Two South American giants meet in the Copa Libertadores Final on Saturday night in Lima and Tim Stillman thinks Flamengo will edge an entertaining encounter.
"Fla thrashed Grêmio 5-0 in the second leg of their all Brazilian semi-final, demonstrating their boundless confidence. They also contain an experienced core with the likes of Filipe Luis, Diego Alves and Rafinha. They are playing their best football since the days of Zico, Leandro and Junior from the early 1980s."
Flamengo have the momentum
The Rio giants are unbeaten in 25 games across all competitions - a run that will take them to the Brasileirão title with games to spare (they will be crowned champions with four games remaining if Palmeiras fail to win on Sunday). With Portuguese boss Jorge Jesus at the helm, Flamengo have become South America's most enterprising and dangerous team.
With creative talent like Uruguayan schemer Giorgian de Arrascaeta and Everton Ribeiro, allied to an attack containing current tournament top scorer Gabriel Barbosa (who is the 3/1 favourite to open the scoring) and Bruno Henrique, Flamengo play a daring, attacking game that no team in Brazil has found an answer to.
Fla thrashed Grêmio 5-0 in the second leg of their all Brazilian semi-final, demonstrating their boundless confidence. They also contain an experienced core with the likes of Filipe Luis, Diego Alves and Rafinha. They are playing their best football since the days of Zico, Leandro and Junior from the early 1980s.
River have the tournament pedigree
Saturday, however, represents Fla's first Libertadores final in 38 years. River are the defending champions preparing for a third Libertadores title in four years under coach Marcelo Gallardo. River are fourth in the Argentina Superliga and cannot claim to hold a candle to Flamengo's domestic form, but having overcome a pressure cooker semi-final against Boca reasonably comfortably, they will be well-prepared for this game.
River's front three of Matias Suarez, Rafael Santos Borre and Nicolas de la Cruz has been one of the most revered attacks in the tournament and they have mercurial playmaker Juan Quintero in reserve if required. But it's Exequiel Palacios who makes the Argentines tick creatively. He passes with conviction into the final third and has a low centre of gravity, making him an ideal foil for River's front three.
Alongside him, former Valencia man Enzo Perez acts as a kind of minder in midfield, winning the ball back in front of the River defence and immediately moving it on to more creative teammates. When they are on their game, Gallardo's side is a well-oiled machine- difficult to play through and with more than enough punch in attack.
This game is incredibly difficult to call
Either team to win in extra time is a good bet at 5/1- don't be surprised if 90 minutes isn't enough to separate the teams. With the attacking talent both sides possess, a clean sheet would be a significant achievement, Flamengo to win and over 2.5 goals is worth a look at 11/4. It's a South American showpiece final, so there is bound to be some edginess, a second half red card is a fair bet at 23/10 I think.
In the goalscorer markets, 15/2 is a good price for Santos Borre to open the scoring, otherwise, Flamengo's Bruno Henrique to score two or more at 18/1 is a very good price. Ultimately, I just think the Brazilian side's momentum will take them through and I am backing Flamengo to win and both teams to score at 4/1.