Well, last weekend’s football was rubbish, wasn’t it? It turns out having a whole lot of high-pressure, tension-filled rivalry matches all on one weekend is disastrous for an otherwise high-scoring league’s goals-per-game average. Even in last weekend’s non-derby matches the goal average was notably higher than in the clásicos. But this weekend there are no big derbies, so we can get back to enjoying ourselves (hopefully)!
When’s Messi Playing?
The Spanish title race is tighter than something very tight at present, and the two Madrid clubs, Real and Atlético, will already have played their matches by the time Barcelona visits Real Betis on Saturday at 3:30 PM, hoping to maintain (or extend) its slim lead at the top. You’ll need DirecTV (or a dodgy Internet stream) to watch this one; it’s on channel 610 (or 1610 in HD).
What Are This Weekend’s Big Sunday Games?
There aren’t any! This is no doubt going to disappoint a lot of fans but as someone who watches as many matches as possible it’s an absolute pleasure to report that the feriado for Workers’ Day means no football on Sunday in Argentina (because footballers are workers too. As are all the folk who staff the stadiums). Instead we’ll be settling down to a lot of matches on Saturday, a few on Friday and Monday and one on Tuesday.
The highest-profile match of the weekend is the all-Big Five clash between Independiente and San Lorenzo in Avellaneda. Technically this is a clásico, but it’s what we could term a ‘secondary’ one as these teams’ biggest rivalries aren’t with each other (they’re Racing and Huracán respectively, for those who weren’t paying attention last weekend). Both teams are doing well enough in Group 1 that they’re hoping for Copa Libertadores qualification, and with four games of the group stage to go, both still have realistic ambitions of getting into the title playoff.
San Lorenzo is level on 24 points with Godoy Cruz at the top of the group, and Independiente is four points back in fourth. A win for either side could do serious damage to its opponent’s title hopes, and with Independiente having discovered a newly solid defensive foundation this year, this should be an interesting clash of styles against Pablo Guede’s high-pressing, forward-looking team.
And we’ve been even luckier with the fixture list this weekend, because the teams in first and third of Group 1 also play against each other: Godoy Cruz hosts Arsenal de Sarandí at 5:15 PM on Saturday. If you’d told me at the start of the year that come this weekend I’d be picking this out at a must-watch game, I’d have thought you were mad, but the transformation in both teams compared with last year has been night and day.
Godoy Cruz’s young team has been one of the revelations of the championship along with Group 2 leaders Lanús, attacking with abandon and leading its group on goal difference ahead of San Lorenzo; Arsenal, one of the worst teams in the whole league in 2015, looks like a completely different team this term as well, and its current four match unbeaten run is its best streak since the second half of 2013. With both teams liking to attack, this should be a good, open game.
Feeling Sorry For Group 2?
This weekend I think it’s fair to say the fixture list doesn’t look as intriguing on the other side of the league. Huracán v Racing (Saturday, 6 PM) could be one to miss, with both teams in between Copa Libertadores last 16 matches and therefore likely to rotate their squads; for a similar reason, Boca Juniors’ visit to Argentinos Juniors (Sat, 8:10 PM) in the clásico juniorsense (which is a joke I make every time these teams play each other because I’m hilarious, but is not a real clásico) is a clash between a likely reserve team (Boca) and a team which is terrible (Argentinos). Boca will probably win, but I wouldn’t recommend watching.
One fixture that does look interesting is Tigre v Lanús (Mon, 7 PM). Lanús leads the group by five points and is closing in on a definite place in the championship final; this seems like a foregone conclusion but Tigre, inconsistent though it is, has produced the odd impressive performance and could be dangerous at home. In truth, this is probably going to be an away win, but Tigre’s occasional inspired performances mean there’s sufficient intrigue to make this worth catching.
Elsewhere, Defensa y Justicia v San Martín (Sat, 7:30 PM) doesn’t immediately leap out of the fixture list but is, nonetheless, a chance to catch the nearly always high-scoring host in action, as it seeks once again to prove that attack is the best form of Defensa (another hilarious joke, I’m sure you’ll agree).
Any Games To Miss?
Yes, there are. Patronato v Atlético de Rafaela (Fri, 9:15 PM) is a relegation battle – perhaps not for this campaign, but with Argentina’s average points system it could prove crucial for next season’s standings. These can often be entertaining in a frantic sort of way, but I doubt this one will be. It’s Friday night; you’ve got better things to do, surely.