Published on September 13th, 2017 | by Peter Coates0
Argentina Superliga – Velez set early season pace ahead of Big Two
The Argentina Superliga may be just two mathdays old, but it has an old school field with a former great leading the pack after two rounds
Argentina’s new look Superliga is now two rounds in and while things remain virtually the same, Velez Sarsfield’s apparent resurrection means the overwhelming favourites, Boca Juniors and River Plate have some early season company at the top.
It doesn’t seem long ago since Velez were perhaps the best team in Argentina, winning four Primera titles in less than five years, but as good as El Fortin were under Ricardo Gareca, their decline has been sharp.
Poor results over the past few seasons have seen Velez hovering above relegation and ahead of the Superliga launch, Omar de Felippe’s side were aiming to secure the points required to remain in the top flight.
Only two rounds in that must remain the target but after two victories, Velez are back at the top of the table.
After selling off any real assets, the stars of previous sides like Lucas Pratto or Mauro Zarate are missing, but a vibrant academy has bolstered De Felippe’s options and Velez are reaping the rewards.
The tricky Matias Vargas has been the creative spark lacking in seasons past but after the recent sale of Mariano Pavone, it has been the explosive reappearance of 18-year-old Maxi Romero that has really made the difference.
A brace in the opening weekend victory over Tigre and another two against Atletico Tucuman on Friday has the powerful teenager top of the scoring charts.
Linked with moves to Arsenal and Liverpool since before his 16th birthday, only a serious knee injury seemed to prevent that. However, back fit, playing and full of confidence, Romero is providing a much-needed ruthlessness and will surely be rumoured to be on his way out of Liniers before long.
Velez won’t be getting carried away and while their place at the summit is a surprise, their companions are anything but. Bitter rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate have the largest resources, the best squads and the same desire to outdo one another.
Both have made 100% starts to the Superliga and the title race between the two that was predicted is already underway.
River recovered from falling behind early to eventually sweep aside Banfield in a rain-soaked Monumental and despite losing Sebastian Driussi and Lucas Alario during the window, still look a threat. Nacho Scocco scored for the second week, Gonzalo Martinez continued his excellent form from last term and Marcelo Gallardo has several promising young players, who should only improve as time goes on.
And after watching River climb to six points, Boca followed with a 1-0 win over Lanus. After more than 24 hours of rain in Buenos Aires, conditions were dreadful but as it was looking like the champions might be heading toward two dropped points, Dario Benedetto popped up.
Just as he did so often last season, the top flight’s most prolific striker and recent Argentina addition, needed only one sight at goal. Benedetto’s one shot coming in the 83rd minute was ruthlessly dispatched and ensured Boca kept pace.
Of the five other teams still unbeaten, Avellaneda duo, Independiente and Racing Club are perhaps the next likeliest challengers. Neither appear to have the squad depth of Boca and River but have dangerous enough starting elevens to pose a threat to any side.
Independiente rested several regular starters ahead of their critical Copa Sudamericana clash and were held to a 1-1 draw away to Olimpo while Racing responded to their opening weekend draw and Copa Argentina exit to convincingly beat Temperley.
El Rojo will certainly feel they did enough to take three points away from Bahia Blanca but were denied by the excellent Adrian Gabbarini in the Olimpo goal.
Racing will be boosted by recent signings Enrique Triverio and Andres Ibarguen both getting on the scoresheet.
Argentinos Juniors and Chacarita Juniors finally got their Superliga campaigns up and running after their meeting scheduled for round one was postponed and both got a quick taste of how tough things could be.
Argentinos cruised to the Nacional B title but with Gabriel Heinze gone, along with several important players, Los Bichos now look quite a different proposition. After leading early in Parana, Alfredo Berti’s side ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline against potential relegation rivals, Patronato.
Chacarita fared a little better but needed a wonderful Leandro Martinez free kick two minutes from time just to salvage a point at home to Tigre.