Previewing ‘Clasico Weekend’

Argentina Primera Division

Another idea out of the AFA’s ever-revolving tombola of wacky ideas is the Clásico weekend, where all 30 teams are paired against their nearest rivals in a line-up that would have Sky Sports’ marketing men wetting their pants.

The Boca-River game will perhaps have the biggest repercussions, and not just because they are the country’s most successful and popular teams. Boca are spluttering towards the finishing line like a car running on empty, and despite the goals of Dario Benedetto the club aren’t scoring freely or playing champagne football. Luckily for them, results seem to be going their way and nobody behind seems equipped to maintain an assault on the summit. However, River are only seven points behind and have a game in hand, so could realistically soon find themselves only a point off Boca should they emerge victorious from the weekend’s tie.

River are on fire at the moment with nine wins and two draws from their last 11 games in all competitions, scoring 25 goals in the process with forwards Sebastian Driussi and Lucas Alario leading the charge. River played in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday night although they were at home and rested several key players, therefore fatigue won’t be an issue. The form guide would suggest a River win but as the tie is on Boca territory it is impossible to predict. A Boca win would all but kill River’s challenge whilst a River win could blow the title race wide open.

Racing and Independiente aren’t direct rivals in the table but both have something to play for. Racing are currently occupying the last automatic Copa Libertadores qualification space, and Independiente are a little further behind hoping to qualify for the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s Europa League equivalent. A Racing win, and results going their way, could even give them an outside chance of winning the league so there is more than just local pride at stake here. Likewise for Independiente, a win could be the difference between continental qualification or mid-table obscurity. Independiente’s away form is stunning – they have won six on the trot and scored 17. However, they are at home for this tie, where they haven’t won in five games.

Estudiantes and Gimnasia clash for the pride of La Plata, and similar to the situation in Avellaneda, the tie could have a bearing on which clubs qualify for the continental competitions. Estudiantes are competing in this year’s Libertadores and currently prop up their group with only three points from the first four fixtures. They travel to Guayaquil in Ecuador to face Barcelona in the week following the Gimnasia game, and there is a good chance that key players may be rested as they look to keep their dream alive of progressing in the Libertadores.

The authorities, and fans, of Argentine football will be hoping the clash in Cordoba is remembered this time for events on the pitch. The last time Talleres and Belgrano met the sides played out a 1-1 draw, although the occasion was remembered for the tragic events which occurred in the stands. Emanuel Balbo, a 22-year-old Belgrano fan, was involved in a personal altercation and thrown to his death, landing on the concrete steps a few metres below. The game will be hosted at the same stadium, the Estadio Kempes, as the sides share it for the big games, although this time Talleres are the “home” side. La T went into the last fixture in a rich vein of form and looked the better side although Belgrano fought back spiritedly. The goalposts have shifted however, and Belgrano are coming into the game following a rare victory last weekend away at Vélez Sársfield. Talleres, looking almost stubbornly unbeatable before the last Clásico Cordobes, have lost three in four since.

Although almost 700km apart, Atlético Rafaela will host Atlético Tucumán this weekend. Tucumán have become somewhat of a surprise package of late and still have an outside chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the Copa Libertadores. In the league, both teams currently scream mid-table obscurity, with the hosts currently two points ahead of their opponents. However, Rafaela are deep in the relegation mire based on their performances over the last three seasons and need a win to give them any chance of beating the drop.
Olimpo welcome Aldosivi to Bahia Blanca in a game that would definitely be featured last on Match of the Day. Both clubs, however, are in and around the relegation spots so the tie could have a crucial bearing on who faces the drop and who lives to fight another day in the Primera División.

In the province of Santa Fé, Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central face-off, and in the city of Santa Fé, Colón host Unión. Elsewhere San Martin de San Juan host Mendoza’s Godoy Cruz; Lanús travel to Banfield; Huracán welcome title-chasing San Lorenzo; Patronato face Sarmiento; Defensa y Justicia play Quilmes; Arsenal welcome Temperley to Sarandi; and Tigre travel to Vélez Sársfield. It should make for an interesting weekend!