Kick-off: Sunday, March 21, 2010, 19:00 CET, La Bombonera, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The remaining 80 minutes of the 2010 Clausura’s Superclasico will take place on Thursday afternoon. The players were forced off the pitch on Sunday by heavy rainfall but everyone will be back in la Bombonera to complete the fixture at the most unusual midweek kick-off time of 15:45.
Boca On The Backfoot
It only seems like a blink of the eye since Boca Juniors collected their fourth Copa Libertadores trophy in what was a golden decade for the club kicked off by the turn of the millennium.
Right now, however, Boca are a club in big trouble with massive failings both on and off the pitch. Patchy form in last year’s Apertura saw them miss out on a place in the Copa Libertadores. Now nine games into the Clausura they sit fourth from bottom having only managed one victory all season.
In the close season they lost the services of head coach Alfio Basile, general manager Carlos Bianchi and a few games into the Clausura experienced goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri also fled.
While they can still call upon the talents of the mercurial Juan Roman Riquelme as well as other players of the calibre of Martin Palermo and Nicolas Gaitan it’s simply not working for them and their rookie head coach Abel Alves.
No Sign Of River’s Tide Turning
Just about the only thing making fans of Boca smile at the moment is the fact that their great rivals River Plate find themselves in just as big a mess as their Superclasico opponents.
It was hoped among River fans that the election of club legend Daniel Passarella as president last year would signal brighter times ahead for los Millonarios. The good times are yet to arrive however and River find themselves in a relegation scrap this season.
The Clausura campaign was precipitated by River’s talented midfielder Diego Buonanotte crashing into a tree in a car accident in which three of his friends were killed. Further problems have come in the shape of Ariel Ortega suffering a relapse in his battle against alcoholism.
Head coach Leonardo Astrada knows he is living on borrowed time, especially since River’s Copa Libertadores winning coach Ramon Diaz recently stated that he wants another crack at the job.
February 21 v Godoy Cruz (A) – DREW 1-1 (Primera Division)
February 26 v Estudiantes (H) – DREW 1-1 (Primera Division)
March 2 v Velez Sarsfield (A) – DREW 4-4 (Primera Division)
March 6 v Racing Club (H) – LOST 2-1 (Primera Division)
March 14 v Tigre (A) – LOST 3-0 (Primera Division)
February 21 v Arsenal (H) – DREW 1-1 (Primera Division)
February 28 v Gimnasia La Plata (A) – DREW 1-1 (Primera Division)
March 4 v San Lorenzo (H) – WON 1-0 (Primera Division)
March 7 v Independiente (A) – LOST 2-0 (Primera Division)
March 14 v Huracan (H) – WON 2-0 (Primera Division)
Boca's winless run of seven games going into Sunday’s Superclasico has seen head coach Abel Alves chopping and changing the team’s shape and personnel in recent weeks.
For the game with River in comes experienced full-back Hugo Ibarra and Jesus Mendez is shifted in from the left to his favourite position in the middle of the park. It looks like Ezequiel Munoz and Matias Gimenez have kept their spots while Nicolas Gaitan and Gary Medel face late fitness tests.
Probable line-up (4-3-1-2): Garcia; Ibarra, Munoz, Luiz Alberto, Morel; Medel, Mendez, Gimenez; Riquelme; Gaitan, Palermo.
River coach Leonardo Astrada has shuffled his deck ahead of the Superclasico in an attempt to snuff out the threat of Boca striker Martin Palermo. Out goes Nicolas Sanchez in defence and in comes Gustavo Cabral in Astrada’s plan to shut out the Argentine international forward.
Added protection will also come from playing Matias Almeyda on the right side of midfield with a brief to keep an eye on Juan Roman Riquelme. Ariel Ortega remains out the of squad although he has been back in training since his alcoholism relapse last month.
Probable line-up (4-4-2): Vega; Ferrari, Cabral, Ferrero, Diaz; Almeyda, Ahumada, Rojas; Gallardo; Funes Mori, Canales.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nicolas Gaitan (Boca Juniors)
The starlet was one of very few bright sparks for Boca in an otherwise miserable Apertura campaign which ultimately saw them miss out on Copa Libertadores qualification.
Gaitan plays with an elegance which is typically Argentine and this has helped him to quickly establish himself as a crowd favourite. He now has over 50 appearances for Boca and his incisive attacking game is improving all the time.
He is also on the fringes of Diego Maradona’s World Cup squad after playing in friendly games against Ghana, Costa Rica and Jamaica. On his last international outing against Jamaica he picked up and injury and was sorely missed by Boca for the following fortnight.
On their day Gaitan, Palermo and Riquelme are by far and away the best attacking trio in domestic Argentine football, unfortunately for Boca fans that day has not come too often recently.
Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate)
The free-kick specialist has said this week that he thinks this could be his last Superclasico before retirement and he seems dead set on leaving his mark on the game.
Gallardo has a decent scoring record against Boca Juniors, recently he has netted free kicks in the last two league meetings between the great rivals.
Sunday’s game will be the former Monaco man’s 300 match for River and the 34-year-old knows exactly what victory in this Sunday’s fixture would mean to fans of the club.
“The fans can be assured that I can only enjoy this game of football if we win. That is the only way to come away from a game happy, you will never enjoy it unless you have done your best. If I can score then that is a bonus.”
A look at the Clausura league shows this game as nothing more than a lower half of the table scrap. Of course the match means a lot more than that to the players and fans. With nobody wanting to lose the Superclasico they tend to be cagey affairs with handbags or even a football match breaking out at one time or another.
Boca are seven games without a win but River’s ability to self-destruct is equally as impressive. It will be nip and tuck with a score draw the most likely result
Boca Juniors 1-1 River Plate
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