BUENOS AIRES – The head coaches of Buenos Aires clubs Boca Juniors and River Plate will continue their longstanding rivalry when their teams square off starting Saturday in the Copa Libertadores final.
The 45-year-old Guillermo Barros Schelotto will be on the sidelines for Boca, but River’s manager, 42-year-old Marcelo Gallardo, has received a touchline ban from Conmebol (soccer’s governing body in South America) and been barred from having any contact with his players due to his behavior during the semifinal against Brazilian club Gremio.
That ban applies to both the Nov. 10 first leg at Boca’s home ground, La Bombonera stadium, and the Nov. 24 second leg at River’s El Monumental Stadium.
The careers of both men – as both players and coaches – have always had much in common.
Barros Schelotto was a key player for Boca from 1997-2007 before competing later in his career for Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew.
Gallardo also is a former player for the team he now coaches, having debuted for River Plate and also been a member of Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, MLS’s DC United and Uruguayan club Nacional.
As young players, they were teammates on Argentina’s U-23 national squad that made an undefeated run to the Pan American Games title in 1995, when that sporting event was held in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
In the final against Mexico, both Gallardo and Barros Schelotto scored in the deciding penalty shootout.
As players, they faced off on eight occasions, with Barros Schelotto’s teams winning four times, Gallardo’s squads victorious twice and two other games ending in draws.
They locked horns for the first time as head coaches on Sept. 28, 2014, when Gallardo was already coaching River Plate and Barros Schelotto was the manager of Argentine club Lanus, a match that ended in a 1-1 draw.
In their 12 head-to-head match-ups as coaches, Gallardo leads Barros Schelotto by a tally of five wins, three losses and four draws.
El Muñeco also won the biggest match to date between the two when River defeated Boca 2-0 earlier this year in the final of the 2017 Supercopa Argentina, that country’s annual cup competition.
But the final of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club soccer tournament, will be by far the biggest head-to-head clash in their coaching careers.