Captivating clashes await in last four of Libertadores
Tuesday sees River Plate take on Gremio
Boca Juniors and Palmeiras lock horns on Wednesday
Tournament winners will play at FIFA Club World Cup
For supporters of River Plate, Boca Juniors, Gremio and Palmeiras, this week promises to be nerve-jangling in the extreme. For football fans with no particular affiliation to the four South American powerhouses, the semi-finals of the 2018 Copa Libertadores offer up two mouth-watering fixtures in prospect.
First, two Argentinian giants go head-to-head with a pair of Brazilian colossuses; all four of them have won the trophy at least once. Second, each of them began the tournament as a serious pretender to the continental crown. Consequently, sparks are sure to fly.
The only unbeaten team left in the competition are River Plate, who boast five wins and five draws. El Millonario cross swords with Gremio, who eliminated Argentinian teams in the two previous rounds and will be keen to make it three out of three.
Palmeiras, meanwhile, must overcome a Boca outfit from whom they took four out of six points in the group stage, three of which were collected in Buenos Aires. In addition, O Verdão are the only team in the semi-finals to be currently sitting atop their domestic league table.
This week’s matches
River Plate-Gremio First leg: 23 October Second leg: 30 October
Boca Juniors-Palmeiras First leg: 24 October Second leg: 31 October
Did you know?
The semi-finalists have 13 Copa Libertadores titles between them, out of a total of 58 tournament wins: Boca Juniors have claimed six, both River and Gremio have three and Palmeiras boast one.
This will be second time that Boca and Palmeiras have met in the last four. In 2001, Los Xeneizes, the erstwhile reigning champions, advanced via a penalty shoot-out following two exciting 2-2 draws. That Boca squad, which went on to lift the trophy again, featured Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the team’s current coach.
Schelotto is the only coach left in the tournament who has not yet guided his team to Copa Libertadores glory. Luiz Felipe Scolari led Palmeiras to the title in 1999, Marcelo Gallardo enjoyed success with River in 2015 and Renato Gaucho steered Gremio to their third Copa crown in 2017.
Moreover, Renato and Gallardo also lifted the trophy as players, with the same teams: the former emerged victorious in 1983, while the latter earned his winners’ medal in 1996.
Gremio and River have met once before in the knockout stages of the Copa Libertadores, in the last 16 of the 2002 edition. On that occasion, the Porto Alegre club overcame the Buenos Aires heavyweights by a 6-1 aggregate scoreline.
This past weekend, River’s remarkable unbeaten run, which stretched to 32 games, including ten matches in this year’s Libertadores campaign, finally came to an end with a 1-0 loss to Colon.