Tom Nash takes a closer look at the big one in this year’s Copa Libertadores last 16 – two massively improved sides of the past six months, River Plate against Racing Club promises fireworks…
Argentina’s five biggest clubs- River Plate, Boca Juniors, Racing, Independiente, and San Lorenzo- have a history of playing each other which stretches so far back that clashes between them are simply known in Argentina as clásicos. No translation needed.
On Monday 4 June, the continent’s greatest clubs eagerly awaited the second round draw of the Copa Libertadores in Paraguay, knowing that the chances of a clásico coming out of the hat were high, with Boca, Racing, and Independiente all amongst the eight opponents that River Plate could end up facing in the second round.
The Argentine media were already preemptively building up a potential Superclásico between River and Boca, but they were left disappointed on that front.
They weren’t left entirely empty-handed though, as one clásico did get drawn- that was Racing vs River Plate.
The blockbuster tie will take place on 9th and 29th of August, with Racing hosting the first leg of what will prove to be yet another epic all-Argentinian clash in continental knockouts.
The tie is very tricky to call. River Plate are perhaps marginal favourites, but both teams will rate their chances whilst being well aware they have a tough draw at hand.
River Plate broke for the World Cup in the best form in the land. They are currently 19 games unbeaten, a run that led them to win their Libertadores group containing Flamengo, and powered them up the league, finishing just one point outside next season’s Libertadores qualification spots despite atrocious form early in the year.
24 Feb: River lose away to Velez, setting a 78 year record for consecutive away losses.
28 Feb: River begin a 19-game unbeaten run taking in the Libertadores, Supercopa, Superliga, and Copa Argentina.
Nice work! https://t.co/qBH7zLeHVh
— River in English (@CARP_English) July 30, 2018
Much of this good form was built around their big summer signings. Franco Armani was superb in goal, Juan Fernando Quintero was skillful in the creative department, and Lucas Pratto continues to grow into his number 9 role after a record transfer fee.
River may well be hampered at left-back however by the departure of Marcelo Saracchi to the Bundesliga. Fans are hoping they will find an adequate replacement quickly, but there are no signs that will happen at the moment and Milton Casco is currently playing in that position.
Further departures are expected from River before the end of August. It remains to be seen how detrimental these will be to the club’s plans.
Across town, Eduardo Coudet has slowly been building a Racing side adept at the high intensity pressing game his teams are renowned for.
They were in a great position to finish fifth in the league in May and thus guarantee qualification for next year’s Copa Libertadores, but ended the campaign in poor form and missed a golden chance, losing the final game when qualification was at their mercy.
Their attack will be impacted by the departure of Argentine football’s upcoming star Lautaro Martínez who has just left for Italian giants Inter. Coudet’s main priority for this transfer window is to use the considerable funds this sale generated to replace Martinez’s pace and threat going forward.
— TyC Sports (@TyCSports) August 2, 2018