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River Plate v Boca: Three potential Copa Libertadores match-winners

| 23.11.2018

Preview for the Copa Libertadores Final

South America will stand still on Saturday night as River Plate and Boca Juniors clash at El Monumental in the second-leg of the Copa Libertadores Final.

The tie is finely poised after the fierce rivals shared a pulsating 2-2 draw at La Bombonera a fortnight ago. River are 23/20 to prevail on the night, with Boca a 27/10 chance to get the win which would land them a first continental title since 2007.

Ahead of the match, we’ve checked out three potential match-winners in Buenos Aries.

Lucas Pratto

It’s pretty obvious to pick out one of the goalscorers from the first-leg. But Lucas Pratto really could make the difference in this match. The 30-year-old levelled the scores at 1-1 straight from the restart a fortnight ago with a lovely arrowed finish into the bottom corner of the net.

He’ll provide the focal point up-front once again here. And it’s crucial that he delivers. Strike partners Ignacio Scocco and Rafael Santos Borre – the latter of whom missed the first-leg and has been pivotal during River’s run to the final – are both likely to be missing.

That means the onus falls on Pratto. He has the physical prowess and precision in front of goal to shoulder the burden. But he’ll need to be extra clinical in order to compensate for the loss of two of his key teammates.

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Cristian Pavon

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Boca’s chances could hinge on whether Cristian Pavon recovers in time for Saturday’s match. The 22-year-old limped off injured in the first-leg and is facing a fight to be fit for the return at La Bombonera.

Why is it important that he starts? Quite simply – his game has everything. He can kill a ball dead with his first touch, he’s an incredible dribbler and is capable of producing something unbelievable when his side are up against it. In a match like this, that’s a valuable commodity.

Pavon is important at the back too. His tracking back to press often sets the tone for any counter-attack, which could be vital for Boca away from home. He’ll be a big loss to his side and the game as a whole if he misses out on Saturday. But it’s easy to see why he’s attracting suitors from Europe.

Franco Armani

After such a frenetic first-leg, it’s a decent chance that both goalkeepers will have their work cut out in the return fixture. Franco Armani has been crucial throughout River’s run to the final, producing match-winning performance against Independiente and Gremio in the semi-finals.

And the boyhood fan could make all the difference for the visitors again this weekend. The 6ft 2in stopper made a vital point-blank save from Carlos Tevez at La Bombonera. He’ll likely be called upon to perform similar heroics at El Monumental as he bids to win the trophy for the second time in three years.

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Nick Murphy