A lack of Copa Libertadores campaign is serving Boca Juniors well as the Superliga side looks to continue a perfect start to the campaign
While European football is rightfully lauding the unbeaten starts of Manchester City, Barcelona, Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain in their respective leagues, all have dropped points. In Argentina, one club reigns supreme and after a Superclásico victory on enemy turf, there appears little to stop Boca Juniors defending their title.
Eight rounds of Superliga action, eight victories, 21 goals scored and only two conceded – champions Boca have been just about perfect.
Bitter rivals River Plate, may have just been knocked out of the Copa Libertadores, but were supposed to provide a stern test of Los Xeneizes credentials in El Monumental. The form book goes out the window for the derby and River did stretch the league leaders in spite of Nacho Fernández’s reckless, kung-fu inspired, first half sending off but ultimately Boca’s strength prevailed.
Fernando Gago’s long-term injury would have derailed most sides but his young replacement Nahitan Nandez struck the winner against River and illustrated how formidable Boca are.
A championship-winning squad already, president Daniel Angelici managed to keep Darío Benedetto and Cristian Pavón at the club, and added the likes of Nandez and scorer of the opening goal, Edwin Cardona to hand Guillermo Barros Schelotto by far and away the deepest squad in Argentina.
This financial superiority coupled with Boca’s light schedule as a result of missing out on any international competition was always likely to make them tough to beat but with almost a third of the season already done, the seven-point gap at the top looks vast.
What was Boca’s embarrassment when not qualifying for the Copa Libertadores nor the Copa Sudamericana has proven a huge advantage and created an unfamiliar look to the top of the Superliga.
The sales of Sebastián Driussi and Lucas Alario hit River hard and left Gallardo having to put all his eggs in the Libertadores basket, Racing and Independiente have both prioritised the Copa Sudamericana to the detriment of domestic form, San Lorenzo trail Boca by nine distracted by their earlier run and their Libertadores victors Lanús have a place in the final.
That has left unlikely Unión as Boca’s nearest rivals after their fifth win of the season coming against Vélez Sarsfield. Leonardo Madelón’s side are defending resolutely and in Franco Soldano and Lucas Gamba have a pair of forwards capable of punishing opposition sides.
Talleres sit two points further back, building on the promising campaign that Frank Kudelka’s young side produced last term with a draw away to Racing, but San Lorenzo aside, the top eight raises some eyebrows.
Huracán battle relegation in the descenso while simultaneously sitting fifth, Colón remain as tough to break down as ever (last week’s surprising 3-3 draw excluded) and Banfield and San Martín complete the chasing pack.
None appear realistic title challengers and between now and the end of the Superliga season all will surely suffer their fair share of dropped points.
Despite Boca’s superiority up to this point, the mighty blue and gold won’t remain perfect over an entire season and once the 2018 Copa Libertadores gets underway, the squad will be tested far more.
The games will come thick and fast and Boca have some potentially difficult fixtures remaining so dropping at least nine points is possible but is there anyone that could possibly take advantage of that?
In fear of predicting that the race has already run its course, that looks unlikely.