Four points separate the top six in Zone One
For the second consecutive weekend only two of the top six sides in Zone One secured three points and so with five matches remaining, it is beginning to look a little congested. Quite who will end up in the 2017 Copa Libertadores or in the Transición final is anyone’s guess at this stage but certainly the pre-season view that Zone One is more competitive is holding true.
Favourites Rosario Central lost to title rivals San Lorenzo on Sunday in Bajo Flores and Eduardo Coudet is finding out just how difficult balancing the Copa Libertadores with the league can be. While Los Cuervos have limped out of continential competition, their Primera form has taken an upturn and they have recorded three consecutive wins. Central on the other hand, progress in the Libertadores but now have just one win in six matches and have dropped to fifth.
That is still just three points off the lead and so Central remain realistic winners of Zone One. Godoy Cruz managed a point away to Gimnasia to remain at the top alongside San Lorenzo, and they are chased by Arsenal and Independiente.
With only five matches remaining but round twelve being all the clásicos, the picture could be clearer this time next week. Certainly Godoy Cruz benefit from having a weaker clásico rival than say San Lorenzo or Independiente but it’s a 30-team league, of course it’s ridiculous.
Estudiantes cling to the coattails of Lanús in Zone Two
In direct contrast with Zone One, Lanús appear to have one foot in at least the Copa Libertadores but given their form and run-in, are perhaps in a position where the Zone Two title is theirs to lose.
A fortuitous injury time penalty converted by leading scorer Pepe Sand gave El Granate victory over Atlético Rafaela, on an afternoon where it looked as though Jorge Almirón’s table-toppers would be frustrated. Such a stroke of good fortune made it four consecutive wins and with five very winnable matches remaining it is tough to see Lanús dropping too many more points.
Given Huracán’s defeat to Newell’s, it felt as though if Estudiantes weren’t successful in also gaining three points, the title race would be as good as over. Thankfully a Lucas Viatri brace handed El Pincha victory over San Martín and kept things interesting. A three point gap remains but as long as Nelson Vivas’ side can continue winning they have a chance.
Pablo Guede survives as San Lorenzo claim a huge win over Central
Another Copa Libertadores group stage exit and a creaking defence that has shown few signs of improvement since preseason, Pablo Guede was under immense pressure as San Lorenzo boss ahead of the visit of Rosario Central on Sunday. Defeat would have been a serious dent to their Primera title aspirations and would have left Guede a clásico defeat to Huracán away from the chop.
Last weekend’s victory away to Godoy Cruz was important but coupled with Sunday’s win over Central is six points taken from two direct competitors. When Marco Ruben put Central ahead early many would have been excused for thinking it would be another painful afternoon for Los Cuervos but Caruzzo’s header and Franco Mussis’ sensational winner gave the home side a hard fought three points.
The Copa Libertadores may have been a disaster but there remains a fight in San Lorenzo that might just save Pablo Guede his job and could yet help capture the 2016 Transición title.
Boca & River both win ahead of superclásico
Boca and River took the opportunity to rest several players ahead of a their final Copa Libertadores group stage matches and crucially next weekend’s superclásico but both enjoyed victories to serve as a confidence boost to fringe squad members. Boca’s place in the Libertadores last 16 and only a freakish result would see River eliminated but all eyes are on Sunday’s showdown in La Bombonera.
18-year-old Alexís Messidoro stole the headlines from Boca’s 4-1 win over Aldosivi with a goal on his debut while Leonardo Pisculichi headed the match winner for River against Olimpo in Bahía Blanca. For the two giants, patchy league form has seen any hopes of a title challenge already disappear and with Copa Libertadores qualification all but sealed, bragging rights are all that are left to play for.
The previous superclásico was a dreadful goalless draw less than a week after Guillermo Barros Schelotto had taken over at Boca. A couple of months on and neither side are exactly in top form but eager for superclásico superiority, La Bombonera will be the focus of attention on Sunday.
Big week ahead for Racing and Independiente
The Clásico de Avellaneda is always a significant date in the calendar for both Racing and Independiente but for La Academia they have arguably a far more important match to contend with before locking horns with their local rivals.
On Wednesday evening Facundo Sava takes his team to La Paz where they must avoid defeat to Bolívar to ensure the safe passage to the Copa Libertadores last 16. The long journey and what should be a gruelling encounter at altitude is hardly ideal preparation for the clásico but it is vital to Racing, after seeing any hopes of a Transición challenge evaporate. La Academia’s 2-2 draw with Argentinos Juniors was the latest example of points dropped and sloppy defending that have plagued Racing since injury to Luciano Lollo.
While Independiente have a week to prepare after an improved 2-0 win against Vélez, the match against Racing will have far greater repercussions on their title hopes. Racing’s Transición is all but over but victory would probably end Independiente’s challenge and so both sides have as much motivation as ever.
ALL the goals from Round Eleven….