Luis Suarez and Barcelona a test for River Plate at Club World Cup

The South American club season has ended for continental champions River Plate. The Argentine giants were knocked out of the Copa Sudamericana at the semifinal stage, beaten 3-2 by Buenos Aires rivals Huracan on Thursday.

River will not be in the final against Santa Fe of Colombia, meaning they can concentrate all their thoughts on the trip to Japan for next month's Club World Cup. In truth, they have been licking their lips for months, contemplating a dream final against Barcelona.

This, of course, could prove presumptuous. Both teams have semifinals to negotiate first. And in the 10 years of the competition, the South Americans have never found the semifinal easy.

There is no guarantee that River will have a straightforward passage against either a Japanese team, Auckland City or African champions TP Mazembe. The European champions, meanwhile, have always found the semifinal a breeze. But the gloriously perverse nature of football means that one year they will surely run into problems.

Should River make it, the Copa Sudamericana is an unreliable guide in assessing their chances. It is the continent's second club competition and River were only taking part because they won the title the previous year.

It would be grossly unfair to dismiss their chances against Barcelona simply on the basis of their displays against Huracan. Nevertheless, some questions can be posed.

Will River be able to keep all their players on the field?

Last year's Club World Cup final was also Spain against Argentina, Real Madrid taking on San Lorenzo.

The South Americans, desperately limited in comparison, got out the tool kit and let the fouls flow. There is also a strong arm side to the River Plate team, especially in the form of midfield enforcer Leo Ponzio. He will surely test referees' patience and they may not be as tolerant as South American officials. Ponzio was very lucky not to pick up a red card against Huracan and coach Marcelo Gallardo surely saved him from being sent off by substituting him early.

River will need to mark aggressively against Barcelona's magnificent pressing game if the pair do indeed meet. But can they do this without picking up cards?

Can they cope with Luis Suarez?

In 2009, Estudiantes of Argentina frustrated Barcelona before losing 2-1 in Abu Dhabi. But that Catalan side, for all its genius, lacked the variation that Luis Suarez has brought to their play. Before, there was always a chance of stifling Barcelona in midfield. Now, with a centre forward so clever at operating on the shoulder of the last defender, Barcelona have the option of being more direct.

Suarez has added an extra dimension and his ability to force back the opposing defensive line opens up more space for the likes of Neymar and Lionel Messi.

River Plate have sold Ramiro Funes Mori to Premier League side Everton and his replacement, Colombian centre-back Eder Alvarez Balanta, is still struggling for form and confidence after his lengthy injury lay-off. The key defender is Jonathan Maidana, who proved incapable of coping with Huracan's strong and spiky centre forward, Ramon "Wanchope" Abila. Every time Huracan played up quickly to Abila, Maidana had problems.

Can River get service to Lucas Alario?

River's centre-forward has been one of the great successes of their year. Signed from Colon of Santa Fe, Alario has a presence in the air and on the ground and that could trouble the Barcelona defence. But will River be able to give him decent service? Or, against Barcelona's pressing, will the team be forced back, leaving their centre-forward isolated?

One thing cannot be doubted -- River Plate have plenty of character. They nearly saved themselves against Huracan, despite at one point being three goals down on aggregate. And earlier this year in the Libertadores campaign, they managed to keep coming back from difficult situations.

Gallardo's team has heart but will it be enough to round off the year with a Club World Cup win?