Covid-hit River Plate to play Copa Libertadores tie without recognised goalkeeper

River Plate will have to play in the Copa Libertadores without a recognised goalkeeper
River Plate will have to play in the Copa Libertadores without a recognised goalkeeper / Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

River Plate will be forced to play Wednesday's Copa Libertadores tie against Santa Fe without a recognised goalkeeper, after the squad was affected by mass coronavirus outbreak.

The problems began on 14 May, when River travelled to Colombia to take on Junior FC on Matchday four of the Copa Libertadores group stage. After the 1-1 draw, goalkeeping coach Alberto Montes tested positive for Covid-19, thus beginning a rapid spread throughout the squad.

Julián Álvarez
In close proximities / Pool/Getty Images

Two days later, River then had to face Boca Juniors in the Superclasico, but without 15 stars who had all tested positive for Covid-19 following their trip to Colombia.

A second-string side put up an impressive fight in that match, losing only on penalties after a 1-1 draw with their bitter rivals. Unfortunately, the headaches did not stop there for River coach Marcelo Gallardo. A further five players all contracted the virus after the Superclasico, leaving Gallardo a pool of only 10 fit players to choose from - and no recognised goalkeeper.

That means midfielder Enzo Perez, who stands just 5'10", will don the gloves for River's crucial Copa Libertadores tie with Santa Fe on Wednesday - while only six of the eligible players have ever started a top-flight match for the club.

Perez was initially ruled out of this clash through injury, but the club's medical staff have cleared him to play as they were initially at risk of being unable to field a full 11-man team.

Unfortunately for River fans, a win on Wednesday is imperative if they are to give themselves the best chance of qualifying for the next round of the competition. It's either that or they will need to beat Brazilian giants Fluminense in the final round of group games.

While Covid-19 cases are decreasing around Europe, and countries are beginning to transition back into a more normal routine, South America continues to be gripped be the deadly virus.

Argentina has registered the third highest number of Covid-related deaths in the world over the past week, as they struggle to stop the spread across the nation.