Back battling Boca to edge past Newell's

23May 2013

Copa Libertadores


Jonathan Wilson tells us how Boca surprisingly battled their was past Corinthians in the previous round of the Copa Libertadores, and why they must be backed to beat Newell's early on Friday morning...


Football has a habit of making you believe in providence. Managers frequently talk of destiny, and everybody can remember games in which it becomes apparent after a barrage of pressure that one team simply will not score whatever they do. And then you get teams, like Chelsea in the Champions League last season, who seemingly reach a point of bloody-mindedness at which they become able to win games by force of will alone.


Boca Juniors should not have beaten Corinthians in the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores. Nothing in form or personnel suggested it was possible, not over two legs.


Even when Boca, battling ferociously, held out to win 1-0 in the Bombonera, it didn't really seem plausible that they could go to Sao Paulo and guts their way through. Their domestic form has been atrocious. Before the Corinthians game they hadn't won in the league since the opening day of the season, back at the beginning of February, when they scraped a 3-2 victory over Quilmes. Even after the weekend's victory over Colon, they lie third bottom of the Torneo Final standings.


There's no other way to put this: Boca aren't very good. Corinthians are the defending champions.


And yet, in the Pacaembu, Boca produced a performance that wasn't just about packing men behind the ball and trusting to grit and spirit (although there was plenty of that). They also scored a goal of mesmerising quality, Juan Roman Riquelme seizing the ball on the right wing and sending a ferocious dipping shot into the top corner. From any other player you'd doubt he meant it, but this was Riquelme: of course he meant it.


In that moment, all the clouds melted away: it was a goal that killed cynicism and relit an ongoing romance. No matter that his influence over the team is probably deleterious these days. No matter that his machinations led to the dismissal of the coach Julio Cesar Falcioni after the coach had made Boca a force again. No matter that he is a slow anachronism who is probably holding Boca back. He can still do things like that, when it matters.


It was after the Libertadores final defeat against Corinthians last year in that same stadium that Riquelme announced his retirement, apparently fed up of Falcioni's negative tactics. You might not agree with him, but Riquelme's riposte was irrefutable. This, he seemed to be saying last week, is what he can do with a coach who believes in him. And so he and Carlos Bianchi defy the passage of time and re-enact the glory days of the turn of the millennium when Boca won back to back Libertadores (Bianchi added a third in 2003, but Riquelme had left for Barcelona by then).


They couldn't, surely, do it again, could they? (Boca are 8.8 to be champions). All logic says no, but this is Bianchi, this is Riquelme, and there is a magic about them that defies the naysayers and all reason.


Bianchi has always been able to organise a defence; Riquelme, even wheezing and dragging his aching body through games, can conjure occasional moments of brilliance. Sometimes that is enough. None of it makes much sense, but it's all the more beautiful for that and with favoured teams tumbling, it is possible.


In the quarter-final Boca meet Newell's, themselves romantics living out a bielsista dream under Gerardo Martino. Despite rocky recent form, they are top of the table - but they only stumbled through their last 16 tie, losing at home to Velez Sarsfield before winning in Liniers to go through on away goals.


They are far from consistent and that gives Boca an opportunity. They are free-scoring - Boca are anything but - which makes the fact that Over 2.5 Goals is as long as 2.64 intriguing, suggesting a perception that Boca will be able to impose their game on Martino's side.


Yet Boca are as long as 2.72 to win, with Newell's at 2.96. Boca's form has been awful, but in the Bombonera, with momentum, with a sense of destiny, Boca surely should be shorter than that.


Recommended Bet

Back Boca to beat Newells @ 2.72



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Keywords: Jonathan Wilson, Boca Juniors, Copa Libertadores

Source: Betfair

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