto, two survivors of the crash which took 71 lives, stayed behind for the cup. Both have reported difficulties in training due to injuries from the accident.
However, they should be back on the field sometime this year.