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Out of form and over the hill: Will this be Carlos Tevez's last Superclasico?

1:00 AM GMT+4 23/09/2018
Carlos Tevez Boca Alianza Lima Copa Libertadores 16052018
With just seven goals in 24 games since returning from China and having lost his first-team place to Mauro Zarate, time is running out for the veteran

When Boca Juniors and River Plate kick off Sunday's Superclasico in Buenos Aires, Carlos Tevez will be keen to put one over on the Xeneize's most hated rivals.

The very fact that the veteran forward will be starting in the Bombonera, however, is a sign of the diminished status he holds since returning from that disastrous China trip at the start of 2018.

At 34, time is running out for a man who once counted himself among the world's elite strikers. This could well be the last time Boca fans see him lining up against River, as retirement beckons.

As strange as it may sound, the Superclasico is not Boca nor River's most important match of the week. The big test for the two rivals came on Wednesday, when both teams kicked off their Copa Libertadores quarter finals against Cruzeiro and Independiente respectively.

Boca boosted their hopes of making the last four with a 2-0 win over their Brazilian opponents, while Franco Armani stood in the way of Independiente to seal a goalless away draw for the Millonarios that keeps them on track for the semis. Tevez, however, played an entirely limited part in his team's success.

The striker was relegated to the bench, as he has been on several occasions since the season began in August. Former West Ham and Inter man Mauro Zarate, drafted in from Velez Sarsfield, is the new focal point of the Boca attack, and proved as much by opening the scoring at the Bombonera with a wonderful lofted finish.

Tevez, meanwhile, kept the recovering Fernando Gago company on the sidelines, seeing action as late as 76 minutes in when he replaced Dario Benedetto. There has been no characteristic fall-out between the ex-Juventus, Manchester United and City man and his superiors, no petulant reactions that have led to his fall from grace – merely a recognition that his form no longer merits a starting spot when it most counts.

Ever since he made a second Boca comeback after taking Shanghai Shenhua for one of the most expensive rides in football history, his numbers have been aggressively mediocre.

He has managed a paltry seven goals and three assists in 24 outings since the start of the year, far below his prolific peak. In many ways he has never recovered from that Chinese adventure and a year out of action and, while he still got his hands on the Superliga with Boca in 2018, he knows time is running out.

“I will support and contribute from wherever I can,” he signalled to reporters at the start of the season.

“It is clear that right now I am not a priority for the coach but I love Boca and I want the best for the team.”

Sunday, then, could be his final match against an opponent he has relished facing in so many memorable clashes over the years. The need for rotation after the Libertadores clash paradoxically means Tevez is likely to feature from the start, and there is nothing he would enjoy more than another goal to down River and earn him the acclaim of the vociferous Bombonera.

After that clash, however, and unless they are drawn together in a cup match, Boca and River will not meet again until the end of 2019 at the earliest, perhaps too long for Tevez to wait. He has been a wonderful servant for the Xeneize and despite the disappointment of the last two years, he deserves a last hurrah.