European football may be just getting started with the 2023/24 season, but it’s an entirely different situation in South America, where we’re getting to the end of competitions.
On Saturday, Fluminense and Boca Juniors will be playing the Copa Libertadores final in Rio de Janeiro. That’s the good old Brazil-Argentina rivalry once again deciding the continent’s most important club tournament.
Besides all the factors that make this a big match, we have the completely different scenarios which took each of those clubs to the final.
Fluminense have never won a Copa Libertadores before, and their anxiety for the unprecedented title is huge. The Tricolor is led by manager Fernando Diniz, a Bielsa-style coach who’d been heavily criticised for his tactics through his entire career and finally has the chance to prove himself by winning such a great title. With Conmebol holding the game in Rio de Janeiro, they’ll have the chance of playing in their own city.
Experienced players such as Marcelo, Paulo Henrique Ganso and German Cano are those who usually have the spotlight in Fluminense’s games, although European clubs will certainly be watching André, who’s been linked to Liverpool, as well as talented winger Jhon Arias.
The Xeneize know the way to the final pretty well, as they’ve been there 11 times, and that history certainly helped their way in this specific campaign. Believe it or not, they haven’t won a single game in the knock-out stage this year, having qualified in penalty shoot-outs in the round-of-16, quarter-finals and semifinals.
That’s where we talk about their main star in this campaign… Sergio Romero.
The former Manchester United goalkeeper has been a hero, giving the team some big experience alongside his former Red Devils teammates Marcos Rojo and Edinson Cavani.
Boca Juniors do have a strong young core as well. We’ve recently seen the likes of Valentin Barco and Ezequiel Fernandez being linked to the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, and those are the youngsters to keep an eye on, along with Cristian Medina and Luca Langoni.
This will be the first time the mythical Maracanã Stadium will be packed for a Copa Libertadores final played in a single game. That was supposed to happen in 2020, but the stands were empty due to Covid restrictions.
We can never promise a final will be beautiful, but given the talent and the competitiveness the clubs have been showing, it should be an entertaining game to watch on Saturday night.
Many Argentine fans are already in Rio de Janeiro for the weekend, and whoever wins, the Copacabana Beach will be buzzing.
The match, which kicks off at 8pm GMT, is being shown on BBC3 and iPlayer.