Another round of Primera División action gets underway on Friday evening, and the biggest intrigue (if you’re a bit sick) might be which manager is about to lose his job. Claudio Vivas is set to be moved ‘downstairs’ to Banfield’s reserve and youth system, to make way for the return of Julio César Falcioni, and that will be the eighth change of manager in as many rounds (Mauro Camoranesi was sacked as Tigre boss just yesterday, after losing 2-1 at home to Huracán in the game postponed from the second round). So which teams are looking to impress and which need to turn around bad form this weekend?
Never Mind All That! When’s Messi Playing?
I’m glad you asked. Barcelona visits Villarreal at 12 noon (Argentine time) on Sunday; down here, it’ll be televised on ESPN2.
I Can’t Wait That Long! Isn’t There Anything In The Meantime?
Yes, of course there is. Have you been paying any attention while you’ve been in Argentina? The principal attraction this weekend, tension-wise, is as ever the clásico, and this week’s is as tasty as any of them; Colón takes on Unión for bragging rights in the big clásico santafesino (Santa Fe derby; Saturday, 3:30 PM). Colón is at home, and the form book has it as the favorite; after a strong start, it suffered three consecutive defeats before a spectacular revival against River Plate last weekend, when three goals in six minutes helped it to a 4-1 win. Unión has managed only one clean sheet – and one win – this year, and let in six against Racing a couple of weeks ago.
But all is not lost for the visitor. For one thing, recent games between these two have been pretty even, and for another we never quite know which Colón is going to turn up lately. Even last week, its win – however impressive in scoreline – owed more than a little to River totally collapsing for a brief period in the middle of the second half just after Ignacio Fernández had been sent off. And Unión at least knows how to score goals, even if it concedes too many of them as well.
Any Other Interesting Match-Ups?
After River Plate’s capitulation to Colón last weekend, it rallied the troops and put in an impressive shift at the altitude of La Paz on Wednesday; the kick in the teeth was that again, too many defensive errors ended up costing the team, as a late equaliser from the home side meant River had to settle for a 1-1 draw with The Strongest (which in case you’re wondering might not even be the best football club name in La Paz). Mistakes aside, though, the overall performance gave reasons for an injection of confidence, so when River hosts Banfield (Sunday, 5:45 PM) we should be in for an entertaining game, and partly because Banfield also likes to attack and seems to be having similar issues in defense (there’s a reason, I suppose, that they’re bringing back Falcioni starting next week).
Two unbeaten records fell last weekend, with Lanús and Rosario Central both losing for the first time in the league this year. Lanús’ defeat to Racing wasn’t too surprising and it was a very good match, but the test of its mettle now is going to be stern, as it hosts Boca Juniors (Sunday, 8 PM). Enlivened by Carlos Tevez’s late winner on Monday to claim the first win of the Guillermo Barros Schelotto era, Boca should be a tough opponent, so the question of whether the visitor can turn its recent improvement into a genuine run of good form, or the host can get right back to winning ways should produce an interesting answer.
The other team to lose for the first time (in the league, at least) was Rosario Central, and that result was more surprising; against one of the promoted teams (Patronato), Eduardo Coudet’s men should have expected a comfortable win, especially since the manager’s response to the problem of how to juggle the requirements of league and Copa Libertadores has been to unashamedly prioritize the league. This time round, Central hosts Sarmiento (Monday, 7 PM), and fans will expect nothing less than victory to quickly get things back on track. One thing that might help is that the team has already had a chance to get the monkey of last weekend’s defeat off its back; an impressive 3-1 win away to River Plate of Uruguay last night in the Libertadores ensured that the rot isn’t going to set in just yet.
Any Others That Might Be Worth Keeping An Eye On?
I wouldn’t say the following have quite the same amount of interest as those mentioned above, but also worth a look could be Independiente v Patronato (Saturday, 8 PM), when we’ll find out whether Patronato can follow up that brilliant win over Central last weekend in another very demanding fixture, and Belgrano v Vélez Sarsfield (Saturday, 5:45 PM), in which both teams will be looking to bounce back from surprise defeats last time out. Racing and San Lorenzo fans, I’m not leaving you out; it’s just that your matches (respectively, away to Atlético de Rafaela at 9:15 PM on Monday and away to Quilmes at 3:30 PM on Sunday) look like big mis-matches to me. Almost as big as Patronato v Central looked before last weekend, in fact…
And What Should I Definitely Not Set Aside The Time For?
Tigre v Newell’s Old Boys (Monday, 9:15 PM) is one of the last two games of the weekend and, frankly, looks the least interesting. All of the others have got at least one team with something going for it, even if in the case of Huracán v Temperley (Sunday, 8 PM) the point of interest is mostly which Huracán team is going to turn up.