For the first time, the Copa Libertadores final is an all-Argentine affair. And it couldn't be bigger.
Arch-rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate will play for the continental title later this month in Buenos Aires in a mouth-watering two-legged tie, which CONMEBOL confirmed today would be played on new dates after they clashed with the government's plans for the G20 Leaders Summit at the turn of the month.
CONMEBOL posted on Twitter on Thursday the first match at La Bombonera will take place on Saturday, November 10, with the second at El Monumental 14 days later, on November 24.
Initially, the matches were scheduled for November 7 and 28, but Buenos Aires will host the G20 summit in the last week of the month. City officials had warned it would be impossible to police both events fully, should the fixtures be scheduled for the original dates.
Boca secured their final berth on Wednesday after drawing at Palmeiras in Brazil 2-2. The Xenieze had won the first leg 2-0 on home turf.
River reached the final on Tuesday after beating defending champion Grêmio of Brazil 2-1, to clinch an away goals win in the 2-2 aggregate tie. However, their win did not come without controversy.
The Uruguayan referee needed a protective police cordon after awarding a late penalty against the hosts that allowed River to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit to progress on away goals by winning the return 2-1.
Reigning champions Grêmio have appealed the result to CONMEBOL, complaining they were the victims of two refereeing errors – one leading to the game-winning penalty award, the other an alleged handball when River scored their opening goal. The team also complained about coach Marcelo Gallardo's entry into River's changing rooms at half-time, considering he was serving a touchline suspension.
Neither side's platers are expecting the challenge to be successful, however.
"Now it is 50-50 of winning the trophy," Boca striker Ramón Ábila said. "There is no favourite, this will be a Superclásico like no other."
Boca has a shot at tying Independiente's record of seven titles. River will be going for its fourth South American crown, the last in 2015.
Boca and River have met three times previously in the Copa Libertadores. Boca won their 2000 quarter-final 4-2 on aggregate, Boca won their 2004 semi-final on a penalty shootout, and River won their 2015 round-of-16 match 1-0 after CONMEBOL eliminated Boca due to pepper gas spread by its fans in the second leg.
This will be the last year the Libertadores final is played over two legs. From 2019 it will adopt the same format as its European equivalent, the Champions League, and hold a one-off final at a pre-designated venue. The 2019 final will be played in the Chilean capital Santiago.