This evening sees the latest instalment of the world-renowned Superclasico Argentino in the Estadio Monumental, which both River and Boca need to win to resurrect faltering Apertura campaigns...
Just over a week ago River Plate playing legend Juan Jose 'JJ' Lopez was quietly plying his trade with the championship leading second XI, providing the warm-up action for many lukewarm Millo performances. Now however, the 60-year-old faces the biggest test of his managerial life; as without sacked coach Angel Cappa, the Nunez club prepare to play their biggest rivals in front of their own, expectant fans.
Just looking at the tables indicate the desperate situation which eventually proved too much for Cappa. Sitting firmly in midtable this campaign, the bigger worry for River is found in the three year average points descenso table, which decides who goes down to the dreaded B. Only newly promoted Olimpo and Quilmes have a worse record than the giants of Argentine football, and by now, it was assumed, River were supposed to have left the relegation worries behind.
All of this is not to say though that the Millonarios do not have talent across the park. In Juan Pablo Carrizo they have arguably the best keeper in the country currently, while the team is overloaded with attacking talent and promising youngsters. Taking the reins of a fixture he played in countless times in the red and white strip, 'JJ' will have to take these parts and use them to their full extent, as the River fans demand success against Boca.
Last Roll Of The Dice For 'El Bichi'
Claudio Borghi may have avoided, just, the axe which fell on Angel Cappa's head last week; but 'El Bichi' is aware that failure in the Superclasico, against a River team passing through a very disappointing spell, would almost certainly mean becoming the third Boca coach to leave the club in 2010.
Although they possess none of the descenso worries of their rivals, the Xeneixes find themselves even lower in the Apertura table. Occassionally capable of impressive football and neat passing, the team have suffered from a very weak defence - arguably not helped by Borghi's insistence on fielding a back three - and a crippling lack of consistency. Barely once this season have two wins been put together back to back, and because of this Boca sit a lowly 15th in the table, with just 17 points from 13 games.
Borghi though has several reasons to be confident. The great talisman Juan Roman Riquelme is back and raring to go at number 10, after passing his first test at Argentinos Juniors with flying colours. Roman will hope to renew his potent partnership with veteran goalscorer extraordinaire Martin Palermo; and if these two hit top gear, and with quality players such as Sebastian Battaglia and Gary Medel behind, the guillotine need not yet fall on 'El Bichi's reign.
The biggest news for the home team is that Ariel Ortega starts as number 10; the veteran making the team after Diego Buonanotte failed to recover from injury. 'El Burrito' is one of five changes made by Lopez from Cappa's last team, while Matias Almeyda is a key player for River after recovering from a torn muscle which kept him out for over a month.
After some doubt during the week Juan Riquelme will be there for the Superclasico, after the 32-year-old shook off a bout of tendonitis. Cristian Lucchetti is the big absence from the Boca side, after the first choice goalkeeper was dropped following a stinging argument with Borghi over the weekend. Javier Garcia plays his first game of the season between the sticks, while Gary Medel is away with Chile. Lucas Viatri makes way for Pablo Mouche up front as 'El Bichi' attempts to inject pace into the forward line.
River Plate (4-3-1-2):
Juan Pablo Carrizo; Paulo Ferrari, Jonatan Maidana, Alexis Ferrero, Adalaberto Roman; Walter Acevedo, Matias Almeyda, Roberto Pereyra; Erik Lamela; Ariel Ortega, Mariano Pavone.
Boca Juniors (4-4-2):
Javier Garcia; Christian Cellay, Matias Caruzzo, Juan Insaurralde, Clemente Rodriguez; Jesus Mendez, Sebastian Battaglia, Matias Gimenez, Juan Roman Riquelme; Pablo Mouche, Martin Palermo
With both teams playing well below their full ability and potential, the loyal supporters of both will be hoping that this is the day when their heroes' seasons finally kick off. Overall though I see Boca in slightly more positive terms; which is why I am plumping for a 1-0 Boca win.
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