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Torneo Final Big Match preview: Weakened Vélez will still test River's impressive home form

Will David Trezeguet have a say in Argentina's big game?

"Expect some early tentative prodding and probing before the game settles, and it should all open up once one team has scored."

Back Draw/River on the HT/FT @ 5.79/2

There are many games in Argentina this weekend that could be deemed important or intriguing enough to be labelled our 'big match' this week, but the defending champions visiting a potential champion just about pips it. Ed Malyon takes a look...

Vélez Sarsfield head into the city to play River Plate in a fascinating game between two of the best sides in the country right now.

River seem to permanently have one of the strongest playing squads in the league but the unique set of circumstances surrounding the club, especially the pressure or playing for such a giant, mean that things have rarely been plain-sailing for the Millionarios in recent seasons.

Having returned from their humiliating relegation to the Primera B in 2011, Matías Almeyda failed to make a talented squad into a genuine contender and left his post in late 2012.

Ramón Diaz returned to the club as manager, and 2013 has started very well for the club.

At the beginning of the weekend they are in third, and although Lanús look a tough act to catch as things stand, the meeting between the two sides later in the campaign is likely to be the championship decider one way or another.

This weekend Diaz has changed his system to a 4-4-2, and it is difficult to know how this will turn out. Leading scorer Diego 'Chino' Luna misses out again, so David Trezeguet will play up front and Rodrigo Mora will be the man charged with doing all his legwork for him. Opting for a 4-4-2 rather than the previously preferred 3-4-1-2 will give River more options in wide areas, so we might see this formation getting the best out of Trezeguet, who has started to find some goalscoring form with two goals in his last three home games.

For all River's ups and downs over the last few years, Vélez have been the very picture of stability and their sustained success on the field is doubtlessly down to the sensible way in which the club is run.

Ricardo Gareca has been given years in the job - a rare luxury on this continent - and continually evolves and regenerates his side, understanding that he must sell his players at the peak of their value in order to maintain progress.

Nonetheless, the quality of his sides rarely waver and the loan signing of Fernando Gago - exceptional for Argentina at the weekend and undoubtedly a top international midfielder - has been a coup for the Fortín.

Gareca has had to rely on youngsters to step up too, but they do so with an alarming regularity and 20-year-old full-back Gino Perruzi made a first Argentina start on Tuesday evening to continue his remarkable development after famously shackling Neymar in last year's Copa Libertadores.

The other thing that Gareca does well is invest, and the purchase of young forward Facundo Ferreyra from Banfield turned out to be inspired as his late-season rush of form turned out to be vital in them winning the Torneo Inicial in December. Probably more importantly though, Vélez can expect to sell him for around five times what they bought him for when his European suitors finally decide to stump up the cash.

This season hasn't begun so well for Vélez, with Gareca admiring that the Copa Libertadores is his priority and playing weakened sides in the league, but for games like this there is little chance of him resting players.

By that token, the side Gareca puts out is expected to be as strong as possible, although Gago (unfit) and Fabian Cubero (suspended) are both missing. They are comfortable in their 4-3-1-2 shape and up against River's tactical experiment they will be undoubtedly be the more settled side, even though River have a touch more quality.

River: Marcelo Barovero; Gabriel Mercado, Leandro González Pirez, Jonathan Bottinelli, Diego Martínez; Carlos Sánchez, Cristian Ledesma, Leonardo Ponzio, Leonel Vangioni; Rodrigo Mora, David Trezeguet.
Vélez: Sosa; Peruzzi, Sabia, Domínguez, Papa; Bella, Cerro, Romero; Insúa; Copete, Pratto.

Match odds

With Vélez having won the last three meetings between these two and River boasting just one victory in their last seven meetings, Gareca's side have the clear advantage in recent times. 

River are obvious favourites at 2.3411/8 given current league position, but also because of how strong they've been at El Monumental this season. Three wins from three will give them much confidence heading into Saturday's match, and the absence of Gago, Cubero and Facundo Ferreyra from the Vélez lineup means that this price seems justified, even if you know that Gareca will always put out a competitive and hard-to-beat XI.

Goals

As touched on before, Vélez will be difficult to break down - even for River - and the central defensive partnership of Sebastián Dominguez and Juan Sabia are very solid at this level. 

Four of Vélez's last 15 games have gone over 2.5 goals, but all of those have been when the Fortín were sticking a few goals past far weaker opposition, something we shouldn't expect at River.

The hosts have seen five of their last 15 go over that mark, and three in eight since Diaz took over. While the price is as short as 1.584/7 the unders are to be avoided, with half of River's 12 home games going overs since they returned to the top flight.

The value lies in the overs at 2.68/5 even though the visitors will look to stay compact.

Other bets

Expect some early tentative prodding and probing before the game settles, and it should all open up once one team has scored. On that model, Draw/River on the HT/FT market looks a tempting bet at 5.79/2 or even just the half-time draw at 2.111/10.

Lucas Pratto's physical approach could trouble River's defence - definitely the hosts' weakest area - so Both Teams to Score is also worth consideration at 2.0621/20.

Recommended Bet
Back Draw/River on the HT/FT @ 5.79/2

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30 March 2013

South American

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