Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Copa Libertadores clash between Boca Juniors and Fluminense, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
On Saturday, Argentinian side Boca Juniors will go head-to-head with Brazilian outfit Fluminense in the final of the Copa Libertadores.
Boca Juniors are looking to become seven-time winners of South America’s biggest club competition, while Fluminense are aiming to lift the trophy for the first time in their history....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Boca Juniors have experienced quite the journey to reach the Copa Libertadores final for the first time since finishing runners-up to bitter rivals River Plate in 2018.
After breezing through the group stages with 13 points from six games, Boca Juniors seemingly saved all the drama for the knockout rounds, where all three ties were settled by a penalty shootout.
Jorge Almiron’s charges first held their nerve to eliminate Nacional of Uruguay in the last-16, before they repeated the feat in the quarter-final against fellow Argentinian side Racing Club after both teams failed to find the net over two legs of football.
Sensationally, their semi-final clash with Brazilian club Palmeiras was also decided by penalties after the tie finished 1-1 on aggregate, and once again, Boca Juniors were the victors as former Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero made two crucial saves in the shootout to send his side through to their 12th Copa Libertadores final.
Boca Juniors go into Saturday’s final with hopes of winning the competition for the first time since 2007, and a successful outing would see them move level with record winners Independiente as seven-time champions.
Fluminense have only ever appeared in a Copa Libertadores final on one previous occasion when they lost on penalties to Ecuadorian side LDU Quito in 2008.
Having been made to wait 15 years, Fluminense are back in the biggest game in the South American football calendar, as they look to become the 11th different Brazilian side to win the competition.
After topping their group on goal difference, Fernando Diniz’s troops claimed a 3-1 aggregate victory over Argentinos Juniors 3-1 in the last 16, before they hammered Olimpia 5-1 over two legs to set up an all-Brazilian semi-final against Internacional.
While the first leg finished as a 2-2 draw, the return fixture looked to be going the way of Internacional following Gabriel Mercado’s eight-minute opener, however, Fluminense managed to stage a late turnaround, as John Kennedy and German Cano grabbed a goal apiece in the closing 10 minutes to send their side through to the final.
Not only do Fluminense have the chance to win their first Copa Libertadores final, but they can achieve the feat in their home stadium, the iconic Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
Boca Juniors Copa Libertadores form:
Boca Juniors form (all competitions):
Fluminense Copa Libertadores form:
Fluminense form (all competitions):
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Boca Juniors are unable to call upon the services of Exequiel Zeballos, who is sidelined with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, while former Man United defender Marcos Rojo is suspended after being sent off in the semi-final second leg against Palmeiras.
Dario Benedetto missed last Saturday’s goalless draw with Estudiantes, but the forward should shake off a knock to take his place on the bench for the final.
Experienced striker Edinson Cavani has scored three goals in 13 competitive appearances since joining the club in July, and the Uruguayan is expected to start up front alongside his compatriot Miguel Merentiel.
As for the Brazilian side, they remain without long-term absentee Jorge, but they are set to welcome Felipe Melo and Nino back into the matchday squad.
Defender Samuel Xavier is available to start Saturday’s showpiece event after serving a one-match suspension in the second leg of Fluminense’s semi-final win over Internacional.
After netting 12 goals in the Copa Libertadores this season, Cano is the leading scorer in the 2023 competition, and he will be key to Fluminense’s chances of claiming a famous victory.Boca Juniors possible starting lineup:Romero; Advincula, Figal, Valentini, Fabra; Medina, Pol, E. Fernandez, Barco; Merentiel, Cavani
Fluminense possible starting lineup:Fabio; Xavier, Nino, Marlon, Marcelo; Andre; Arias, Ganso, Keno; Cano, Kennedy
We say: Boca Juniors 1-2 Fluminense
While Boca Juniors may be one of the most successful clubs in the competition’s history, they have lost their last two Copa Libertadores finals, and with the showpiece event taking place at Fluminense’s home ground, a win for the Brazilian side may be written in the stars.For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 2.5:data
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Juventus ‘reduce asking price for Tottenham-linked Samuel Iling-Junior’
Juventus reduce their asking price for Tottenham Hotspur-linked attacker Samuel Iling-Junior, according to a report....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Tottenham Hotspur have allegedly been handed a boost in their efforts to sign Juventus winger Samuel Iling-Junior, whom the Old Lady have slashed their asking price for.
While Alejo Veliz was poached from Rosario Central over the summer, the Lilywhites opted to spread their Harry Kane funds around the attacking line rather than target a big-name centre-forward.
Brennan Johnson, Manor Solomon and James Maddison all made the move to North London to join the Ange Postecoglou revolution, while Dejan Kulusevski’s switch from Juventus was made permanent too.
However, Tottenham’s wide ranks have been decimated due to injuries in the first half of the campaign, as all of Solomon, Ryan Sessegnon and Ivan Perisic will remain out until various points of 2024 following surgeries.
Richarlison has also spent time out with a groin operation, and while the Brazilian should return in the coming weeks, Postecoglou currently only has Johnson, Kulusevski and Bryan Gil as his wide options while Son Heung-min plays centrally.
As a result, wingers are expected to be Tottenham’s mid-season priority when the window reopens in January, and several young players have been linked with a switch to the English capital for the second half of the campaign.
Juventus starlet Iling-Junior – a former Chelsea academy product – is said to be one name on Spurs’ wishlist, and the Bianconeri are not in a position to demand an astronomical fee for the 20-year-old, whose contract only runs until 2025.
According to Calciomercato, Juventus have now reduced their asking price for Iling-Junior, whom they previously valued at €20m (£17.2m), but a fee of €18m (£15.4m) could now do the trick.
The Serie A giants are known to be in the market for midfield additions in January, having lost Paul Pogba and Nicolo Fagioli to lengthy suspensions for doping and gambling offences respectively.
In order to finance a move for a new lynchpin, the Old Lady could be prepared to sanction the sale of Iling-Junior, and they will happily entertain appropriate offers from interested parties.
Should the winger depart, a return to the Premier League is thought to be his most likely next career move amid his current struggles to become a regular starter for Massimiliano Allegri.
Iling-Junior left Chelsea in 2020 to sign up for the Juventus academy, and he has progressed through the ranks to play 22 times for the senior team, scoring one goal and setting up three more.
However, the England Under-21 international – whose favoured position is on the left – has only made four substitute appearances in the 2023-24 Serie A season, and he has been an unused substitute in eight of Juve’s last nine top-flight games.
As well as Iling-Junior, Tottenham are also rumoured to be tracking PSV Eindhoven’s Johan Bakayoko, although Brentford are prepared to battle them for the Belgian’s signature.
Al-Ittihad winger Jota – who worked under Postecoglou at Celtic – apparently wants to end his Saudi Pro League nightmare by joining Spurs in January, but the Tottenham boss is not totally sold on the idea of reuniting with the Portuguese.
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Mikel Arteta provides Takehiro Tomiyasu update after Wolves win
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta admits that he is none the wiser about Takehiro Tomiyasu’s condition following the defender’s substitution against Wolverhampton Wanderers....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has admitted that he is none the wiser about Takehiro Tomiyasu’s condition following the defender’s enforced withdrawal in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Japan international has reignited his career during the opening months of the 2023-24 season, having hitherto consigned his previous fitness woes to the past.
After providing a pair of assists for the Gunners in Wednesday’s 6-0 Champions League battering of Lens, Tomiyasu set up Bukayo Saka’s opener at the Emirates this weekend before Martin Odegaard doubled the hosts’ advantage.
However, Tomiyasu had to be withdrawn in the 79th minute of the contest, only a few moments before Wolves made things interesting as Matheus Cunha pulled a goal back.
Arteta’s men were forced to ride out a nail-biting few moments against Gary O’Neil’s men, but they clung on to move four points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
Concern immediately turned to Tomiyasu’s condition after the game, though, and Arteta is not sure whether the ex-Bologna man has sustained a fresh issue or was simply suffering from tiredness.
“I don’t know, he felt something, I don’t know if it was fatigue, we decided to change straight away with him, we didn’t want to take any risk. Let’s assess how he is,” Arteta said at his post-game press conference.
Commenting on Tomiyasu’s greater attacking output since the season began, Arteta added: “Yeah the first thing he offers defensively is tremendously reliable, and attacking he has certain things he can develop and improve, his timings, positioning, certain deliveries and actions that he can open some spaces for others. He is so willing to learn and do that, again he’s another player that has given another level and still have another level in him.
Saka and Odegaard’s first-half strikes would ostensibly set Arsenal on their way to a comfortable win in North London, although failure to add to their tally very nearly proved costly.
The Gunners squandered a few gilt-edged chances to steer out of sight – Eddie Nketiah in particular was guilty of a glaring miss – but Arteta put his side’s wasted opportunities to bad luck on the day.
“I can only praise the players the way they played, competed, they were excellent, we played against a really good side and we generated so much and conceded almost nothing, the scoreline should’ve been very different,” the Spaniard added.
“We are really unlucky in certain moments, we hit the post twice or three times I think, and at the end we made an error close to the goal and in the Premier League you get punished big time and then it’s game on, but I am really, really happy with how we performed again.
“You see how they celebrated the defensive action after seeing zero with Gabi at the end (on Wednesday), you can imagine that they are not happy that. Today was a game to have a clean sheet and we haven’t and that’s the good thing about the team that wants more.”
An Arsenal scoring record was also equalled by Arteta’s troops on Saturday, as the Gunners have now netted in 32 successive matches versus Wolves, matching their previous best versus a single opponent in West Bromwich Albion.
The Premier League leaders will enjoy a full two days of recovery before a showdown with Luton Town at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday evening.
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Mikel Arteta praises ‘really consistent’ Martin Odegaard
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on captain Martin Odegaard amid his impressive form following the November international break.
The Norway international was sidelined with a hip problem last month and it was followed by another absence due to a head collision in training.
Odegaard made his comeback after the internationals. He had a quiet evening at Brentford last weekend, but was on the scoresheet against Lens on Wednesday.
He carried over the good form into the Wolves game, scoring the vital winning goal in the end.
Aside from his strike, the 24-year-old created three big chances for his teammates and was unlucky to not register an assist or two due to poor finishing.
Speaking after the 2-1 victory over Wolves, Arteta said that Odegaard has had two ‘very very good’ games and he is a ‘really consistent’ player.
The Gunners head coach added that the playmaker tends to fare best against high-pressing sides such as Wolves and he was ‘really good’ today.
He told Arsenal.com: “I thought he had two very, very good games and he’s a really consistent player, he gives a lot especially against teams like that, they didn’t want to defend very close to their own box and I think he was really good today.”
Odegaard has not played with the same creative freedom as last season, but he has still netted seven goals and provided two assists from 18 games.
The Norwegian appears to be picking up his form at the right time and he will be crucial to the Gunners’ chances of challenging for the league title again.
Today’s win has taken the Gunners to 33 points from 14 games. They are four points ahead of second-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com & Sofascore.co
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