By DAVID MOSSE
Boca Juniors looks to get back in the win column on Sunday (5:10 p.m. ET) against Independiente after being very fortunate to salvage a 1-1 draw with San Lorenzo last time out. Goalkeeper Agustin Orion has earned rare reviews and a national team call since joining Los Xeneizes, but he was partly at fault for Gabriel Mendez’s free kick.
Dario Cvitanich notched the equalizer for Boca early in the second half, and he also found the back of the net in Thursday’s training session after receiving a lovely pass from Walter Erviti. Julio Falcioni needs his strikers to perform well in Avellaneda because the usual service will not be there with Juan Roman Riquelme unavailable.
Cristian Chavez will likely take the place of the injured No. 10, while Diego Rivero returns to the lineup. Independiente might change goalkeepers with Hilario Navarro struggling. Manager Antonio Mohamed is reportedly leaning towards starting Fabio Assmann in this highly anticipated clash after he impressed in training all week.
Here's a look ahead to the other important matches in Latin America this weekend:
Lanus vs. Estudiantes: Saturday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Its desperation time for Estudiantes heading into Saturday’s clash with Lanus. Miguel Angel Russo’s side is still winless after rounds of the Apertura Championship and Russo will be forced into several changes. Paraguayan goalkeeper Justo Villar is away on international duty, while Christian Cellay and Gabriel Mercado are unavailable.
Damian Albil starts for Villar, and Matias Sarulyte replaces Cellay in the center of defense. Mariano Gonzalez is called on to deputize for Mercado, and Russo also plans to give Gaston Fernandez a rest ahead of the upcoming Copa Sudamericana encounter with Arsenal. Mauro Fernandez is likely to be in the first XI instead.
Olimpo vs. Velez Sarsfield: Sunday, 7:15 p.m. ET
Velez Sarsfield managed to capture the Clausura Championship, despite competing in the Copa Libertadores for most of the campaign as well. The task now for Ricardo Gareca is to juggle the opening rounds of the Apertura and the Copa Sudamericana, with El Fortin taking on Argentinos Juniors in the continental competition.
The next league match pits Gareca’s side against Olimpo on Sunday. It remains to be seen whether Victor Zapata will be healthy enough to play, but Fernando Ortiz should be available after missing the Argentinos clash through suspension. David Ramirez and Juan Manuel Martinez continue to be influential figures in the midfield.
Coritiba vs. Corinthians: Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET
Corinthians increased its lead to three points atop the Brazilian League standings with a 3-2 victory over Gremio on Wednesday. Paulinho, Chicao and Ramon were the goal-scorers for the Paulista club, which actually finished the match with nine men after Edenilson and Liedson received their marching orders in the second half.
Adriano is nearing a return, but it remains to be seen whether the former national team striker will be available for Sunday’s encounter with Coritiba. Ralf continues to emerge as an influential figure in the center of the park, while Jorge Henrique came off the bench to provide a major spark last time out and could enter the first XI.
Palmeiras vs. Cruzeiro: Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET
Palmeiras came back down to earth following an encouraging win over Corinthians, as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side put forth a terrible performance in a 3-1 loss to Botafogo on Wednesday. Marcos Asssuncao scored the consolation goal in the dying moments, but Scolari will need a better effort from his troops on Sunday against Cruzeiro.
Cruizero has been maddeningly inconsistent and is mired in the bottom half of the table after losing 4-2 to Figueirense on Wednesday. With a new coach in charge, Cruizero will recover several starters for the matchup with Palmeiras and 26-year-old midfielder Charles was the lone bright spot in the defeat to Figueirense, scoring both Cruzeiro goals.
Flamengo vs. Bahia: Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET
Ronaldinho’s recent national team recall was celebrated by his Flamengo teammates, but the reality is that Mano Menezes might deal a significant blow to Flamengo’s title chances if he begins to regularly select the former World Player of the Year. The 31-year-old is set to miss Sunday’s crucial clash with Bahia due to international duty.
To make matters worse for Wanderley Luxemburgo’s side, Thiago Neves put forth a dismal performance last time out in a 3-2 loss to Avai that dropped Flamengo to fourth place in the standings. Ronaldinho scored both goals for his team and is second in the Brazilian Championship with 12. He will be sorely missed this weekend.
Tijuana vs. Chivas Guadalajara: Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Chivas Guadalajara hopes to return to first place in the Mexican Apertura standings by picking up its third away victory of the season on Friday against Tijuana. It is the first-ever matchup between these two sides, and Tijuana is badly in need of a win, as Joaquin del Olmo’s side is mired in 16th place in the standings after seven rounds.
Los Rojiblancos will be without several players, including five members of Mexico’s Under-22 team – Julio Nava, Jorge Enriquez, Antonio Gallardo, Jesus Sanchez and Miguel Ponce. Mario de Luna, Xavier Baez and Omar Esparza are also unavailable due to injury, while Tijuana must make do without Joe Corona and Dayro Moreno.
Jaguares vs. Santos Laguna: Friday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Jaguares and Santos Laguna square off in another make-up game from the third week, and Los Guerreros will be missing several key players. Oribe Peralta and Felipe Baloy are both injured, while Christian Suarez is away on international duty with Ecuador. Defender Cesar Ibanez is busy representing Mexico’s Under-22 team.
Santos Laguna is coming off a frustrating loss to Monterrey, while Jaguares is winless in three games. Both teams are languishing in the bottom half of the table and could use a victory Friday. Jose Guadalupe Cruz’s side has yet to win at home this season and has come under heavy criticism from its fans, so this could be a tense contest.
Who do you see winning the Independiente-Boca match? How will the league race in Brazil shake out? What game outside of Mexico will have your attention this weekend?