Thursday’s Copa Libertadores action sees Argentines River Plate playing host to Brazilians Flamengo. With both sides already through to the last 16, the match is essentially a fight for top spot in Group 4.
River are certainly in pole position to claim first place,having taken 11 points from their 5 group outings, putting themselves 2 points ahead of Flamengo. Marcelo Gallardo’s troops had come into the competition in poor form but their strong continental showings have coincided with a domestic uprising and all focus is now on winning what is the side’s last game until after the World Cup.
As touched upon, Los Millonarios have been in fantastic form in the last couple of months, salvaging a Copa Sudamericana spot on the domestic table from what looked like being a terrible campaign as well as booking their last 16 spot in this competition. The hosts are now 16 matches across all competitions and having won 12 of their last 14 matches, River are arguably the most in-form side on the continent.
Flamengo are also running along nicely under interim boss Maurício Barbieri, but face a big challenge in this trip to Buenos Aires. Since coming in, Barbieri has lost just 1 of his 11 games in charge, meaning fans are hopeful of seeing their team put in a good performance in the Monumental.
Nonetheless, with winning the only way to steal top spot, Flamengo will have to improve upon performances in recent weeks, which have been slightly worse than those preceding them, with just 1 win recorded from the last 4 after a weekend draw at home to Vasco da Gama. Whilst the visitors have taken 4 points on the road in the Libertadores this season, they’ve not been happy travellers on the big stage in recent years, losing 7 of their last 10 Libertadores away games overall, a pattern they’ll want to avoid reverting back to in this one.
Ultimately, it’s hard to back anything but a River win and we’re more than happy to do so. Flamengo are not in poor shape but one simply cannot ignore the way the hosts have been playing in the last couple of months.
River have an avalanche of momentum behind them and are winning week after week with consummate ease. Against a Flamengo outfit that has somewhat dropped off lately and has an uninspiring away record, we think the Argentines will claim the 3 points via a 2-0 margin, a scoreline by which River have won in 3 of their last 4 home matches.
River Plate possible starting XI: Armani; Montiel, Maidana, Martinez Quarta, Saracchi; Fernandez, Ponzio, Perez, Palacios; Scocco, Pratto.
Flamengo possible starting XI: Alves; Rodinei, Rhodolfo, Duarte, Renê; Cuéllar, Everton, Jonas, Moreno; Vinícius Júnior, Berrío.
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Prior to the 2-2 draw earlier in the group, the sides hadn’t met since 1993, in which Flamengo beat River 6-5 on penalties in the Supercopa.
Centre back Javier Pinola is struggling with a knock and could miss out. Attacker midfielders Gonzalo Martinez and Juan Quintero will play no part.
Attacking mdfielders Guevanio and Diego miss out through injury and suspension respectively. Centre backs Juan and Rever also miss out whilst key players Lucas Paqueta and Henrique Dourado look set to be rested, as they are one booking away from suspension.