By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
After a busy week of Champions League, UEFA Cup and Copa Libertadores action, many of the world's leagues get back to business domestically, including in South America, this weekend as a nice slate of derby matches are on tap with Sunday's Argentine Superclassico between Boca Juniors and River Plate serving as the main event.
Boca and River are in desperate need of points in the Clausura championship, with River sitting in fourth place with 15 points while Boca hangs in 11th place with 11 points. The 20-team championship is led by Velez Sarsfield, who are in good position to advance their lead further when they host Arsenal de Sarandi on Saturday.
Derby games in Peru and Chile are also on the menu while the second-leg matches of the Sao Paulo championship semifinals involve four of Brazil's giants.
Here's a preview of some matches to look out for in South America this weekend:
BOCA JUNIORS vs RIVER PLATE, Sunday 3pmET
With both teams struggling domestically, it's Boca that is doing well in Copa Libertadores. The Xeneizes are in the Round of 16 while River is close to being eliminated.
Both squads are also dealing with some injury bugs that could result in some top names being out for Sunday's match at La Bombonera.
Boca's Juan Roman Riquelme and Sebastian Battaglia are currently nursing foot and ankle injuries, respectively, while River's Colombian striker Radamel Falcao Garcia is dealing with a muscle pull.
That means River's attack could soley rest on Cristian Fabbiani otherwise known as Ogre. The big forward will look to former D.C. United player Marcelo Gallardo and Diego Buonanotte to boost the midfield and help in the front.
Meanwhile, Riquelme could be replaced by Nicolas Gaitan, who along with Cristian Chavez, could make the midfield an interesting battle against Gallardo and Buonanotte. Boca striker Martin Palermo, buoyed by Maradona's recent statements of possibly recalling him to the national team, is always a threat.
That also poses another question: will we see Maradona at the Bombonera hanging in his skybox? Sure, he's been busy with national team duties and all but Maradona's been a faithful spectator of Boca matches until he was appointed national team boss. Also, his public spat with Riquelme didn't make la Bombonera any more welcoming for him, especially since many Boca fans labeled Maradona as a traitor. But Sunday's match could serve as a scouting assignment for Maradona in anticipation of World Cup qualifiers in June. Stay tuned.
PALMEIRAS vs SANTOS, Saturday 5pmET; SAO PAULO vs CORINTHIANS, Sunday 3pmET
Palmeiras will look to overturn a 2-1 deficit to Santos when they host The Fish at the Palestra Italia. A loss or tie bounces Palmeiras from the Campeonato Paulista.
Santos' keeper Fabio Costa made some remarkable saves in the closing minutes of last week's win, preserving the score for them, but he will be tested further in front of a hostile crowd of 35,000.
You can also bet that there will be a good number of European scouts to watch Palmeiras' Keirrison and Santos' teen star Neymar in action.
The winner goes on to meet the winner of the Sao Paulo-Corinthians tilt.
Sao Paulo is coming to grips with the loss of their keeper Rogerio, who broke his ankle in practice and will miss the remainder of the Brazilian season as well as Copa Libertadores. Rogerio is known for his deadly free kicks and has scored 83 goals in his career. Not bad for a goalie.
Last week's 2-1 come-from-behind win by Corinthians was a hard-fought and physical battle. Even the famous Ronaldo was booked in the early minutes of the first leg.
ALIANZA LIMA vs SPORTING CRISTAL, Sunday 5pmET
Alianza Lima is still trying to understand how it lost control of being a top-tiered team not only in Peru but in all of South America in recent years. All they can do is watch their rivals, Universitario, surprise many with a positive Libertadores campaign so far. Sporting Cristal, whom they meet Sunday, were eliminated by goal difference in pre-Libertadores matches earlier this year.
Alianza is tied with Cristal in fourth place with 11 points. This will be a chance to climb up the table for Alianza in front of its fans at Estadio Alejandro Villanueva and begin a quest to reclaim its prestige.
UNIVERSIDAD DE CHILE vs COLO COLO, Sunday 4pmET
The resignation of Colo Colo manager Marcel Barticiotto is dominating Chilean sports pages ahead of Sunday's derby. The Argentine quit, dubbing some parts of the camp's atmosphere as unprofessional and lackluster. Barticiotto was known to have had a rocky relationship with several players on the team.
Colo Colo sits in 15th place in the 18-team league but is close to advancing to the Round of 16 in Libertadores. U de Chile is also having a successful Libertadores campaign and, unlike Colo Colo, is performing well domestically, sitting in second place in the Apertura.
EL NACIONAL vs ESPOLI, Sunday 11amET
El Nacional, one of the most successful and storied clubs in Ecuador, sits at the top of the table with 20 points. On Sunday, they host Espoli, a team that belongs to a police academy. Espoli has 19 points and the closest that they have come to claiming a national championship was in 1995.
What do you think of these matches? Do you agree that Boca-River is one of the biggest matches in the world? Can South American soccer get into the mainstream with enough coverage?