BUENOS AIRES ( Associated Press) — At the gates of a new local title, Boca Juniors will have to change the channel and tune in to the decisive duel that will take place against Corinthians from Brazil on Tuesday for the group stage of the Copa Libertadores.
Boca beat Racing Club on penalties on Saturday in one of the League Cup semifinals and will define the title against Tigre next Sunday. But qualification for the round of 16 of the continental competition is not yet assured, so they will not be able to preserve players against Timão at the La Bombonera stadium.
The Brazilians lead Group E with 7 points, followed by the Argentine side with 6. Deportivo Cali (5) will host Always Ready from Bolivia (4) on Thursday.
If Corinthians — only registers a victory in Boca’s stadium in six visits — wins on Tuesday, the passage to the next round of the Libertadores is assured. If the Boquenses win, they will remain as the only pointers in the area and even a draw on the last date against Cali, also at home, will be enough to get them into the round of 16.
Boca, six-time continental champion, is forced to make two changes: defender Marcos Rojo and Colombian striker Sebastián Villa continue to pay the penalty for the incidents against Atlético Mineiro in the last edition of the Libertadores. Carlos Izquierdoz, who has already served four suspension games, and Eduardo Salvio will be the replacements.
In the midfield, coach Sebastián Battaglia would bet on the youthful Cristian Medina instead of Juan Ramírez, who had a poor performance against Racing.
Corinthians, champion in 2012 after beating their next rival in the final, has injured its two right-backs: Fagner and João Pedro, so coach Vítor Pereira will have to improvise with defenders Mantuan or Mosquito.
In the first clash they had this year, the Paulistas won 2-0 at home.
River Plate, Flamengo and Atlético Mineiro, three clubs with ambitions to win the title, will be able to seal their place in the round of 16 this week.
So far, two-time defending champions Palmeiras and Estudiantes de La Plata, leaders of Groups A and C, respectively, are the only teams that have secured qualification for the knockout stage.
It is enough for River (10 points) to draw at home against Colo Colo from Chile (7) on Thursday to qualify for Group F. El Millonario seeks to recover after the blow suffered in the Argentine tournament, where he was unexpectedly eliminated in the quarterfinals by falling to Tigre.
Group H can define its two tickets with a date in advance.
Flamengo (10) only has to draw against the eliminated Peruvian Sporting Cristal (1). Talleres from Argentina (7) could also qualify if they beat Universidad Católica de Chile (4) at home.
Atlético Mineiro (8) could advance to the top of Group D, accompanied by Deportes Tolima from Colombia (7). Victories for Atlético Mineiro against Independiente del Valle de Ecuador (5) and for Tolima against the Brazilian colista América Mineiro (1) would sentence the key.