River Plate v Boca Juniors, Argentinean Apertura, October 25, 2009
Buenos Aires is currently gripped with Superclasico fever ahead of the biggest game of all in Argentina and River fans are dreading the fixture with their old rivals following a run of shocking recent results that make the Boca clear favourites to claim a famous win at El Monumental.
Los Millionarios, except for their 2008 Clausura title, have been the poor relations of the two capital sides in terms of results in recent years. Whilst Boca have dominated Argentinean football and impressed in South American competition, River fans have been left fuming.
The new Apertura campaign though has seen River hit some new lows. The home team come into this match having won one match out of nine so far, having scored a measly nine goals. This is put into perspective by the fact they scored four of them in their only victory so far, a 4-3 win over Chacarita Juniors in September.
Earlier this month, Leonardo Astrada replaced Nestor Gorosito as head coach of River but results have not really picked up. Astrada has overseen a home defeat to Independiente and a 0-0 draw with Huracan in the league whilst earlier this week River lost at home to ten-man San Lorenzo in the Copa Sudamericana.
Astrada will likely gamble on a number of schemers to see him past Boca and turn Riverâ€™s campaign around. Chief amongst these is veteran Ariel Ortega who will be looking to roll back the years and produce a match winning performance. The 35-year-old is likely to be assisted by Riverâ€™s number 10 Marcelo Gallardo and up-and-coming youngster Diego Buonanotte.
In their last league match, River played without a recognized striker and this might be the game for Cristian Fabbiani to come back in and produce a match winning performance. Arguably the most important player for the home team will be defensive midfielder Matias Almeyda whose job it will be to stop Juan Roman Riquelme.
Maradona may not be a fan of the former Villareal and Barcelona playmaker, but Riquelme, despite some injuries this season, remains a class act. With burly strikers Martin Palermo and Lucas Viatri in front of him, Boca have plenty of attacking quality to win at the Monumental.
Palermoâ€™s now famous 40-year headed winner against Velez Sarsfield three weeks ago was a major turning point in Bocaâ€™s season and Alfio Basileâ€™s team now look in good shape after winning three successive league matches.
River coach Astrada summed up how River feel about this match: â€œYou have to play Boca with your heart more than with your head, it’s a match apart. It doesn’t matter in what position (in the standings) either side is coming into it, what matters is to beat our eternal rivals.”
The home fans had better hope form goes out the window for this one, otherwise they havenâ€™t got much hope.
101gg predicts: River Plate 0 â€“ Boca Juniors 3
Full match odds here.