Superclásico: How Boca and River are faring before the big game

The biggest teams in Argentine football face off this Sunday, with plenty to gain and even more to lose

With a new Superclásico this Sunday, heated rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate are preparing for the biggest game in the Argentine footballing calendar. But between challenging results and injuries, both Xeneizes and Millonarios will be playing for more than just bragging rights.

River dreams of Miguel Borja’s return

The team led by Martín Demichelis arguably has the upper hand. Sitting in second place in their Copa de la Liga group with 13 points and still undefeated this season, River fans will settle for no less than a win at home.

However, River have suffered from irregular form, alternating good and bad performances, and back-to-back draws against Atlético Tucumán and Banfield have cast doubts over their fortune.

With Demichelis dead set on a possession-based style of play similar to European football, the Millonarios have been unstoppable when working as a well-oiled machine. When they haven’t, they struggle to break down defenses and haven’t been assertive in front of goal.

Colombian star striker Miguel Borja has been their key man, with his ability to turn half-chances into goals, but River’s attack has lacked punch without him. Against Banfield, only a last-minute goal by Pablo Solari kept them from a home defeat.

Borja’s torn left hamstring against Atlético Tucuman puts him in doubt, but Demichelis hopes he’ll be in shape to feature against Boca, as will midfielder Manuel Lanzini. Youngsters Claudio Echeverri and Franco Mastantuono could also prove key for a Millonario win.

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Boca needs a result to stay near the top

Diego Martínez hasn’t had an easy start as Boca coach. The former Huracán boss has struggled to bring out the best in this team, and a 2-1 defeat against Lanús on Sunday didn’t help. Boca sit seventh in group B, with nine points, and a bad result could see them slide further from the leaders Godoy Cruz, who have 16. 

It will be the first big test for Martínez, who also favors an offensive style of play. However, while his team has been solid on defense, it has struggled to dominate games. 

Its main problem is up front, where Uruguayan star striker Edinson Cavani has been grasping at chances and is yet to score in 2024. Countryman Miguel Merentiel’s performances, with three goals in six games, have been valuable but often insufficient.

Injuries are also a big problem for Boca. Defender Cristian Lema, its best new signing so far, suffered a muscle strain during training, as did striker Darío Benedetto, although both are expected to play on Sunday. Defender Marcos Rojo is recovering from a tear in his left calf and could miss the game, as will Guillermo “Pol” Fernández and Exequiel Zeballos.

What is the Superclásico?

Clásico is the name given to derbies or clashes between traditional rivals in Argentine football. The Superclásico is the most important of all, as Boca and River are the biggest and most popular teams in the country. 

First played in 1908, the two have faced each other on 260 occasions, with Boca slightly leading the head-to-head tally with 91 wins to River’s 86.

The next Superclásico will be played this Sunday at 5 p.m. Argentine time, at River Plate’s Monumental stadium, part of the 2024 Copa de la Liga seventh matchday.

The referee will be Yael Falcón Pérez, who will be conducting his first Superclásico.

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