Clásicos are undoubtedly the biggest games in football, with not only points up for grabs, but those all important bragging rights too. Win, and you’ve got the right to make sly digs at colleagues and relatives for weeks to come. Lose, and well, you can’t really be held responsible for whatever happens next. This Sunday afternoon, there’s three of Argentina’s finest to get stuck into – here’s all you need to know:
Boca Juniors vs River Plate – The Superclásico
In terms of derbies, they certainly don’t come much bigger than this. 75 percent of Argentina’s football-loving population support one of the two teams, so as former River player Mario Kempes once put it, when Boca and River meet, “they are not just fighting for Buenos Aires – the whole country is involved”.
Both here and across the world, the rivalry is a well-documented one – Argentina’s two most prolific sides (River have won the league 36 times, Boca 31), characterised by a historic turf-war and subsequent social divide, and this Sunday will be no exception.
Going into the game, Boca are four points clear of Newell’s Old Boys at the top of the league table, whilst River are on the ascent and can make a late title challenge should they come away with the three points. Los Millonarios can travel to Boca with relative confidence, too, as they have only been defeated three times away at Boca since the turn of the decade – although you can never underestimate the influence of a packed-out Bombonera on a game:
Thanks to its pretty heated nature, however, any kind of ‘form’ displayed by teams in the run-up to the fixture can be thrown out of the window, as it often comes down to whichever team is more up for it and the occasional flash of individual brilliance.
As such, Boca will be glad to have playmaker Ricardo Centurion back from injury for the game alongside striker Dario Benedetto, who has 14 goals so far this season.
Earlier this week, River coach Marcelo Gallardo said his team were “going to La Bombonera to win”. Meanwhile, Guillermo Barros Schelotto met with President and ex-Boca chairman Mauricio Macri at la Casa Rosada – so you never know, a win for the Xeneize might leave us with a last-minute bank holiday come Monday.
Whatever the outcome, the Superclásico will, as always, be a huge spectacle regardless of your preference in teams or the sport in general. Strap in.
Boca vs River kicks off this Sunday at 17:00, and will be shown on Fox Sports.
Newell’s Old Boys vs Rosario Central
Dubbed the ‘clásico del interior’, the Rosario derby is regarded as the biggest clash outside of Buenos Aires and is by no means less fiery than the Capital’s version. Just this week, Newell’s barras (teams’ organised ultras) came under fire for displaying a banner that encouraged the killing of Rosario fans:
Un golpe a la campaña de los protagonistas contra la violencia: fuertes mensajes contra Central en el banderazo de Newell’s. pic.twitter.com/UMkG0AcSk7
— SportsCenter (@SC_ESPN) May 11, 2017
“A blow to the campaign of those against violence: strong messages against Central in the Newell’s display.”
But, aside from the violence, the rivalry carries a heap of tales which add to its magic. Among them is the story of how the two gained their nicknames – Central refused to play in a game for a Leprosy challenge, leaving themselves with the “canallas” (scoundrels) moniker. Newell’s duly stepped in to play the match and have been dubbed “Los Leprosos” ever since, although I’m not really sure who pulled the short straw, to be honest.
Football-wise, Newell’s come into the game four points behind first-placed Boca Juniors after losing 4-2 to Independiente last weekend. Central, meanwhile, are in eleventh position and will be looking to kickstart the kind of form that saw them win five consecutive matches before their 2-1 defeat to San Lorenzo last Sunday.
Captain Maxi Rodriguez grabbed a last minute winner to claim victory for Newell’s on Central turf earlier this season and so Rosario will no doubt be seeking revenge come Sunday.
Newell’s vs Central kicks off at 15:00 this Sunday and will be available to watch on Canal 13
Racing Club vs Independiente
While the Superclásico may dominate conversation in Buenos Aires’ Capital, over in Avellanada there is only one derby that matters – a rivalry based on proximity and a topsy-turvy history of success (less so in recent years) and failure that has made this match an irresistible prospect season upon season.
For one, the stadiums – Racing’s El Cilindro and the venue for this weekend’s clash, Independiente’s Estadio Libertadores de America – sit just a cozy 300 meters apart, meaning the two can often end up stepping on eachother’s toes.
Although recent seasons haven’t delivered particularly dazzling results for either side (although Racing did just miss out on the league title two years ago), the mid-20th century saw a constant and captivating exchange of bragging rights.
In the 50s and 60s, Racing, aka La Academia, dominated Argentine football by winning three consecutive league titles and were the first Argentine club to lift the Intercontinental title, in 1967. Los Rojos had their say in the ’70’s, however, winning an astounding four consecutive Copa Libertadores titles between 1972 and 1975.
This season, Racing have shown glimpses of title-worthy quality and were previously involved in the top of the table conversation before slipping down to sixth place in recent weeks. Independiente aren’t too far behind, either, just four points behind in ninth.
Independiente vs Racing kicks off at 19:00 this Sunday and will be shown on telefe