Sunday 22 October 2017, 10:14

Experience meets ambition in Libertadores semis

  • River Plate and Gremio are previous Copa Libertadores winners

  • Barcelona SC two-time runners-up, Lanus in the semis for the first time

  • In a first for the competition, the VAR system will be used in the semi-finals

The semi-finals of 2017 Copa Libertadores will pitch two of South America’s most successful sides – both previous winners of the competition – against two clubs that are on the up but have yet to lift the trophy.

As well as claiming the most prestigious prize in South American club football, the winners of the competition will also advance to the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 in December.

The matches *24 October *River Plate (ARG) - Lanus (ARG) (Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, 19:15 local time)

Copa champions in 1986, 1996 and 2015, River take on one of the biggest sensations of Argentinian football of the last few years, a side who have reached the last four for the first time in their history. The two teams met in the Argentinian Super Cup back in February, with Lanus winning 3-0. Though both sides have seen players come and go since then, their squads remain essentially the same, while confidence is high in the two camps following their comeback wins in the quarter-finals.

*25 October *Barcelona SC (ECU) - Gremio (BRA) (Estadio Monumental, Guayaquil, 18:45 local time)

One of Ecuador’s biggest clubs, Barcelona are intent on going all the way this time, having reached the final in 1990 and 1998, when they lost to Olimpia and Vasco da Gama respectively. Barcelona have shown a liking for Brazilian clubs on their surprising yet convincing run to the last four, knocking out Palmeiras in the last 16 and Santos in the quarters. As for El Tricolor – former winners in 1983 and 1995 – they have put together an impressive campaign thanks to Luan, an Olympic gold medallist with Brazil at Rio 2016, and Paraguay international Lucas Barrios. Their goals helped Los Gaúchos advance from the group stage with the third-best record of the 16 qualifiers, sandwiched in between Lanus in second and River in fourth.

Player to watch *Lautaro Acosta (Lanus) The Granate winger is his side’s most potent threat and an icon of the club. Attacking down the flanks is a key facet of coach Jorge Almiron’s tactics and the 29-year-old Acosta has a knack of unsettling defences from out wide. El Laucha* came up through the youth ranks at Lanus, the club where he has played his best football, and has become one of the finest forwards in the Argentinian league. His performances have been so impressive that he earned a call-up from Jorge Sampaoli for Argentina’s final four matches in the qualifiers for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Did you know? The semi-finals will see the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system come into use for the first time ever in the competition. VAR helps referees reach decisions in the four game-changing situations: goals, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity.

What they said "We’ve prioritised the Libertadores above all else because we want to restore our prestige. We’re on the way to achieving that." Barcelona SC coach Guillermo Almada