Only four games in but Golazo regular Jimmy Lee has seen enough to make some bold predications about the rest of the Superliga season…
As round four of the Superliga has just been completed, we head into a weekend of international matches, which means, a weekend without domestic football. When there is no football to be played, media and pundits start looking for things to talk about. These topics can range from the obvious to the obscene.
So, as we head into the break, it’s a good time to take a few of these topics on and jump to some of our own conclusions. The season may only be 16% complete, but that shouldn’t stop us from joining in on the ridiculousness that is the Argentine media. So here we go…
Boca Juniors reign as champion is over
For two straight seasons Boca has managed to win the title without convincing us that they were the best team in Argentina. Based on the lead they had over everyone else in the table, it was obvious they were the best team, but the performances we watched from the Xeneizes each week had us questioning how good they truly were.
In years past, Boca would win matches because they clearly had the most talent on the pitch. Already this season, twice Boca has dropped points in matches they probably would have won the last two seasons. The blue and gold currently sit 4th in the table, just three points back of leaders Racing Club. Within a week or two, Boca could once again claim their spot at the top.
On paper, Boca’s most convincing win this season was the most recent 3-0 defeat over Vélez Sarsfield. But the score line doesn’t tell the story of another match in which Boca struggled to play together as a team and only left the pitch with three points thanks to a few moments of individual brilliance (and maybe some help from the referee). The Xeneizes advanced in the Copa Libertadores and will continue to need to manage their club between both competitions.
Boca Juniors still has the most talent and depth of anyone in Argentina, but Racing’s defeat at the hands of River in the Libertadores may be a blessing for La Academia who can now focus solely on building their lead at the top of the Superliga table.
Juan Fernando Quintero is the best player in Argentina
Remember back to the World Cup when Argentina desperately needed a player in the midfield who could link the defense to the frontline, or in other words, a player who could get Messi the ball in dangerous positions? Unfortunately, while that perfect player does play his professional football in Argentina, he is Colombian.
Juanfer Quintero missed River’s first leg against Racing and the first match of the Superliga as he returned slowly from his World Cup summer. Once he finally returned to action for Los Millionarios, it was clear that he was the best player on the pitch.
Quintero can see the runs his teammates will make even before they know they’re going the make the run. While River has had a slow start to the season, none of the blame can be given to the Colombian playmaker. If the rest of the club could step up their play and even get close to the 25-year old’s brilliance, River would win the league by ten points. That’s how much better Juanfer is than anyone else in the Superliga right now.
The first manager fired will be… Omar De Felippe
Success is based on comparing expectations to reality. No team has had a bigger gap between expectations and reality than Newell’s Old Boys. After four matches, La Lepra currently sit second to bottom in the table. Newell’s have managed one draw and three defeats and while they have had moments where they look like a competent team, the majority of each match they look like a side that doesn’t care if they win or lose.
Newell’s lost 11 matches in 2018, more than any other club. While De Filippe was not at the helm for all those matches, he was hired in March to help get the club out of the hole they found themselves in. Unfortunately, that hole has gotten deeper.
La Lepra is still 8 points above the top of the relegation zone, but if they don’t start to pick up points soon, they may find themselves pulled down into that fight very quickly. And if they aren’t relegated this season, they may all but be relegated before next season kicks off. Play this poor from one of the most important clubs in Argentina, especially when their biggest rivals are on the opposite side of the table, usually means the manager’s time with the club is coming to an end.
The current bottom four in the relegation zone will be relegated
Last season from the first weekend of matches until the last, it was clear who the relegated clubs would be. This season, there are as many as 12 teams that either are, or could be soon, sucked down into promedios battle. The current bottom four are San Martín de Tucumán, Tigre, Patronato, and San Martín de San Juan.
Belgrano are just one point above the drop zone in 22nd and Huracan are 11 points clear in 15th. Aldosivi currently sit 12th in the promedios table, but if they lose their next match on the road to Estudiantes, they will fall right back into the thick of the fight.
At this point, I would all but guarantee Tigre and Patronato will be relegated. Tigre has been one of the most entertaining clubs to watch, but they are ten points clear of safety and have an almost impossible hill to climb. Patronato have been the worst club in the league and I don’t see a way out of it for them (maybe it’s time they call the relegation savior, Caruso Lombardi). The remaining two spots in the B Nacional are up for grabs.
It’s still too early to judge San Martín de Tucumán. They seem like a club that will likely struggle on the road but earn points at home in front of their raucous supporters. San Martín de San Juan earned five early points in the season, but all from other relegation candidates, Belgrano, Patronato, and Tigre. The rest of their matches will not be so easy. While I think the current bottom four will all be relegated, I think Gimnasia is the most likely club to replace one of the four in next seasons B Nacional.
Tigre will be relegated and qualify for the Sudamericana
The top nine clubs this season qualify for the Sudamericana. Last season, 9th place in the table had 44 points in a 27-match campaign. Let’s assume the same points average will hold up this season, to get ninth in the table, Tigre would need to reach 40 points. If they reached 40 points this season, that would give them a 1.158 promedio, moving them up only one spot and remaining in the relegation zone.
While these results are not taking into effect what the other teams around them might do, it does paint the picture that Tigre has an almost impossible task to remain in the Superliga for an additional year.
Even amongst the relegation battle, Los Matadores have been one of the best offensive teams in the league this season. Tigre has scored eight goals, which puts them second, just behind Racing. However, Tigre have also conceded six.
After three 2-2 draws and a 2-0 win, they are seventh in the table on six points, currently in a Sudamericana spot. Cristian Ledesma has been an excellent manager so far and knows that his club’s only hope is to attack, score goals, and try and win matches. His current tactics may be successful enough to help the first-time manager lead them to international competitions next season. Unfortunately, he will likely be managing the club domestically in the second division.
River, San Lorenzo, Independiente will miss out on Copa Libertadores spots
Los Millionarios and El Ciclón have managed four draws this season while El Rojo have two draws and one defeat (their week one match was postponed). Four points, four points, and two points for the three clubs, respectively. Of the three, River has looked the best, but have struggled to score. Both Independiente and San Lorenzo have had good moments but have yet to play a solid 90 minutes. All three clubs have been involved and advanced in international competitions, which could have played a factor in their lackluster starts to the season.
The season is still young, and I would expect better performances from all three in the future. I think River and Independiente will both settle in nicely into one of the Sudamericana spots, possibly battle for a Libertadores spot. But San Lorenzo will finish the season just outside the international cup spots, likely somewhere in the midtable.
Jimmy lived in Córdoba, Argentina as a teenager and is still an active Socio for his beloved club, Belgrano. He currently lives in Seattle, WA and loves to write about football when he has a break from work and family. He also runs the Belgrano – English twitter account.