A shirt-ripping exhibition from a manager shows the passion and tension in the Argentinean Primera, tension set to soar in a weekend of Clasicos
For all the colour, noise and passion, Clasicos in Argentina often leave the neutral spectator feeling a little underwhelmed as the action on the pitch fails to match the spectacle in the stands. That may well be the case again this coming weekend as the Primera throws up a round of derbies, but matters near the top-of-the-table have ensured there is far more than just pride up for grabs.
The Superclasico between Boca Juniors and River Plate is one of the world football’s most famous fixtures and whether it be the reserves, the youth sides or a friendly, the desire to inflict a defeat on the old enemy is the same. Sunday’s 243rd official meeting will be no different but could also have a significant outcome on where the title ends up as River are able to close to within four points (with a game still in hand) of league leaders Boca, with victory in La Bombonera.
Boca’s fiery stalemate against Estudiantes in La Plata on Saturday drew headlines mainly for manager Nelson Vivas’ rage-fuelled strip on the touchline but more importantly was a third draw in four matches for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side, who only remain out in front due to their rivals’ inability to fully punish their slip-ups.
Bitter rivals River have emerged as the most likely threat after winning six of their last seven matches and in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Sarmiento, Marcelo Gallardo showed off his almost unrivaled firepower. Lucas Alario scored twice and Sebastian Driussi went back to the top of the scoring charts with his 14th – the pair now have 25 between them, a sum that 17 of the top flight teams are yet to reach.
The last time River won a league game in La Bombonera, Manuel Lanzini struck a late winner and Ramon Diaz’s side went on to lift the 2014 Torneo Final; a repeat on Sunday may well bring the trophy back to the Monumental.
However, River are by no means the only contenders, particularly if Boca lose the Superclasico, and so a number of other local grudge matches have heightened importance.
The Clasico Rosarino is for many the most fiercely contested derby in Argentine football and for perhaps the most visually impressive clasico this weekend, eyes should be set on the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa.
Maxi Rodriguez’s injury time winner earlier in the season ended Rosario Central’s grip over the derby that had seen them unbeaten since the 2008 Apertura and it set in motion Maxi and Newell’s Old Boys surprise title challenge.
Newell’s were well beaten by Independiente in Rosario on Sunday and so need to bounce back if they are to maintain the pressure on Boca at the top, while Central tasted defeat for the first time in seven matches against San Lorenzo and would love nothing more than to end La Lepra’s hopes.
Independiente’s victory over Newell’s highlighted the progress made under Ariel Holan and showed just why El Rojo are such a threat away from home with Emiliano Rigoni, Martin Benitez and Ezequiel Barco flying forward at pace. In Avellaneda, however it has been another story and while Holan hasn’t yet been beaten, every home match has ended in a draw, so Racing making the two block journey to the Estadio Libertadores de America is intriguing.
Racing’s victory over Gimnasia on Saturday ensures Diego Cocca’s side remain outsiders for the title but anything less than three points this weekend and those slim chances would be reduced to zero.
San Lorenzo have managed to turn their season round in the space of two weeks and from Diego Aguirre looking a certainty for the sack, Los Cuervos are now back on track for Copa Libertadores progression and firmly in the title race. Rivals Huracan still need to confirm their Primera status in the descenso table so they have motivation of their own but San Lorenzo have enjoyed superiority in recent meetings and a third straight league win could put El Ciclon within three points of the summit.
Estudiantes’ consecutive draws against Independiente and Boca have likely ended any hopes El Pincha still harboured but Saturday’s Clasico Platense with Gimnasia could put an end to that once and for all.
And finally, Colon saw their club record seven-match winning streak come to an end with a thrilling 2-2 draw against Atletico Tucuman on Sunday but from the seven have arguably the easiest Clasico to contend with. Union have won only once in their last nine Primera fixtures and if Eduardo Dominguez’s Colon celebrate a victorious Clasico Santafesino, El Sabalero have to be given respect with only six rounds remaining.