1. Pablo Aimar returns as River end Central’s unbeaten start
The long-awaited comeback of Pablo Aimar finally happened on Sunday night in the Monumental and although El Payaso made little impact on the match itself, the River supporters cheered his every touch and just the sight of the now 35-year-old midfielder on the pitch snatched all the headlines.
One of River’s best youth products from the successful period of the late nineties, Pablo Aimar last appeared for Los Millonarios in December 2000 before his transfer to Valencia. Over fourteen years later, the hugely popular figure came on as a second half substitute in the victory over Rosario Central.
Central were the only side remaining in the Primera with an unbeaten record coming into the match but a wonderful Teo Gutiérrez goal gave River the advantage in what was a very even game.
Aimar’s cameo boosted the crowd and Camilo Mayada added a late second to wrap up the three points for Marcelo Gallardo’s side. The top five are now separated by just four points as River jumped above Boca and Central into second. Had we been playing another short tournament like normal we would be set for a thrilling run-in, as it is there is an entire second half of the season still to play.
2. Boca’s post-Libertadores slump continues
Back-to-back defeats and no goals scored, it is safe to say Boca Juniors have not reacted well to being disqualified from the Copa Libertadores. Boca had not been defeated in the league until last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Aldosivi and now a week later they have tasted defeat for a second time against Vélez Sarsfield.
A disjointed team performance once again starved on-loan striker Dani Osvaldo of service and it was no real surprise when Fabián Cubero headed Vélez in front twenty minutes from time.
Fernando Gago was sent off for a late challenge with Boca pushing for an equaliser and moments later Mariano Pavone ended any hopes when he tapped in a second.
The result meant that Boca were leapfrogged by rivals River but remain just three points off the top. Next weekend’s clash with Newell’s in La Bombonera takes on even greater importance with Boca desperate to halt this dip in form.
3. Newell’s part ways with Gallego after draw
A side sitting seventh in the table is not the most obvious candidate to be firing their manager but Newell’s Old Boys said farewell to Américo Gallego this week following the disappointing 1-1 draw against Banfield in Rosario.
With matches against Boca and Racing up next and arguably an easier first half of the season, Newell’s decided that El Tolo was not the man to lead them forward.
On Saturday, Maxi Rodríguez fired them in front but it was almost immediately cancelled out by Mauricio Cuero and it was the visitors who looked the more likely to take all three points. In recent years, Newell’s have set themselves very high standards but in recent seasons and certainly under Gallego, La Lepra have not looked anything like the side that won the Torneo Final 2013 and went to the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores.
The appointment of Gallego in the first place was not one that truly inspired after a series of failed attempts at promoting from within. The rumours about Gallego’s replacement being recently retired, Lucas Bernardi might see Newell’s return to that strategy of young coaches who know the club well.
4. Independiente end winless run and now must appoint new manager
The run of seven matches without a win that ultimately cost Jorge Almirón his job was ended on Saturday night in the Estadio Libertadores de América as intermin boss Fernando Berón oversaw a 1-0 victory over Tigre. Without the injured Federico Mancuello and against an in-form Tigre side it was never likely to be an easy evening for El Rojo and so it proved. Lucas Albertengo headed his eighth goal of the season after only eleven minutes but injuries and the sending off of Jesús Méndez saw Tigre finish the far stronger. Independiente were able to hold on for an invaluable three points and end their terrible run of form but president Hugo Moyano must now step-up his search for a new manager.
It would appear that former Estudiantes manager, Mauricio Pellegrino is close to being named despite sections of the supporters voicing their disapproval. This comes after several other candidates counted themselves out and with the pressure on the board to appoint someone soon, Pellegrino looks to be the man.
5. San Lorenzo outright leaders approaching halfway
For much of 2015 San Lorenzo have done just enough and rarely impressed but Friday’s victory over Quilmes saw Edgardo Bauza’s side sit atop of the Primera league table and as we approach the half way mark, Los Cuervos have to be genuine title challengers.
After their Copa Libertadores exit and accusations of negative football, Bauza found himself under pressure but fourteen matches into the 2015 season and San Lorenzo are not only top but have only been outscored by River and have the best defensive record aside from Racing.
El Ciclón will be in the mix come the end of the season and it is interesting to see that the traditional giants of Argentine football are now those that are battling for the title. For the last few years it has been Vélez and Newell’s dominating but the reemergence of Boca, River and Racing (Independiente still have some catching up to do) could see a title race that Argentine football has not witnessed in a while.