Long seen as the preeminent showcase for South American talent, the CONMEBOL Libertadores will see a number of its stars feature for the respective national teams as the journey towards Qatar 2022 kicks off. Regarded by many as the most difficult World Cup Qualifiers around, the CONMEBOL competition will take place over 18 matchdays between now and March of 2022. Each of the 10 nations will face off against every other nation both home and away.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the start of the action, and unfortunately left at least the opening rounds of matches behind closed doors, the qualifiers promise plenty of drama and intrigue, providing a great dose of entertainment before the Libertadores resumes again in mid-October.
Here is a team-by-team look at the Libertadores players that will look to leave their mark during this week's action.
Lionel Scaloni has called upon a quartet of Libertadores players, and one recently departed Libertaores star, as the Albiceleste make their World Cup Qualifying debut. Boca Juniors' Esteban Andrada and Eduardo Salvio are each with a shout of featuring in the starting XI set to face Ecuador on Thursday night, while the same can be said of the River Plate pairing of Franco Armani and Gonzalo Montiel.
Salvio is one of Scaloni's options alongside Lionel Messi (unfortunately not a Libertadores player... yet) while Montiel looks to be the choice at right back. Armani and Andrada are both in the conversation, along with Aston Villa's Emi Martínez, to start in goal, though it seems Andrada may just have a leg up on his River Plate counterpart.
Lucas Martínez Quarta completed a move from River Plate to Italian side Fiorentina last week and is expected to start in central defense.
Tite has called up a quintent of Libertadores stars for his Brazil sqaud to face Bolivia and Peru on the opening pair of matchdays. The Flamengo pair of Everton Ribeiro and Rodrigo Caio were both Libertadores champions in 2019 and both, the former in particular, could be options off the bench for the Brazil manager late on. Palmeiras see goalkeeper Weverton and young talent Gabriel Menino called into the squad while Athletico Paranaense goalkeeper Santos rounds out the group.
The Chileans will count on six Libertadores players as they look to make their return to the World Cup after missing out on the final matchday of 2018 qualifying. Reinalda Rueda looks set to start a Libertadores standout between the sticks as either Colo-Colo's Brayan Cortés or Racing's Gabriel Arias should get the nod against Uruguay on Thursday.
A pair of Universidad Católica players are also in the mix in the form of José Fuenzalida and César Pinares. River Plate defender Paulo Díaz and Flamengo's Mauricio Isla round out the Libertadores options for the manager who won the Libertadores title while in charge of Atlético Nacional in 2016.
Veteran manager Carlos Queiroz counts on a quartet of Libertadores players in his Colombia squad. A pair of Boca Juniors players, Frank Fabra and Jorman Campuzano, are present as expected options off the bench for Friday's match with Venezuela, while América de Cali's Eder Chaux and Junior's Gabriel Fuentes are each hoping for their first Colombia cap.
Ecuador's Libertadores contingent is the largest on the continent, as Argentine manager Gustavo Alfraro has called up nine players who have all featured in the Libertadores so far in 2020. Liga de Quito have impressed so far in 2020, winning the Ecuadorian Apertura and securing a spot in the Libertadores Round of 16 with a match to spare, so it is no surprise to see five Liga players in Alfaro's squad.
Franklin Guerra and Pedro Perlaza are both veteran defenders, but neither have been capped in their career, and it could be a first national team start for Perlaza against Argentina on Thursday. In the midfield, Jordy Alcívar, an impressive 21-year-old talent also looking for his first Ecuador cap, is in the conversation to start against Argentina, while Jhojan Julio and Junior Sornoza are game-changing options from the bench.
Independiente del Valle have been another impressive Ecuadorian side in 2020, and the club has been rewarded with a pair of call-ups themselves in 22-year-old defender Ángelo Preciado and 18-year-old star midfielder Moisés Caicedo. Caicedo looks to be headed right into the XI and is a player that will have plenty of eyes on him from around the continent and abroad.
São Paulo's Robert Arboleda looks like he'll start in defense as well against Argentina, while Barcelona's Mario Pineida is in the squad as well.
Paraguay manager Eduardo Berizzo has called up four players from Libertadores sides headlined by Palmeiras' Gustavo Gómez, who is expected to captain the squad against Peru on Thursday evening.
Also present in the team are a pair of players plying their trade in Argentina: River Plate's Robert Rojas and Racing's Juan Gabriel Patiño. Guaraní's Raúl Bobadilla is the only Libertadores player based in Paraguay that has been called into the side.
Ricardo Gareca's Peru side were the darlings of 2018 qualification, and their campiagn to go to back-to-back World Cups starts with a pair of Libertadores players in the side, while another Libertadores star misses out due to injury.
Boca Juniors' Carlos Zambrano looks set to start in central defense against Paraguay while América de Cali's Aldair Rodríguez is in search of his first Peru cap.
Had he been healthy, Internacional's Paolo Guerrero would have surely been in the squad as well, but the hero of the 2018 campaign misses out due to a knee injury sufferend ahead of the Libertadores' resumption in September.
The always dangerous Uruguayan side counts on five Libertadores players in the squad that will square off with Chile and Ecuador over this weekend.
Palmeiras' Matías Viña has been a standout performer at left back so far in the Libertadores and it looks likely he'll get his chance to repirse that role for Uruguay against Chile as well. River Plate's Nicolás De La Cruz is another who has impressed on South America's biggest club stage and could be rewarded with a spot in the initial XI because of it. If De La Cruz finds his way into the XI, he'd be receiving his first Uruguay cap.
Flamengo's Giorgian De Arrascaeta is a veteran of the Uruguay set up with 25 caps and 3 goals, and will be one of the options off the bench. Libertad's Martín Silva is the GK in the squad with the most caps, but it appears as though Martín Campaña will beat him out for the starting spot while Nacional defender Agustín Oliveros is another Libertadores player in the squad who has yet to be capped with the full national team.
The only South American side to never qualify for a World Cup, Venezuela begin their 2022 campaign with a pair of matches agianst Colombia and Paraguay with a trio of Libertadores players in tow.
Santos midfielder Yeferson Soteldo has drawn plaudits for his Libertadores performances since the resumption and it looks like his reward could be a spot in the Starting XI in Barranquilla on Friday. The rest of the Libertadores contingent is made up of a pair of goalkeepers, Delfín's Alain Baroja and América de Cali's Joel Graterol, who are expected to serve as backups to Wuilker Faríñez.
Full list of Libertadores players called up for CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers:
Argnetina (4): Franco Armani and Gonzalo Montiel (River Plate), Esteban Andrada and Eduardo Salvio (Boca Juniors)
Brazil (5): Rodrigo Caio and Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Weverton and Gabriel Menino (Palmeiras), Santos (Athletico Paranaense)
Chile (6): Brayan Cortés (Colo-Colo), José Fuenzalida and César Pinares (Universidad Católica), Mauricio Isla (Flamengo), Paulo Díaz (River Plate), Gabriel Arias (Racing)
Colombia (4): Frank Fabra and Jorman Campuzano (Boca Juniors), Eder Chaux (América de Cali), Gabriel Fuentes (Junior)
Ecuador (9): Franklin Guerra, Pedro Perlaza, Junior Sornoza, Jordy Alcívar and Jhojan Junio (Liga de Quito), Ángelo Preciado and Moisés Caicedo (Independiente del Valle), Robert Arboleda (São Paulo), and Mario Pineida (Barcelona)
Paraguay (4): Gustavo Gómez (Palmeiras), Robert Rojas (River Plate), Juan Gabriel Patiño (Racing), and Raúl Bobadilla (Guaraní)
Peru (2): Carlos Zambrano (Boca Juniors) and Aldair Rodríguez (América de Cali)
Uruguay (5): Martín Silva (Libertad), Matías Viña (Palmeiras), Agustín Oliveros (Nacional), Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Flamengo), and Nicolás De La Cruz (River Plate)
Venezuela (3): Yeferson Soteldo (Santos), Alain Baroja (Delfín), and Joel Graterol (América de Cali)
River Plate (5): Franco Armani and Gonzalo Montiel (Argentina), Paulo Díaz (Chile), Robert Rojas (Paraguay) and Nicolás De La Cruz (Uruguay)
Boca Juniors (5): Esteban Andrada and Eduardo Salvio (Argentina), Frank Fabra and Jorman Campuzao (Colombia) and Carlos Zambrano (Peru)
Liga de Quito (5): Franklin Guerra, Pedro Perlaza, Junior Sornoza, Jordy Alcívar and Jhojan Junio (Ecuador)
Palmeiras (4): Weverton and Gabriel Menino (Brazil), Gustavo Gómez (Paraguay), and Matías Viña (Uruguay)
Flamengo (4): Everton Ribeiro and Rodrigo Caio (Brazil), Mauricio Isla (Chile) and Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Uruguay)
America de Cali (3): Eder Chaux (Colombia), Aldair Rodríguez (Peru) and Joel Graterol (Venezuela)
Racing (2): Gabriel Arias (Chile) and Juan Gabriel Patiño (Paraguay)
Universidad Católica (2): José Fuenzalida and César Pinares (Chile)
Independiente del Valle (2): Ángelo Preciado and Moisés Caicedo (Ecuador)
Athletico Paranaense (1): Santos (Brazil)
Colo-Colo (1): Brayan Cortes (Chile)
Junior (1): Gabriel Fuentes (Colombia)
São Paulo (1): Robert Arboleda (Ecuador)
Barcelona (1): Mario Pineida (Ecuador)
Guaraní (1): Raúl Bobadilla (Paraguay)
Libertad (1): Martín Silva (Uruguay)
Nacional (1): Agustín Oliveros (Uruguay)
Delfín (1): Alain Baroja (Venezuela)