A year after their fiery rivalry was too intense to keep the Copa Libertadores final on South American soil, Boca Juniors and River Plate will clash again on the continental stage.
River Plate's 1-1 draw at Cerro Porteño on Thursday night sent the defending champions into the semifinals, where their bitter rival, Boca, will be waiting. The two-legged semifinal means three meetings between the two sides inside a span of seven weeks, as they're slated to meet in domestic league action this weekend–their first meeting since last year's final–before the Oct. 1 and Oct. 22 legs of the semis.
Much has changed for both sides since the second leg of their final was forced to be relocated to Madrid last December. River Plate sold influential playmaker Pity Martinez to Atlanta United, while Guillermo Barros Schelotto left Boca to manage the LA Galaxy, for instance. The hatred and passion on both sides surely has not wavered, though. As of now, each club is slated to host a leg of the semifinals at its respective home stadium, as is the standard. When they tried to do that last year, though, it didn't go so well.
Ahead of the scheduled date for the second leg at River's El Monumental, fans attacked the Boca Juniors team bus, setting off a two-week-long sequence of events that nearly derailed South America's most prestigious competition. At first, the second leg was going to be played after a brief delay despite Boca players reeling and suffering injuries from broken glass and tear gas inhalation. Common sense prevailed, and the match was postponed, though Boca then demanded another suspension just hours before the rescheduled second leg, for which thousands of fans had already been admitted into the stadium.
After meetings, threats, demands and more, the match was ultimately relocated outside of Argentina (and South America altogether), with safety and security concerns overtaking the fixture. That element figures to be the focus again come October, with River slated to host the first leg before the return leg three weeks later at Boca's La Bombonera.
The two rivals have met four times in two-legged Libertadores ties, with each winning a pair.
On the other side is an all-Brazilian semifinal, with 1981 champion Flamengo and three-time champion (1983, 1995, 2017) Gremio going head-to-head. The final four set-up ensures an Argentina vs. Brazil battle for the title in the one-off final that will be played in Santiago, Chile on Nov. 23.