Bombonera party awaits veteran Palermo
BUENOS AIRES - Martin Palermo will play at the Bombonera for the last time in a fiesta atmosphere on Sunday as he moves within one step of ending a Hollywood-style career in soccer.
The 37-year-old turns out for Boca Juniors against Banfield (2320 GMT) in their penultimate Clausura championship match and has yet to decide if he will play at Gimnasia in La Plata on the final day or close at Boca's iconic home ground.
Palermo has done it all in a roller-coaster career riddled with remarkable goals that started at Estudiantes, reached a peak with a world club title at Boca in 2000, included a spell in Spain and was crowned with a World Cup cameo appearance and goal in 2010.
Many people tried to persuade the player Diego Maradona called St Martin to play on at least until the end of the year, especially Boca coach Julio Cesar Falcioni.
Palermo, mindful of bowing out at the top, said this week "I don't want football to retire me" and confirmed Boca's all-time record scorer was ending his career this month.
"For the party to be complete, we must win," Falcioni told reporters after practice on Friday.
He would like to score another goal for Boca to help them win in a bid to secure a place in the Copa Sudamericana, South America's equivalent to the Europa League.
With two matches left, Boca are equal fourth in the Clausura standings with 26 points, seven off the pace set by Velez Sarsfield. However in the all-season standings including points from the Apertura from which the top six qualify for the Sudamericana, Boca are eighth, a point below the cut-off.
Boca's arch-rivals River Plate, while only a point behind them in the Clausura table, have a fraught final two fixtures looking to avoid slipping into the relegation-promotion playoffs determined by the three-season points averages.
River visit Apertura winners Estudiantes, who only eight days ago ended a run of 12 matches without a victory in the league and Libertadores Cup.
Velez, favourites to lift the crown, are away to relegation haunted Huracan, while second-placed Lanus, a point behind and enjoying a fine run-in with four successive wins and unbeaten in 11 matches, are at home to Argentinos Juniors.