Boca Juniors and River Plate face off today in Argentina’s “Super Clasico,” the derby between Buenos Aires rivals.
Both clubs come to the biggest game of the season with problems, but Boca seem to be in better shape than their bitter adversaries.
Boca are expecting a near-sellout of more than 50,000 at their La Bombonera Stadium, which should be a big advantage. Boca have not lost at home to River Plate in five years. The last meeting at La Bombonera was a 1-0 victory for Boca after a goal by Sebastian Battaglia.
The series between the Argentine giants is almost even. In 183 games, Boca has won 67 times and River 61, with the rest ending in draws.
Boca’s top two players are in doubt. Battaglia has a knee injury and playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme is bothered by a right-foot problem.
“With Riquelme and Battaglia we are going to wait until Sunday to decide,” Boca coach Carlos Ischia said on Friday. “It’s clear Riquelme is not going to be 100 percent. But in this kind of match, players like him can make the difference.”
Boca’s Colombian midfielder Fabian Vargas also said the pair would be a big boost for today’s clash.
“I hope they are not missing because they are two players who are very important for the game we play,” Vargas said.
Velez Sarsfield top the Argentine league with 19 points from nine games, four more than River and eight more than Boca.
Boca seem to have more in-form players than River Plate and Argentina coach Diego Maradona has called up Boca players Rodrigo Palacio and Martin Palermo for a friendly on May 20 in Santa Fe against either Paraguay or Uruguay.
River Plate have three of their top players in doubt. Colombian Radamel Falcao and midfielder Diego Barrado have right-leg injuries and forward Mauro Rosales has an injured knee. Forward Mauro Diaz is also injured.
River Plate coach Nestor Gorosito said on Thursday that top forward Cristian Fabbiani would also miss the match, leaving River with hardly any attacking options. Gorosito included 19-year-old forward Eial Strahman, who has never played an Argentine first-division game. He has scored five goals in the last two reserve matches.
There is some speculation that Gorosito may be playing mind games with Boca counterpart Carlos Ischia. Without Fabbiani or Falcao, River would be forced to move midfielder Diego Buonanotte into a forward’s role. It may also indicate that Strahman will see lots of playing time.