The narrow win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima gave River Plate an opportunity to fight for the first ever UEFA Club World Cup trophy, but the Argentine giants will have to produce a massive effort if they are to prevent mighty Barcelona from lifting their third title, having previously gone all the way in 2009 and 2011.
One of world’s most decorated clubs have had their shares of ups and downs during the 21st century, having even got relegated to the second division, but some under-par results did nothing to downsize the incredible fan base. Just as expected, the Millionaires quickly bounced back, lifting the 2013/2014 Torneo Final title and earning their place at the Club World Cup with a play-off triumph over San Lorenzo. Led by Marcelo Gallardo, River Plate did not exactly impress this term, finishing the league campaign in ninth position, but they did well to defeat Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the Club World Cup semi-final and earn a chance to fight for the coveted trophy. Looking at the current crop of players, it looks as though the Millionaires lack the quality to match a side like Barcelona and they will be looking to compensate with a hard-working approach, fighting for every loose ball, although we seriously doubt that is going to prove enough for a positive result.
River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo has no fresh injury worries, but it looks as though he has served a surprise or two for his Barcelona counterpart.
According to reports in Argentine, Uruguayan midfielder Camilo Mayada will be recalled to the starting line-up, whilst playmaker Lucho Gonzalez could also return.
Barcelona have dominated the world football in the last ten years or so, and they don’t seem ready to abdicate the throne just yet. And while the Catalans obviously owe a lot to Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, this season has proved that they can do just fine without their world-class forward, with Luis Suarez and Neymar easily stepping up the plate when it was needed the most. A couple of unexpected slip-ups allowed Atletico Madrid to catch them in the La Liga standings, but Barcelona remain five points clear of arch rivals Real Madrid, meaning they remain the favourites to defend the league title. Having easily secured their place in the Champions League knockout stages, where they will face Arsenal, the Catalans can now focus on winning their third Club World Cup trophy. Even with Messi and Neymar missing, Luis Enrique’s charges recorded a comfortable triumph over Guangzhou in the semis, with Luis Suarez bagging a hat-trick, although they could face a more difficult task against defence-minded River Plate.
Luis Enrique should have Neymar back to the side for the River Plate clash, but Douglas Pereira and Rafinha Alcantara are definitely out.
Lionel Messi did not train with the squad due to renal colic issue, but he is determined to play in the final and will probably take his place on the bench.
Key Factors to Consider
- Under 2.5 goals were scored in four of River Plate’s last five games
- River Plate won just two of last six matches (D1 L3)
- Barcelona had scored mere four goals in three games prior to Club World Cup
- The Catalans are after their third CWC title having won in 2009 and 2011
- Both Leo Messi and Neymar could be left on the bench for the final
River Plate may lack the quality to match Barcelona, but they can be quite difficult to break and we have no doubts they will fight for their lives in an attempt to win their first ever Club World Cup trophy. With both Messi and Neymar far from the desired level of fitness, it will not be easy for the Catalans to record a big win and we don’t think the Millionaires will get embarrassed in Yokohama.
Verdict: Under 3.5 goals
Best Odds: 4/6