We’ve got a rainy weekend ahead of us in Buenos Aires, if the weather forecast is to be believed, but despair not! We’ve also got one of the world’s most entertaining (or at least, goal-filled) football championships, and there’s another full weekend of action ahead on mostly free-to-air TV, so settle down in your nice dry living room (you got that leaky ceiling fixed, right?) and pay attention…
When’s Messi Playing?
Little Lionel isn’t in the best form of his career at present, to put it mildly, but class, as the sporting cliché goes, is permanent, so this remains a salient question. This weekend, Barcelona hosts Valencia on Sunday at 3:30 PM Argentine time. It’ll be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3. No, I don’t know why ESPN do that.
What Are The Domestic Highlights?
San Lorenzo v Rosario Central (Sunday, 3:30 PM) looks like the pick of the weekend, to me (making it slightly annoying it’s on at the same time as the above-mentioned Messi game). In a highly entertaining championship all round so far, Group 1 has been probably just about the better one, and these clubs are right up there challenging for it. Central is third and San Lorenzo fourth, both on 18 points and separated only by goal difference; either could go top of the group with a win, if Godoy Cruz and Arsenal de Sarandí drop points in their matches.
There’s midweek psychology to add to the mix, as well. Central will be flying high after securing qualification to the Copa Libertadores round of 16 on Thursday night with an impressive 2-0 win over Nacional in Montevideo; the home team, meanwhile, is much less happy with its Libertadores showing, having seen its own 2-1 loss to Toluca on Tuesday night combine with Grêmio’s 3-2 win away to Liga de Quito to eliminate San Lorenzo at the group stage. The atmosphere will be interesting to watch, given some fans’ frustration with Pablo Guede, whose attacking style has translated into too many goals conceded without significantly increasing the number scored.
And as well as all that, this is plain and simply a clash between two teams who like to get forward as much as possible and are both having defensive issues. Plus Central playmaker Giovanni Lo Celso will probably be playing in it. I can’t think of any reason not to watch it.
And If You Want Something From Leftfield…
Atlético Tucumán v Defensa y Justicia (Saturday, 4:15 PM) should be good. No, hear me out! For starters, those of you who are reading this in Buenos Aires: have you left your building today? If not, have you looked out the window? Do you think all that rain is likely to be conducive to playing surfaces allowing slick, coherent, beautiful football for the games taking place in and around the capital? (Games, admittedly, which include the one I just said would be the weekend highlight above.)
Atlético v Defensa is being played in Tucumán. I’ve just checked the website of the Servicio Meteorológico Nacional, and according to them it’s not raining in Tucumán right now, and isn’t going to rain there until after the game (some time on Saturday evening). And when did you ever hear of them getting things wrong? So, the weather’s not an issue, for starters.
And secondly, these might be two of the least fashionable teams in the whole of the Primera, but right now they also happen to be two of the best to watch. Atlético has lost a few, sure, including last week (3-2 away to Estudiantes), but it likes to attack, has largely taken any relegation pressure off itself with a fantastic run of form early in the season, and is formidable at home, where it’s won four and drawn one of its five games. Defensa y Justicia meanwhile is just one place and three points behind the host in Group 2, is the second top scoring team in the whole of the Primera, and seems to be enjoying this campaign even though it suffered three straight defeats before last week’s win over Temperley. Seriously, watch this match. It should be a good one.
Also falling into the ‘could be a more than decent game’ category is Boca Juniors v Aldosivi (Saturday, 6:30 PM).
What’s This Weekend’s Big Derby?
There isn’t one. Temperley v Quilmes (Sunday, 5:45 PM) fills the ‘drawn out of a hat as a made-up clásico’ role as the inter-group match this weekend. The proper rivals get to take it relatively easy this time out because next weekend, they’ve all got to play each other (which is going to make next weekend’s preview awkward to write). Temperley v Quilmes also doesn’t look like a very promising match anyway, for the neutral, given both teams’ form. Which probably means it’ll be a cracker.
Which Games Should I Avoid?
Anything involving Argentinos Juniors is a nailed-on snooze-fest, and even this weekend that looks unlikely to change. Argentinos visits Racing (Saturday, 8:45 PM), and the home team will be playing with an entirely or almost entirely reserve lineup. That’s because Wednesday evening’s Copa Libertadores defeat to Boca Juniors, combined with the other result in that group, mean Racing has no choice but to field all its starters in midweek; it needs to win, draw, or suffer no more than a one-goal defeat in order to advance beyond the group stage, and given the match is at the altitude of La Paz, it can’t afford to take any risks. That’s likely to weigh heavy on this weekend’s game (as is the fact Argentinos is unwatchable).
River Plate is more comfortable than Racing in its Libertadores group (it can be eliminated, but it’s highly unlikely), but will probably rotate to be on the safe side anyway, so you might have better things to do than watch it visit Olimpo (Sunday, 8 PM).