A title package that had seemed wrapped up by Boca Juniors has unravelled after poor form and impressive persistence from a surprise challenger
While the Superliga takes a breather and focus switches to Argentina’s World Cup preparations in Europe, things domestically have been left delicately poised as a possible title decider awaits us when the action resumes.
Boca Juniors have looked like champions-in-waiting for months after a dazzling first half of the season had Darío Benedetto’s goals keep the champions top and made a defence seem only a matter of time.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side remain favourites but their lead has been cut to six points and up next in La Bombonera are the very team that have steadily, and somewhat surprisingly, been taking bites into that advantage.
So which of Boca’s rival grandes are posing such a threat?
River Plate? Despite inflicting an embarrassing defeat on Boca to lift the Supercopa last week, Los Millonarios are a mile off the pace.
San Lorenzo? Only a second win in seven league games against Olimpo at the weekend has seen Los Cuervos’ challenge all but evaporate.
So Independiente or Racing Club then? Both Avellaneda clubs are in decent form but left themselves too much to do and look bound to fall short.
So which club are the greatest danger to Boca’s title defence?
Well, despite only achieving promotion back to the top flight in 2016 after an absence of twelve years, Talleres de Córdoba are the team fighting to lift what would be a first ever Primera trophy.
Saturday’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Defensa y Justicia closed the gap to six, as Boca’s second injury time goal in the space of a week could this time only muster a draw.
Talleres’ victory on the other hand extended a nine-match unbeaten run and exhibited many of the qualities that has seen Frank Kudelka’s side emerge as genuine contenders.
With only nine goals conceded, Talleres have the best defensive record in the league and this solid foundation has allowed the side to soak up pressure and counter with great effect.
A blend of experienced, battle-hardened veterans and talented young players that are acutely aware of their roles in Kudelka’s team have made La T very difficult to beat and even after seeing Sebastián Palacios, Emanuel Reynoso (to Boca) and Jonathan Menéndez leave in January, there has been no decline.
As Talleres seem to continue gathering momentum, Boca have stalled and after club president Daniel Angelici read the riot act after defeat to River Plate, there was little response against Atlético Tucumán at the weekend.
The absences of Darío Benedetto and Fernando Gago have never been so keenly felt, Carlos Tevez’s role has come under fire and with so many players struggling for form, the once electrifying attack has short-circuited.
Talleres will be without lunatic, former Boca striker Santiago Silva for the trip, denying what would have been an intriguing battle but La T will arrive in La Bombonera full of confidence.
And if Kudelka’s side can shock Boca, the title race is well and truly on.