Betting preview: River Plate vs Boca Juniors - hosts favourite for Sunday Superclasico

Sunday's Superclasico brings us the latest edition of Argentina's feisty derby, and while goals may not flood this fixture, cards and drama certainly do.

One of the world's biggest soccer rivalries resumes this weekend when the 'Superclasico' sees River Plate host Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires.

It will be the first Superclasico since 2019 to feature fans, even if capacity is being restricted to 50 per cent of the norm at the Estadio Monumental.

The last four editions of the Buenos Aires derby have all been played behind closed doors but while the atmosphere in the stands has been strange, the on-field matters have remained just as feisty with both teams seeing a red card in two of those four matches.

While the return of fans to stadia in the COVID-19 era has been widely welcomed, you wonder what the reaction will be among football officials, not to mention law enforcement.

In 2018, the Boca Juniors bus was attacked by fans of Los Millonarios - historically River have had a more upper-class support base - on its way to the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final (the equivalent of Europe's Champions League). The match had to be postponed and was eventually staged thousands of miles away in Madrid.

That came three years after several River players were attacked by Boca fans with what was believed to be tear gas during a match. The game had to be abandoned with police escorting River Plate players off the pitch under riot shields.

Who will win on Sunday?

What we can expect off the field on Sunday is anyone's guess but on it, River start worthy favourites for the 9pm BST kick-off.

This is a crucial match in the Argentinian top flight with hosts River currently sitting in second place, just two points behind leaders Talleres.

Boca, once the club of the late Diego Maradona, would love nothing more than to throw a spanner in the works by winning at the Monumental. They sit sixth but a win would close the gap on their rivals to just three points.

Too many draws - six in 13 games - have dogged their campaign but that is a nod towards where things may be heading.

Seven of the last 10 Superclasico meetings have ended all square after 90 minutes. River have two wins in that period and Boca - unbeaten in the last five - just the one.

Overall, Boca can count three victories in those 10 given they have won two on penalties, including in their most recent meeting - August's Copa Argentina last-16 clash.

Goals at a premium?

Traditionally, this hasn't been a fixture laden with goals.

Eight of the last 10 matches have seen under 2.5 goals, while some may feel that the study period is too short, look longer term and you find the same trend.

Over the past decade, the teams have met 27 times and on 20 occasions under 2.5 goals has landed - it's available at an enticing 13/20 this time around.

You can argue in favour of the overs given River are the top scorers in Argentina in the current campaign, netting 26 times in 13 games, but here they face a team who have conceded just eight times in their 13 matches. That is a record bettered by only one side in the division.

Boca have also been goal-shy at the other end, scoring only 11. Given those statistics, it's not surprising to learn that 10 of their 13 games have seen under 2.5 goals.

The head-to-head suggests both teams to score is more likely - that's occurred in five of the last 10 and nine of the last 14 Superclasicos.

That trend tails off a bit when you go across the last 10 years as a whole - 12 out of 27 with both teams scoring.

Card chaos likely

If goals are something of a rarity in the Superclasico, cards are certainly not.

Using the booking points measurement where a yellow counts as 10 points, a straight red 25 and a second-yellow red 35, the tallies are pretty astonishing.

Twenty-four of those 27 matches in the last decade have kept the referees incredibly busy with at least 70 booking points.

Having no fans in attendance didn't see the action halt either - in fact the short study period shows things got worse with three of the four behind-closed-doors matches hitting 100+.

The full stats are as follows…

Last 10 games:

70+ in 9 of 10

80+ in 7 of 10

90+ in 6 of 10

100+ in 4 of 10

Last 10 years:

70+ in 24 of 27

80+ in 20 of 27

90+ in 14 of 27

100+ in 8 of 27

In terms of red cards, there has been one dismissal in four of the last 10 derbies and 11 of the last 27.

Additionally, both teams saw a player sent off in two of the four 'lockdown' games.

The referee, Fernando Rapallini, is not lenient with his cards either. It could get interesting.

He's produced 49 yellows and six reds in his 10 league appointments in the current campaign, while he's also got a track record for pulling out the cards in this fixture.

Rapallini took charge of January's 2-2 draw and sent off a player from both sides as the booking points total hit 100.

He also tallied 100 points (10 yellows) during his first Superclasico appointment in 2019.

In short, expect cards aplenty.

Who are the Superclasico bad boys?

So who is likely to be troubling the referee in Sunday's showdown?

The prime candidate looks to be River Plate midfielder Enzo Perez.

At 35, he wears his heart on his sleeve' and has been carded in seven of his 12 Superclasico starts, including four of the last five. Two of those had Rapallini as the referee.

His record is also notable for early cards in this fixture - he's seen the first card in the last two meetings, after 13 and 22 minutes - so there's definite potential in the 'first booking' market.

Teammates Jonatan Maidana (carded in 8 of 20 starts) and Milton Casco (6 of 12) also have strong card records in this fixture although injury looks set to rule both out on Sunday.

Of those who will likely be in the famous white shirt with a diagonal red stripe, midfielder Bruno Zuculini makes appeal. He's started this fixture only twice, being carded once, but he's troubled referees plenty in 2021, being carded in eight of his 18 starts.

Boca have had the most cards in eight of the last 10 Superclasicos so who's value from the Xeneizes to go into the book?

Left-back Frank Fabra has been carded four times in seven starts in this fixture, although his 2021 record has dropped below his average - just three cards in 25 starts.

Defensive midfielder Jorman Campuzano is likely to be in the thick of the action. Sunday will be just his third Superclasico fixture but he was carded in one of the first two.

So far this year, he's got an excellent card record - at least in betting terms - with 11 of his 20 starts in the blue and yellow seeing his name taken into the book.

Finally, former Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo is also worth a mention here.

He was often in trouble in the Premier League and it's been no different in Argentina this year where he's been carded in eight of 18 starts, including one of the two against Boca.

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