Claudio Borghi's Boca will have to fight to keep up recent good results with a visit to an out of form, but still dangerous Estudiantes side...
It is not often that the juggernaught of Estudiantes hits a bump in the road; but after an almost unheard-of run of three games without a win, Alex Sabella's side will be desperate to rediscover the golden touch against rivals Boca Juniors.
A winless Copa Sudamericana exit at the hands of Newell's Old Boys will not unduly worry Juan Sebastian Veron and co, but Sunday's defeat to Primera newcomers All Boys definitely gave more cause for cause for concern. Of course the recent dip cannot be overstated; almost any team would love to have the type of problems that leave a team two points off the lead with a game in hand.
Still, with the Apertura shaping up to be one of the most open tournaments in recent years, and with grandes such as San Lorenzo, River Plate and Boca enjoying a resurgence, Sabella knows that every point is crucial in the 12 games that remain of the campaign.
Injury-blighted Boca none the less are on the up:
After three games it looked possible that Claudio Borghi's reign as Boca coach would be one of the least distinguished and shortest in the club's history. The Xeneixes managed only one point from their first nine, and 'El Bichi' heaped the pressure by stating that a poor result against Velez Sarsfield would see him depart.
Boca responded with a good win against the 'Fortin', and since then have picked up a further two wins out of three to steadily climb the table. Borghi is especially blessed to have both his strikers firing on all cylinders, with Martin Palermo's hat trick putting him joint top scorer after a slow start, young Lucas Viatri trailing his veteran partner by just one strike. The rediscovery of Martin's scoring touch has coincided with the improvement in results, proving that when the 37 year old goal machine is on form the whole team is lifted.
Juan Roman Riquelme is still unavailable, as is Cristian Cellay; Viatri and youngster Cristian Erbes are also doubts for the injury-stricken Xeneixes. Borghi however knows that there is no better time to play a Pincha side plagued with fixture congestion, and will hope to take advantage of his side's freshness to come out on top on Saturday afternoon.
Alex Sabella will nevertheless be mindful of his team's recent continental exertions, as well as the not insignificant matter of Wednesday's Clasico Platense against Gimnasia, and may consider further rotations to the Pincha lineup. The coach will line up in a 5-3-2 formation for the visit of Claudio Borghi's Boca side, the big surprise being the absence of 'La Gata' Gaston Fernandez from the La Plata club's forward line.
Borghi meanwhile has endured a difficult week with respect to his side's physical condition, with doubts over young pair Cristian Erbes and Lucas Viatri complicating preparations. Viatri is given a better chance of starting than Erbes in a 3-4-1-2 line-up: Pablo Mouche and Jesus Mendez are on stand by. Elsewhere Gary Medel continues at centre-back due to Cristian Cellay's absence, while Damian Escudero has the opportunity to show what he can do in a favoured left midfield position.
Orion; Mercado, Fernandez, Desabato, Re, Rojo; Perez, Braña, Veron; Pereyra, Gonzalez.
Boca Juniors (3-4-1-2):
Lucchetti; Insaurralde, Medel, Caruzzo; Rodriguez, Battaglia, Erbes/Mendez, Escudero; Chavez; Palermo, Viatri/Mouche.
Players To Watch:
Estudiantes: Juan Sebastian Veron
The Pincha contender in Saturday's battle of the veterans, 'La Bruja' remains the heart, soul and creative spirit of the Estudiantes side despite his advancing years. He may not have the legs of his youth, but in terms of passing, vision and leadership there are few better playing in Argentina.
Boca Juniors: Martin Palermo
Step forward Boca's ageing talisman. 'El Titan' has struggled more than usual this season, missing his great goal provider Riquelme and often feeding off scraps. A remarkable hat-trick on Sunday however was an ominous warning to the rest of the league, who know that if the 37 year old centre forward is in the mood to score goals they are more or less powerless.
A game almost too close to call, it will be tight and there will almost certainly be goals. Honours shared with a 2-2 Draw.
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