Every football fan likes a good clásico, and boy have we got a lot of them coming up this weekend. No fewer than eight of this weekend’s Primera División matches are derby rivalries of some intensity or another, and as we all know, no country does football rivalries quite like Argentina does football rivalries. So this week’s preview is a little different than the usual format: I’ll run the rule (quickly) over each and every one of the 15 matches coming up this weekend, even if it means dedicating only a few words to each. Clásicos will be highlighted in red; normal match-ups aren’t. And if you’re outside Argentina (or inside, for that matter) and want to watch online, head over to my Twitter, where I’ll endeavor to tweet links to the local broadcasters’ online streams.
But First, When Does Messi Play?
The rest of the Spanish league made Barcelona angry, and you shouldn’t make Barcelona angry; it eviscerated Deportivo La Coruña 8-0 away on Wednesday, and Messi & Co. will be hungry for more goals on Saturday, when Sporting Gijón is the visitor to Camp Nou (3:30 PM Argentine time). It’ll be televised here on ESPN2.
Now, How About The Local Matches?
We get underway on Friday with three fixtures, none of which are derby rivalries. Neither, to be perfectly honest, are any of them among the most attractive match-ups this weekend. Atlético de Rafaela v Patronato (Friday, 7 PM) sees the top flight new boys from Paraná visit quite comfortably one of the two worst teams in the division; Atlético has just five points and has let in 25 goals. Patronato is doing all right and could well win, but it’s unlikely to be pretty. Olimpo v Aldosivi (Friday, 9:15 PM) looks similarly unappealing; again the away team is probably the favorite, but quality will be in short supply. We could see something a bit better in Liniers where Vélez Sarsfield v Argentinos Juniors (Friday, 9:15 PM) might produce some quality if Vélez puts in a performance along the lines of the better ones it’s managed so far this year – but it is rather inconsistent.
So When Are The Clásicos?
They get underway early on Saturday afternoon, in Santa Fe: Unión v Colón (Saturday, 2 PM) is arguably the one that’s most likely to have to be called off early, which is probably why it’s being played so early in the day. With both teams mid-table in their respective groups there’s not a lot really riding on this apart from bragging rights, but that of course won’t make it any less intense. Colón will be hoping for revenge for the 3-0 away win Unión picked up last month. Arsenal de Sarandí v Defensa y Justicia (Saturday, 2:15 PM) isn’t a clásico, but will probably be more worth watching from a neutral point of view; both sides have been scoring freely of late, and Arsenal let a few in as well.
The first Buenos Aires area derby of the weekend is on Saturday at 4:15 PM, when Huracán visits San Lorenzo. Both teams have reason for optimism; they’re near the top of their groups in the league. Huracán is bound to be eager to remind its great rival that San Lorenzo has failed to progress to the knockout stage of the Copa Libertadores, whilst Huracán itself managed precisely that this week with a 0-0 draw away to Atlético Nacional on Tuesday. This one is always intense, and last time out a very late Huracán equaliser made it 1-1 in Parque Patricios.
At 4:30 PM on Saturday, Godoy Cruz v San Martín is the clásico del Cuyo (the wine region derby; yes, seriously), a relatively quiet sort of rivalry that’s only sprung up in the last couple of decades as both teams have outgrown more local rivals, and which perhaps because it’s less high-pressure has often seen some more entertaining matches lately. Another comparatively new rivalry follows; Lanús v Banfield (Saturday, 6:30 PM) involves two clubs much closer together than the Mendoza- and San Juan-based sides in the previous game, though, and as such the hatred has become much more intense in a similar period of time. Lanús’ 2-0 away win just a couple of weeks ago is fresh in the memory for Banfield.
We round Saturday off with the clásico platense, as Gimnasia hosts Estudiantes in La Plata. This is a venerable old rivalry and can get a bit intense even in friendlies. There’s the added spice that when the teams met last (a 3-0 win for Estudiantes which meant curtains for Gimnasia boss Pedro Troglio) they came into the game with identical records, and since that match Estudiantes has managed four consecutive wins to put itself very much in the title race, whilst Gimnasia has been barely more consistent than it had been beforehand.
Wow, That’s A Lot Of Derbies
There are more to come on Sunday! At 2 PM Newell’s Old Boys v Rosario Central will bring Rosario to a standstill. Newell’s fans have been disappointed with their team’s performances (I was at their game against Aldosivi a few weeks ago and the frustration was palpable), but with Central’s own form having faltered a bit recently, perhaps they see a chance to finally get back to winning ways against their most hated of rivals. This is one that’s unlikely to be quiet, at any rate.
Then take a very deep breath, and don’t worry if the view from your window looks like a post-apocalyptic zombie film. The Buenos Aires area plays host to (by sheer number of fans across the country) the two biggest matches of this weekend of big matches. Boca Juniors v River Plate (Sunday, 4:15 PM) is one you’ve no doubt heard of, and whilst Boca’s pitch is a mess at present, its team has improved leaps and bounds in recent weeks – it hasn’t had a test as stern as River, though. River’s own form hasn’t been great, but it’s no mug, and has raised its game for big matches under Marcelo Gallardo plenty of times in the last couple of years.
Racing v Independiente (Saturday, 6:45 PM) is the other huge match, just outside the capital but very much within BA’s urban sprawl in Avellaneda. Racing hasn’t won in three league matches, whilst Independiente is unbeaten in six, but this one is never so easy to predict. There will be fireworks (perhaps literally).
The remaining matches are not clásicos. Belgrano v Atlético Tucumán (Sunday, 8 PM), Tigre v Sarmiento (Monday, 7 PM) and Quilmes v Temperley (Monday, 9:15 PM) are, like Friday’s games, unappealing not due to the lack of real rivalry but because by and large, the teams involved aren’t in especially good form this year – with the exception of Atlético Tucumán, which has been worth watching so far, and could prove a very nice calming pick-me-up after the all-day adrenaline binge that will have come before its match.