The wait is coming to an end. River Plate and Boca Juniors will meet in the Copa Libertadores final second leg on Saturday in one of the most anticipated clashes in the history of football.
After a 2-2 draw in the first leg, El Monumental will host an epic match that is likely remain in the memory of all Argentines and a large section of football fans around the globe.
Unlike previous finals in the competition, this edition has even more at stake as the whole world falls back in love with South American club football.
As Buenos Aires, Argentina and the planet are poised with baited breath, Omnisport takes a look at some of the key talking points for this weekend’s ultimate Superclasico.
Sólo hay lugar para una…
¿Cuál será la chapa del campeón de la @Libertadores 2018?
— CONMEBOL.com (@CONMEBOL) November 23, 2018
Banishing the memory of relegation
Seven years ago River suffered the unthinkable when they were relegated to the second tier of Argentinian football.
Many have suggested that victory on Saturday over their near-neighbours would help bury the memory of that demotion, giving the hosts an added incentive.
Recent history makes River slight favourites, given they have won three of the last four meetings, but Boca know victory will see them secure a record-equalling seventh crown.
If River fans thought relegation was bad, losing a Copa Libertadores final to your arch enemies is not something either club will be particularly looking forward to dealing with come Sunday.
The world is watching
In Argentina nobody doubts it. The final of the Copa Libertadores between Boca and River is the most important clash in the history of football.
There has never been a final of this calibre in any international competition. Not only because of the size of both teams, but also for the heated rivalry between them. The attention that this clash has generated throughout the world is unprecedented.
Of course, something is clear: the importance of this game is not limited to what happens on the pitch. For years, South American football has been several steps behind the Europe, as the best players moved across the Atlantic.
But the spectacle in the grandstands, the tremendous rivalry and the history and greatness of Boca versus River makes this Superclasico an unmatched event. And it will be remembered for years to come.
— Boca Jrs. Oficial (@BocaJrsOficial) November 23, 2018
Time for the stars to deliver
Carlos Tevez. Lucas Pratto. Dario Benedetto. Gonzalo Martínez. Ramon Abila. Juan Fernando Quintero. There are plenty of strong names on both sides in this historic Superclasico.
These are the games in which the stars have to shine, the unique players, those who have that holy fire that makes them different.
Both teams have individuals with the calibre necessary to stand out. Boca have a fearsome forward line and powerful bench with Benedetto, Abila, Tevez and Mauro Zarate. All of them have the experience and the class to excel on the biggest occasions.
River, who base their game on teamwork rather than individuals, also have high-class performers who could be the key to breaking Boca down.
Martinez has already shown that he knows how to play these games and his performances normally improve against Boca. Pratto, the key player in the first leg, is another player Boca will have to keep a close eye on.
But they are not the only ones. River’s strength runs throughout their squad and in Franco Armani they have a goalkeeper who knows what it takes to win the Copa Libertadores after lifting the title with Atletico Nacional in 2016.
— River Plate (@CARPoficial) November 22, 2018
Battle on the touchline
Two former idols on the pitch now occupy the dugouts, with Marcello Gallardo comfortably getting the better of Guillermo Barros Schelotto in recent years.
Gallardo’s River have won three of their seven meetings – including March’s Supercopa Argentina showdown – and the 42-year-old has only tasted defeat in two of the other four matches, so the pressure is firmly on his opposite number.
But his dominance is not just limited to the results; his River side have also had the better of the tactical battle.
The first leg was a clear example of this with Gallardo switching to a 5-3-2 formation, while Boca lined up with their standard 4-3-3. That allowed River to dominate the first 25 minutes of the match and they would have opened up a big lead had it not been for home goalkeeper Agustin Rossi.
Injury to Cristian Pavon forced Schelotto into a change and, with a 4-4-2 line-up, the hosts twice took the lead through Abila and Pavon’s replacement Benedetto.
It was not enough to secure a win, though, as Gallardo reacted quickly to make alterations of his own that kept the tie finely poised for Saturday’s date with destiny.
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