Felix Rodrigues Lima updates us from Monterrey ahead of this evening’s Copa Libertadores final first leg….
MONTERREY, Mex. – The final preparations are underway for the first leg of tomorrow’s Copa Libertadores final, as both River Plate and Tigres gear up for what should be a match on the knife’s edge.
On Tuesday, River trained at the soon-to-be former stadium of Tigres’ cross-town rivals C.F. Monterrey, the Estadio Tecnologico (Los Rayados open their new ground this Sunday), as the players continue their preparations for Wednesday’s match-up.
Several River players faced reporters Tuesday, including Matías Kranevitter, who said a positive result is critical to claiming the trophy next week in Argentina.
In his turn at the microphone, defender Gabriel Mercado said that Tigres are a team a lot like River that is most comfortable on the front foot and that they did not come to Mexico simply to defend.
Mercado also gave credit to Tigres’ Enrique Esqueda, someone he says many River fans remember for notching a hat-trick in the last group fixture against Juan Aurich of Peru that enabled Tigres to win that match 5-4 and allowed River to move on to the knockout phase.
On the domestic front, it was also announced River’s match this weekend against Defensa y Justicia would be postponed to a later date, as was expected by many pundits.
Meanwhile, across town, Tigres were dealt a blow Tuesday upon learning that winger Javier Aquino will miss the first leg of the tie. He is still recuperating from a muscle injury he picked up last week in the 3-1 victory over Internacional, and the Argentine winger Damian Alvarez is expected to pick up the slack in Aquino’s absence.
Alvarez told reporters Tuesday he was happy to play in the final, although he admitted his family is full of River fans who may have to put their relative over club allegiance.
Also, there has been plenty of chatter in the Mexican media that Tigres boss Ricardo “Tuca” Ferreti is being strongly considered for the Mexican national team manager position. Miguel Herrera was sacked by the FMF earlier Tuesday after an alleged incident with a Mexican journalist at the Philadelphia airport before returning from Mexico’s Gold Cup victory.
With the possibility of that becoming a distraction for Tigres, officials with the club have said all the right things, that they would like Ferreti to stay and that they would concern themselves with any potential departure after the Libertadores final.
Both teams will continue their final preparations on Wednesday before the match, which kicks off at 8 p.m. local time (10 p.m. in Argentina).
Felix Rodrigues Lima works as a freelance journalist based in Washington, DC. His parents are from Argentina (dad follows River, mom follows Boca) and although it’s been too long since his last visit, he is known to enjoy parrilladas and Havana alfajores from time to time. Follow him @FelixReports.