River Plate will finally have to face Independiente Santa Fe in Matchday 5 of Copa Libertadores 2021 despite their chaotic situation with up to 20 players infected by Covid-19. Conmebol's rules state that unless a team can't show up with at least seven players, it has to take part in the game. Otherwise, it loses the points and faces severe punishments.
With no other choice but to play the game, El Millonario head into one of the strangest games in their history. Of the 32 names submitted for this competition, only eleven will be eligible for tonight's clash. What's worst, Marcelo Gallardo can't count with an outright goalkeeper for this game as the three registered in the list have tested positive.
After the South American soccer's governing body turned down River's request to add reserve keepers Leo Díaz and Agustín Gómez, an outfield player will have to put on the gloves. Under that worrying and even awkward scenario, the Argentines will host the Colombians, who also have three players infected.
River Plate's strange lineup against Santa Fe
The pandemic has struck River Plate just hours before their decisive duel against archrivals Boca Juniors last weekend. Only a few days after that problematic game, coronavirus hit even harder as five more players have tested positive.
Gallardo's decision of naming just 32 players for the Libertadores, instead of using the 50 slots the Conmebol has allowed to prevent these kinds of episodes, turned out badly as the three goalies were infected at the same time. The club requested the addition of Leo Díaz, who impressed in his debut against Boca, and Agustín Gómez to at least having two players that are used to that position, but it was denied.
Under such a difficult atmosphere, River's boss has reportedly considered four options to replace Franco Armani. Milton Casco (left-back), Jonatan Maidana (center-back), Tomás Lecanda (center-back), or Enzo Pérez (defensive midfield) were in the coach's mind to start as the team's goalkeeper in one of the most unusual matches ever.
Gallardo's decision was that Enzo Pérez will put on the gloves in the upcoming Libertadores clash. These will be both sides' lineups for the game:
River Plate: Enzo Pérez; Milton Casco, Tomás Lecanda, Jonatan Maidana, Héctor Martínez, Fabrizio Angileri; José Paradela, Felipe Peña Biafore, Jorge Carrascal; Julián Álvarez, Agustín Fontana.
Independiente Santa Fe: Leandro Castellanos; Alexander Porras, Fainer Torijano, Alejandro Moralez, Jeison Palacios; Jersson González, Leonardo Pico; Daniel Giraldo, Jhon Arias, Jhon Velazquez; Jorge Ramos.