Boca crossroads more of a roundabout

March 10, 2011

SOCCER-LATAM/Boca Juniors can’t escape the spotlight after another defeat, 1-0 at Velez Sarsfield on Sunday.

The big question surrounding coach Julio Cesar Falcioni’s team is whether he should continue to pick striker Martin Palermo when he can only count on one half of a brilliant, but aging double act that helped Boca win a string of trophies.

Juan Roman Riquelme, out of the last three matches after the 4-1 home defeat by Godoy Cruz on the opening weekend of the Clausura championship in mid-February, is nursing a knee problem.

Until he gets rid of some water on that knee he will not be included again in the squad for training.

Palermo, Boca’s all-time record goalscorer, has yet to find the net after four matches of the championship. Worse still, he has hardly had a chance because the team don’t play to him as they do with Riquelme pulling the strings.

Lucas Viatri, Palermo’s natural understudy, has been more incisive in his brief outings as a substitute and media are speculating Falcioni may have to drop Palermo, although Viatri is nursing an injury.

Boca were crowned South American champions four times in the first decade of the new millennium with the Riquelme-Palermo duet a key element in their success.

They have been hovering, indecisive, at a crossroads for more than a season. Riquelme, whose style is stop-start anyway, is at 32 slower than in his prime while the 37-year-old Palermo has said he will retire in June.

Falcioni, who steered modest Banfield to their first league title in the 2000 Apertura, looks like he won’t tremble if he has to drop Palermo for the trip to San Lorenzo this weekend.

He needs a second win at the helm after one victory, a draw and two defeats with a 2-5 goals record.

Arch-rivals River Plate, who have been in the doldrums for longer and are fighting against a dangerously low three-season relegation points average, are feeling healthier than Boca though.

They are firmer in defence, unbeaten after two wins and two draws, with only three goals for but none against.

Picture: Boca Juniors’ head coach Julio Falcioni looks on from the bench before their Argentine First Division soccer match against Godoy Cruz in Buenos Aires, February 13, 2011. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

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