Reversing Julio Grondona’s hair-brained scheme for a 30-team Primera División and eventually get back to a sensible number of top flight clubs playing over a year long championship that runs parallel to the European calendar was never likely to be easy. Boca Juniors ran out winners of the Torneo 2015 and this year, we have a new transitional tournament over the first part of the year and just to mix it up the 30 sides have been split into two groups of 15. The winners of each will face each other in a final to decide the overall champions but Argentine football doesn’t get any more appealing to the outsider.
The two zones
Obviously with 30 teams in the Primera and a need to get the tournament wrapped up by May, the AFA could not have every team play each other in a usual league format so they have been split into two groups of fifteen. But fifteen is an odd number, how do they all play every weekend? Well, the AFA have resolved this by scheduling an ‘interzonal’ match in each round – each clubs corresponding clásico. So River’s ‘interzonal’ clash is against Boca, Independiente’s with Racing and so on (except not all the club’s have a natural clásico rival so as they did in 2015, the AFA just made some up.)
Not enough clásico action for you? Well never fear because the AFA have kept the round of matches solely for clásicos as they had in 2015. Round 12 at the end of April will see all 30 teams play their corresponding grudge matches – like the recently created derby clash between Belgrano and newly promoted Atlético Tucumán from only 600 km down the road.
So at the end of the 16-match season, there will be two winners – the champions of Zona A and the champions from Zona B will meet at a neutral stadium on May 29th to decide the overall league champions.
Interestingly this tournament will dictate which sides go forward to the 2017 Copa Libertadores but will have no bearing on the Copa Sudamericana. The champions, the runners up and the two runners up from each zone, plus the Copa Argentina champions will all qualify for the Libertadores.
At the other end of the spectrum, there will be only one relegation from this tournament, as usual decided upon using the promedio average system.
One thing to note is that Zona B would appear far more straight-forward than Zona A and Boca Juniors will certainly be far more pleased with the draw than River Plate will be. Boca’s main competition should come from Racing Club but outside of their ‘Big Five’ rival it is difficult to see a real title challenge. Lanús, Newell’s, Estudiantes and Huracán were all wildly inconsistent last season and it is difficult to see any major improvement at present.
In Zona A meanwhile, River will need to contend with Independiente, San Lorenzo, Rosario Central and Belgrano all of which made up the top sides in 2015. Topping this group, particularly when factoring in two difficult clásicos (particularly in the cases of River and Independiente) will be tough.