It may have passed under the radar of many football fanatics, but the Copa Libertadores (South America's version of the UEFA Champions League) begins this week, albeit with a preliminary round of qualifying.
Before the competition begins in full in February, some teams are forced to qualify for the group stages and two to catch the eye are Arsenal of Argentina and Lanus. While underdogs Arsenal won the South American Cup (the equivalent of the UEFA Cup) without ever winning a home game, Lanus rose to fame by winning their first Argentine league title in the club's 92-year history with a collection of home-grown youth players.
Providing Arsenal get past Mineros in qualifying they will come up against Libertad of Paraguay, LDU of Ecuador and Fluminense of Brazil in the next round, which is no easy task; while Lanus would play Argentina's Estudiantes, Uruguay's Danubio and Deportivo Cuenca of Equador.
Tough groups, but the unpredictability of South American football makes this year's competition more interesting than ever.
Last year's debutants, Cucuta of Colombia, almost caused an almighty upset after scoring 19 times in seven matches on their way through the group stages, but were beaten by eventual winners Boca Juniors when on the brink of the final. The club, having beaten the Argentine giants 3-1 in the first leg, were more used to playing in front of empty stands than a capacity at La Bombonera and sunk to a 3-0 defeat away from home with a cruel last minute goal denying them the chance to make history.
Cucata proved that smaller teams could have a massive impact on the competition and, although they are unlikely to repeat their feats from last year (especially with the resignation of influential coach Jorge Luis Bernal), the competition is always full of potential upsets.
In 2008, it could be the year for Audax Italiano of Chile, who have just sold one of their most talented youngsters to Chelsea, or Venezuelan Apertura winners Caracas. Mexican team Guadalajara may also have a say in proceedings having made the semi-finals in 2005 and 2006, and the chances of one team shaking off their 'underdog' status are high.
That said it would be hard to see beyond some of the bigger sides, most notably last year's Champions Boca Juniors, to take home the title. With a new coach, Carlos Ischia, and the influential Juan Roman Riquelme pulling the strings in midfield, Boca are seen by many as the favourites for the competition.
Riquelme is key to Boca's chances of success, as he was in last year's tournament, but the club also have a number of other players who can make a difference. Last year's semi-final hero Sebastian Battaglia followed Riquelme to Villareal and back, but the midfielder is more than capable of winning a match on his own. Captain Martin Palermo, another to have played in Spain, has invaluable experience; while impressive striker Rodrigo Palacio bears the burden of Boca's goalscoring.
Already successful under their new boss, a comfortable 2-0 victory over bitter rivals River Plate in Mar del Plata this week would have done a lot for Boca's confidence before their Copa involvement begins in late February.
Pushing them for the honour of becoming Libertadores champion will be Brazilian side São Paulo. Becoming the first team to win the Brazilian title five times, the club look in good shape to challenge Boca, despite selling their impressive young defender Breno to Bayern Munich in December.
Bringing in Brazilian striker Adriano on loan from Inter Milan, São Paulo have bolstered their strikeforce and have also improved their squad with the loans of Carlos Alberto from Werder Bremen and Fabio Santos from Lyon.
Adriano will be keen to impress after losing a lot of face, as well as pace, in a dour few years in Italy. His Tricolor debut began well, as he scored both goals in their 2-1 victory over Guaratingueta, but question marks still remain over his state of mind. A good Libertadores campaign would certainly put a few of his demons to rest.
Whether or not some of the smaller clubs can follow suit and make a name for themselves during the coming months of the competition remains to be seen but, given recent history, few would bet against a shock or two.
Chelsea's training ground was invaded by a legend this week, as Diego Maradona popped in to say hello. The presence of the Argentine hero will have done little for the morale of Ashley Cole, given his off-field troubles at the moment, but their latest signing (Argentine striker Franco Di Santo) will have been in heaven.
The 18-year-old former Audix Italiano forward has been compared to the diminutive playmaker, despite being 6' 4'' tall and moved to Stamford Bridge last week for a reported fee of around £3million. While comparisons to Maradona may be a tad premature, Di Santo has good ball skills in spite of his height and should add some depth to the Blues' squad.
Impressing in the Chilean league, he holds an Italian passport which would have made his move to England easier and looks a decent prospect. The worry is that he'll lose out by not playing in the Copa Libertadores and will suffer if he doesn't make an immediate impression on the English game.
His fellow countryman, Birmingham's Mauro Zarate, may get more of a chance and has the added bonus of only being tied into a loan move if it doesn't work out.
An exceptionally exciting player, Zarate has lots of skill, creativity and is comfortable on the ball with both feet. Impressing with Argentina in the U-20 World Cup (something Di Santo didn't get the chance to do), he even scored in the final and made a name for himself with a series of good performances.
Having spent the early part of his career with Vélez Sársfield, Zarate shot to fame in the 2006 Apertura and finished the season as joint-top scorer with Boca Juniors' Rodrigo Palacio. Choosing a move to Qatar with Al-Sadd in June 2007, Zarate claimed he was keen to secure his future financially, but just six months later made the move to Birmingham to reignite his career.
While he won't get the kind of time on the ball that he is used to in the Premier League, Zarate is one to watch for the future. He's still only 20 and, despite a history of Argentinean failure at St Andrews (notably Alberto Tarantini and Luciano Figueroa), Zarate should make the grade if he is given the chance to shine.