03.11.2023 02:45 h

Fluminense aim to topple Boca Juniors in Copa Libertadores final

Argentinian giants Boca Juniors take on Fluminense in the Copa Libertadores final on Saturday with the Brazilian side aiming to win South America's top club prize for the first time.

Fluminense have the advantage of playing at the 78,000-capacity Maracana, their home ground in Rio de Janeiro and the spiritual home of Brazilian football.

Boca are aiming to join record-holders Independiente on seven Libertadores titles, while Fluminense will be playing in the final for just the second time.

Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero as Boca beat Palmeiras 4-2 on penalties after the second leg of their semi-final ended 1-1 last month.

Romero, the 36-year-old former number one for Argentina who spent six years at Manchester United, said afterwards "for me penalties are fun".

Boca count the vastly experienced Uruguayan Edinson Cavani among their strikeforce but the player on most people's lips is Valentin Barco, the 19-year-old left-back who has attracted the interest of European champions Manchester City.

Sergio Aguero, an Argentinian star from City's recent past has described Barco as a "hell of a player".

Fluminense, the four-time champions of Brazil, are one of just two of the country's 12 biggest clubs never to have won the Copa Libertadores -- Botafogo are the other.

They beat Internacional 2-1, and 4-3 on aggregate, to book their place in the final.

Fluminense have a familiar face in defence in Marcelo, the highly-decorated former Real Madrid player who is now 35 but brings a wealth of big-game experience to the side.

At the heart of their rearguard is 40-year-old Brazilian central defender Felipe Melo, who has admitted that despite wearing the shirt of their opponents, he has supported Boca since he was a child.

"It is a passion that I have had since I was little," said the player who has already won the Libertadores twice, in 2020 and 2021 with Palmeiras.

"I have seen many players that I loved who played for Boca. Because of the legendary Bombonera (their home stadium), because of the Boca fans. All the people here in Brazil look at Boca. It is a club that makes you fall in love."