Life returns to normal in Argentina after Messi-mania, but Boca Juniors keep on keeping on at the top of the Superliga table
Boca open up ominous lead
We may only be a little over a fifth of the way into the season but Boca Juniors making a successful defence of their title is already looking likely to take some stopping.
With results elsewhere over the weekend, Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side knew that victory over Patronato on Sunday night would put them six points clear and despite not being at their best, the ever reliable duo of Cristian Pavon and Dario Benedetto scored to earn a 2-0 win and maintain a 100% start.
And this isn’t just any start – with six wins from six, fifteen goals scored and only one conceded, this is the best start to a season in Boca’s history.
Despite losing captain Fernando Gago to another long-term injury while on duty for Argentina, Boca flexed their squad strength in Parana and although youngster Nahitan Nandez was fortunate not to be sent off, he was otherwise solid in midfield.
Even when Boca begin having to juggle Copa Libertadores commitments in the new year, it is increasingly difficult to see where too many points will be dropped. In getting Pavon and Benedetto on new deals before this season, Boca completed one of the best pieces of business going and are, with good reason, overwhelming favourites.
River slip up again
Boca’s chance to extend their lead came about after main rivals River Plate were held to a third straight draw. Undoubtedly hurt by the exits of Lucas Alario and Sebastian Driussi, River may have a spot in the Copa Libertadores semi-finals but are struggling to convert that cup success into the Superliga.
After giving away one-goal leads in the past two rounds against Argentinos Juniors and Tigre, Marcelo Gallardo will know his side threw away two points having led Atletico Tucuman 2-0 in the Monumental on Sunday.
Despite those high-profile sales, River are the only club with the resources and squad to rival Boca but were let down by some of those second-string players. Credit should also go to Atletico, who could have even snatched victory but it’s difficult to imagine a full strength River allowing such a slip.
With the season’s Superclasico only a couple of weeks away, River are already at point where they cannot afford to lose.
Sand and Belluschi drive Lanus and San Lorenzo upwards
18-months-ago, when Lanus beat San Lorenzo in the 2016 Transicion final, two of the key figures in each side were veterans Jose Sand and Fernando Belluschi. Fast forward to the Superliga and both are still instrumental.
Belluschi was at his creative best in San Lorenzo’s 3-1 win over Defensa y Justicia with three assists to push the unbeaten Cuervos up into third, level on points with second-placed River. And joining them was Lanus, who chalked up a fourth straight win, thanks to Pepe Sand’s brace providing victory over previously unbeaten Union.
While 34-year-old Belluschi’s talents are still clear – vision, quick feet and weight of pass; 37-year-old Sand continues to defy time. With no pace and a lack of clear technical ability, Sand’s instinct, movement and experience ensure that he remains one of the Superliga’s deadliest strikers.
Relegation plot thickens
A third straight win for Argentinos Juniors moves Los Bichos well clear of any potential relegation battle and the manner in which Alfredo Berti’s side went to the Gigante de Arroyito to beat Rosario Central 3-1 should be commended.
Few could have expected the run of results after picking up one point from the opening three rounds but those still down at the foot of the descenso will be hoping that this form is temporary. Given the average points system, Argentinos could easily yet be sucked back in and with four relegation places, competition is fierce.
Promotion partners Chacarita Juniors are still looking for a win after defeat to Independiente, and Arsenal, Temperley and Patronato were all unable to pick up points but the big result was in Bahia Blanca.
Only one place separates Olimpo and Huracán in the relegation table but given that it is the critical position between staying up and dropping out, El Globo’s away win could be critical come the end of the season. Facundo Coniglio’s goals kept Olimpo up last season and the centre forward chose Monday to score his first since joining Huracan and it is this difference in match winners available that could be Olimpo’s undoing.