Boca Juniors v River Plate, Torneos De Verano, January 20, 2010
The new Argentinean season may still be a little while off restarting, but locals will have the appetite satisfied on Wednesday night as powerhouses and arch-rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate face off in a high-profile pre-season friendly.
2009 was a rough year for the Argentine old-guard. Both clubs had an awful Apertura tournament and ended up in very disappointing positions; Boca finished in 11th place with 27 points and River finished in 14th spot with 21 points. So poor was there season that neither club qualified for the Copa Libertadores.
The start of the 2009 season had brought much greatest expectations for Boca. Legendary manager Alfio Basile was re-appointed at the beginning of the season and it was hoped that the highly successful “Coco” would again lead Boca to silverware.
Added to the change of management was a reshuffle in the playing squad. Joining Boca was the highly rated Chilean Gary Medel, while several high profile players were allowed to leave the club including Rodrigo Palacio (Genoa), Juan Forlin (Espanyol) and Fabian Vargas (Almeria).
Amid all the comings and goings, Boca eventually suffered. Crucially, talisman Juan Roman Riquelme played only 10 matches in the season due to injury, while all-important striker Martin Palermo failed to score in eight consecutive matches during the season as winning became all too taxing.
River fared even worse. The Millonarios started the 2009 season having lost Radamel Falcao to Porto, although they did manage to bring in seasoned veterans Matias Almeyda and Ariel Ortega. But it quickly became apparent that River’s problems were more deep-rooted than their playing staff, and in an effort to turn around their season they replaced coach Grosito with Leo Astrada. Sadly, on the field in 2009, very little changed.
Fast forward to the upcoming friendly, and both clubs have slightly more reason to be optimistic. (8/11 to be under 2.5 goals, EVS to be over)
Boca can call upon Martin Palermo, Juan Roman Riquelme (returning after a three month absence) and Sebastian Battaglia as the leading and experienced threesome to guide the yellow and blues against River. Further, hopes are high the 22-year-old striker Lucas Viatri will prove himself up-front in the next 12 months, while big things are also expected from 21-year-old attacking midfielder Nicolas Gaitan.
River Plate, though, have several selection problems ahead of kick-off. Coach Astrada will be without the experience of Ariel Ortega and Marcelo Gallardo as the pair have not yet recovered from the injuries that have hampered their pre-season. Additionally, defender Gustavo Cabral is also missing alongside long-term absentee Diego Buonanotte. Even new signing Alexis Ferrero will not make the trip to Mar del Plata as his deal was done too late in the day for him to be part of the matchday squad.
Amazingly, the hype around this game is such that whispers are doing the rounds suggest that should Boca fall to River, Basile could suffer by being pushed out the club.
101predicts: Boca Juniors 2 – River Plate 2 (18/1)
Full match odds here.