Boca Juniors vs River Plate: Which stars hold the key to the Libertadores final?

Cristian Pavon and Juan Fernando Quintero are among the stars who could decide the Superclasico Copa Libertadores final showdown.

Boca Juniors forward Cristian Pavon   -  Getty Images

Along with the rivalry's irresistible appeal in its own right, clashes between Boca Juniors and River Plate can often give a clear indication over which South American talents will become the next stars of European football.

The likes of Diego Maradona, Gabriel Batistuta, Juan Roman Riquelme. Hernan Crespo, Gonzalo Higuain and Javier Mascherano all graduated via the white-hot intensity of the Superclasico.

Now, with the stakes higher than ever as the bitter Buenos Aires rivals prepare to do battle in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final on Saturday, we look at who could shine on the big stage and cause their market value to rocket in the process.

READ: Boca Juniors vs River Plate: The Superclasico Copa Libertadores final in Opta Facts


Cristian Pavon

Already a fixture for La Albiceleste, making four appearances for Argentina at the World Cup in Russia, Pavon has been pivotal in Boca's run to the final with three goals and five assists. The 22-year-old has a flair for the spectacular with his ability to run rings round defenders and find the net from long range. Linked to Barcelona, the Catalans may well be convinced to make him Lionel Messi's heir apparent if he lights up the final.

Wilmar Barrios

Barrios provides the antithesis to Pavon's creativity, but will just as crucial to Boca's hopes of triumph. Part of the Colombia squad that reached the last 16 of the World Cup, Barrios excels at winning possession and demonstrates drive and energy to start attacks when he gets the ball at his feet. Real Madrid will be watching his performances closely if reports are to be believed.

Sebastian Villa

Barrios' 22-year-old compatriot joined from Deportes Tolima earlier this year and produced breakout displays in the semi-final of the Libertadores. Trusted to provide an impact down the right, Villa did just that with an assist in each leg, including a perfectly placed cross for Ramon Abila to extend Boca's aggregate advantage over Palmeiras to 3-0 - a mountain its Brazilian opponent could not climb despite rallying to a 2-2 draw on the night.

ALSO READ: Boca Juniors vs River Plate: Why does the Copa Libertadores final rivalry matter so much?


Juan Fernando Quintero

Continuing the theme of Colombians potentially having a big influence on an all-Argentine affair is Quintero, whose performances in attacking midfield at the World Cup won him plenty of admirers. He boasts excellent vision and can pick apart defences with a marvellous range of passing. Quintero also possesses a superb left foot, which he used to score Colombia's first free-kick goal at a World Cup. Since the end of a group stage in which they conceded just four goals, Boca has been vulnerable at the back. Quintero is the ideal man to break them down.

Exequiel Palacios

Palacios appears to have already done enough to seal a move to Europe, with Madrid said to have agreed a deal for the midfielder at Barca's expense. That he was already a target for Spain's biggest clubs says a lot about the 20-year-old's quality, given he has only made 45 first-team appearances for River. Supremely confident and composed on the ball, with a very good eye for a pass, Palacios' ability to link up with Quintero is what Barrios will try to stop in what should be an engrossing midfield battle.

Gonzalo Martinez

Martinez scored the decisive and hugely controversial penalty that sent River through to the final and also netted the opener when they beat Boca 2-0 in last month's domestic Superclasico. Often restricted to a substitute's role because he and Quintero both occupy the same position in behind the front two, the composure has consistently displays in the final third will be a valuable asset to have on the bench. Reportedly set to move to MLS side Atlanta United to replace the in-demand Miguel Almiron, Martinez may look to use that transfer as a stepping stone to a switch to Europe.

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