Gluttonous as a breed, we football fans gorged ourselves on the recent clasicos in Spain with much gusto. With the conclusion of each of the four courses, we looked eagerly towards the next but with perhaps excessive snacking between (from some parties), the experience became too much. The aftermath though, wasn’t that of having enjoyed a fine banquet; but a bitter taste in the mouth that accompanied a bloated sensation, a feast that was perhaps too much in too short a period of time.
This was the clasico.
When River Plate and Boca Juniors meet they don’t really meet, they collide. Buenos Aires, nay, Argentina, find themselves glued to a television screen or for a lucky number, inside the stadium as the two giants come together in clash like no other.
This is the superclasico.
This is a fixture that is always scheduled mid-season in the hope there’s not too much riding on it. This is a fixture where they fear a situation like we saw in Spain where a title could rest on a game between these two. With no cup competition there is no prospect of what we saw in the Copa del Rey. The only way they can meet in crunch fixtures is in continental competition, something which the recent on-field ineptitude of both sides has rendered impossible in the last few years.
It did happen though, in 2006. The result was a two-legged encounter of such significance and action that it will be remembered for years to come. In the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores (South America’s premier club competition), two legs of war and football culminated in a penalty shootout that was won by Boca.
This Sunday’s game means little for the home side Boca Juniors. Although, that’s a lie, as no game between these too ever could mean little. A side in flux: the last hurrah of a golden generation, a new manager yet to get to grips with the club and a batch of youngsters failing to shine like some of their departed predecessors. This is a side in mid-table whose season is likely to be defined by the result in this game.
River have significantly more to play for. Due to the bizarre/questionable/complex (delete as appropriate) system in Argentina, the Millionarios are chasing Velez Sarsfield for the league title whilst simultaneously battling relegation in the average points table.
On this season’s evidence they’re the better side of the two. Their form may have dipped but needless to say, form tends to be irrelevant on such days.
River boss JJ Lopez’s first game in charge was the November game between the sides, and River won at home by the only goal of the game, a header from Jonathan Maidana. That result signalled the departure of Boca coach Claudio Borghi and a heavy defeat could well mean the same for current manager Julio Cesar Falcioni.
Boca’s team and success will both revolve around the aging but still remarkable Juan Roman Riquelme. If they win, it will be because he has played a huge role. Martin Palermo has scored in three consecutive games (despite experiencing the worst goal drought of his career this season) and him and Pablo Mouche will provide the Xeneize with a goal threat.
River’s system has switched between 3-4-2-1 and 3-4-1-2 but whichever they play, the performances of Walter Acevedo and Matias Almeyda in the engine room will be crucial. Erik ‘Coco’ Lamela has been linked to a host of European giants this season and his playmaking for the (in honesty, fairly goalshy) pair of Pavone and Funes Mori will be the main threat from the away side.
With so much riding on it, it’s usually a tight affair with no more than 2 goals in a game in their last ten meetings.
Whatever happens, be sure to tune in prior to kick off to hear the ear-splitting din made by both sets of fans, and to attempt to make out some extraordinary fan displays through the clouds of smoke and deluge of ticker tape.
It’s then that you’ll see why they call it the Superclasico.