The Primera’s team to beat, Lanús are title favourites
Lanús beating Banfield comfortably in Sunday’s Clásico del Sur came as little surprise but an eighth win in ten league games has Jorge Almirón’s side now as overwhelming favourites for the Zone Two title and a place in the Transición Final.
From front to back, El Granate are a well-oiled outfit and while their competitors in Zone Two struggle for form or are distracted by Copa Libertadores duties, Lanús quietly go about extending their lead at the top of the table. Fernando Monetti proved himself as one of the Primera’s top goalkeepers with Gimnasia but is now backing that up with the assured performances expected of champions. He is protected by the solid defensive partnership of Diego Braghieri and Gustavo Gómez and the loan signing of attacking right back José Luis Gómez has proved a masterstroke.
But aside from having the best defence in the top flight, Lanús pose a significant goal threat. Veteran striker Jose Sand leads the goalscoring charts with eleven goals already but his overall contribution is vital, giving a focal point to the attack that allows those more dynamic, like Lautaro Acosta, Pablo Mouche, Miguel Almirón or Román Martínez to run off him.
With only six games remaining against some of Argentina’s weakest sides, respectfully, El Granate look almost certainties for a place in the final.
Copa Libertadores takes it toll as Boca, River, Racing & Central all drop points
This Transición is proving to be an odd season even by Argentine standards and the ramifications on next year’s Copa Libertadores are significant. Rosario Central and Huracán are perhaps the only sides from this year’s participants who may yet lift the Primera title and while many of the others have written off their chances, qualification for the Libertadores 2017 is looking increasingly difficult. Only one team can lift this year’s tournament and therefore qualify automatically and so the top sides from each of the zones with occupy another four places.
Central have managed to balance their commitments more or less but Eduardo Coudet saw his unbeaten home record ended on Sunday evening by Vélez, probably more in part to Javier Pinola’s silly sending off than cup fatigue.
But elsewhere, Boca Juniors and Racing both tasted away defeats ahead of their huge Libertadores clash on Wednesday and River Plate surrendered a two-goal lead at home to Sarmiento.
All six of Argentina’s Libertadores representatives are strong sides but the nature of the Primera and qualification could see some surprising faces join the field in 2017.
Arsenal and Estudiantes make surprising title challenges
The two sides currently occupying second in Zone One and Two are Arsenal and Estudiantes and while others around them falter with six games to play, both are making unlikely title challenges.
Arsenal’s undoubtedly comes as the bigger shock given that they finished 28th in the Torneo 2015 and won just seven matches all year. Under Sergio Rondina, El Viaducto are already one off matching that tally after just ten matches and sit just two points behind Godoy Cruz at the top of the table. Rondina hasn’t reinvented the wheel but he has organised the side and after shipping 44 goals last season, they now have the best defensive record in Zone One. A difficult run-in will probably see Arsenal fall short but as each work passes and they defy expectations, who knows.
Estudiantes required a last-minute penalty to beat Atlético Tucumán and ensure Lanús don’t run away with Zone Two but as things stand El Pincha look the only team that could stop the leaders. Six wins from the last seven, Estudiantes are in excellent form and are already eyeing a return to the Copa Libertadores. Academy product Santiago Ascacibar has proved a revelation in central midfield but with Gata Fernández, Augusto Solari, Facundo Quintana and Carlos Auzqui, manager Nelson Vivas has a variety of match winners available.
Pressure increases on Pellegrino after Independiente fail to find the net
Perhaps Independiente’s only saving grace this weekend was those side’s at the top of Zone One also failing to win and therefore El Rojo not losing any ground after a woefully inept, goalless draw against Olimpo.
Following a summer of investment and without the distraction of any cup competitions, Independiente were supposed to challenge for a first league title since 2002. However, ten games in and supporters are concerned that Mauricio Pellegrino’s side still have not found an semblance of form.
The often maligned defence actually remains relatively solid but it is in attack where Independiente fail to have any convincing form of strategy. Given the players available to Pellegrino for four of their ten matches to end without a goal is not good enough. If there were mitigating circumstances or supporters could see an improvement perhaps the levels of frustration wouldn’t be so high but as it is another season of disappointment looks likely in Avellaneda.
Winless Argentinos Juniors remain in serious danger
Sooner or later, Argentinos Juniors need to start winning games as they sit uncomfortably at the foot of the descenso table and are the only team in the top flight yet to record a victory.
Four consecutive defeats at the start of the season saw Los Bichos call time on manager Carlos Mayor but there has been little improvement since Raul Sanzotti took over. Yes, the losing steak ended immediately with a goalless draw at home against Temperley but since then, Argentinos Juniors have failed to score. Sanzotti has taken charge of five matches and is yet to witness a goal. Three of the games have ended in draws but it has done little to lift the threat of relegation.
Sunday’s visit of Newell’s was the perfect opportunity but Luciano Cabral’s second half penalty miss summed up just how bleak things are in La Paternal at the moment. Yet to play Lanús, Boca and Racing it is difficult at this stage to see where the points are going to come from.
Plus ALL the goals from Round Ten….