As final nears, Boca captain admits: 'I'm not enjoying this'
Boca Juniors meet River Plate in the final of the Copa Libertadores on Saturday, but Boca captain Pablo Perez admitted on Tuesday the build-up to the big match is stressing him out.
Boca Juniors' midfielder Pablo Perez (L) reacts after missing a chance of goal against Rosario Central during their Argentina First Division Superliga football match at La Bombonera stadium, in Buenos Aires, on October 20, 2018.
"There is little to enjoy and I'm not enjoying it," Perez told reporters in Buenos Aires ahead of the first leg at Boca's Bombonera stadium. "I am trying to treat it as a World Cup final and think about it all the time so that no details escape me."
We are living through a unique moment. First because it is a final and second because it's against River.
The two biggest-supported clubs in Argentina have never met in the Libertadores final before, but River hold the upper hand in recent cup meetings between the two sides.
River beat Boca in the Copa Sudamericana in 2014, the Copa Libertadores in 2015, and the Argentin Supercup earlier this year. The team, known as the Millionaires, also beat Boca 2-0 in the league at the Bombonera in September.
A fan of Boca Juniors gestures during a match between Boca Juniors and River Plate as part of Superliga 2018/19 at Estadio Alberto J. Armando on September 23, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Image credit: Getty Images
But while River may be the favourites, they are taking nothing for granted ahead of what many Argentines are calling the biggest club match in the country's history.
They will be without their captain Leonardo Ponzio, who is nursing a muscle injury, and also their coach Marcelo Gallardo, who is banned from even entering the stadium for the first leg.
"We need to put everything else aside and focus on this match," said goalkeeper Franco Armani. "I came to River to win trophies, to challenge for all tournaments and thank God we're today in the Cup final."
The last time the teams met in the Libertadores was at the last 16 stage in 2015, when Boca fans attacked River players with pepper spray, forcing the match to be abandoned at half time.
Boca were expelled from the tournament, which River went on to win, for the third of their three Libertadores triumphs.
Fans of River Plate cheer their team during a match between Estudiantes and River Plate as part of Superliga 2018/19 at Centenario Dr. Jose Luis Meiszner on November 3, 2018 in Quilmes, Argentina.
Image credit: Getty Images
Both games this time will be played with no opposition fans in attendance. Away fans have been banned in Argentina since 2013 due to rising violence in and around grounds.
The first leg takes place at Boca's Bombonera stadium on Saturday, with the second match at River's Monumental on Nov. 24. (Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)