We’ve only got two rounds of matches left (plus the championship final) in the Torneo de Transición, but there are still things to be decided yet, including one of the final spots, 2017 Copa Libertadores qualification and that one solitary relegation spot. Step this way, and I’ll take you through what’s up for grabs…
When’s Messi Playing?
It’s the final weekend of Spanish league action, and Lionel Messi’s Barcelona will claim the title if it matches Real Madrid’s result. Madrid is away to Deportivo de La Coruña and Barcelona is also on the road, against Granada. Both matches are on Saturday at 12 noon; Barcelona is on DirecTV channel 610, Madrid on ESPN2.
And What’s To Play For In The Local League?
In simple terms, one final spot, two Copa Libertadores spots and one relegation spot are on the table. Lanús secured top spot in Group 2 last weekend, but Group 1 is still up for grabs between Godoy Cruz and San Lorenzo (and mathematically, Arsenal de Sarandí, but realistically that’s not going to happen). First, then, let’s deal with Group 2.
Estudiantes and Atlético Tucumán are the teams still in the hunt for second place behind Lanús; Estudiantes has 28 points and Tucumán has 27. Second place is important because the two second placed teams from each group will go into a playoff, the winner of which goes into next year’s Copa Libertadores along with both teams in the championship final. Bear in mind there are no places for this year’s or next year’s Copa Sudamericana via the current championship.
Meanwhile, Godoy Cruz and San Lorenzo are first and second in Group 1, both on 30 points. Six points behind is Arsenal, meaning that to claim a spot in the final, Arsenal needs both teams above it to lose both their remaining matches, and also has to win both of its remaining matches itself, and requires a seven-goal swing in goal difference between itself and Godoy Cruz to boot. Given Godoy Cruz and San Lorenzo have only lost two of their first fourteen league matches each, we can probably rule out the possibility of Arsenal winning Group 1.
Finally, there’s one relegation spot this term. Relegation is weird in Argentina [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_Primera_División#Relegation], remember. The one spot for the drop is between Argentinos Juniors (currently bottom of the relegation table), Temperley, Sarmiento and Patronato. Atlético de Rafaela is below Patronato in the table, but can’t finish bottom. Don’t ask. Just don’t. If you’re angry at Atlético for confusing you like this, take comfort from the fact that it is royally screwed next season.
With the above in mind, let’s get on to this weekend’s fixtures.
Which Matches Are Worth Watching, Then?
The ones with something riding on them have to be the place to start. Specifically, the ones involving the good teams, because the teams in the relegation battle are down there for a reason. Argentinos Juniors hosts Lanús (Sunday, 3 PM), for instance, but with Argentinos being as bad as it is and Lanús able to take it easy with a final place already assured, I wouldn’t bother cancelling any plans to watch it. Elsewhere, though, there are some promising fixtures.
Independiente v Arsenal is one (Saturday, 8 PM). Arsenal might only be in with the slimmest of chances, but it will want to keep building a cushion for upcoming seasons’ relegation battles, and has been an enterprising and entertaining team for most of the year so far. Independiente was involved in a tremendously entertaining 3-3 draw away to Gimnasia last week. Mauricio Pellegrino has stepped aside as manager, but Fernando Berón’s interim management for the last two matches is unlikely to change too much. Independiente hasn’t always been great to watch this term, but Arsenal is in good enough form that this should be worth catching.
The two must-watch games of the weekend, though, are the ones involving the two Group 1 frontrunners. This is a bit annoying, as the AFA have scheduled those two matches to be played at the same time – Saturday at 3:30 PM. Godoy Cruz hosts Belgrano whilst San Lorenzo visits Colón. Neither of the opponents is in good form, but that’s not really what you’re watching these games for, is it? The drama is going to come from seeing whether the two leaders continue to keep pace with one another, or whether one gains a potentially crucial advantage ahead of the last round of action next week.
To that end, I’d recommend catching both at once; Colón v San Lorenzo will be televised on América, Godoy Cruz v Belgrano will be on TV Pública. Both will also be streamed online (Godoy Cruz v Belgrano via YouTube on Fútbol Para Todos’ website, Colón v San Lorenzo on the América site), meaning if you have access to a TV and a computer, you can watch both at once. If you end up with a headache by full time, bear in mind this is how I spend most of every damn weekend.
The Group 2 Libertadores playoff will be sealed by Estudiantes if Atlético Tucumán fails to win at home to San Martín (Friday, 9:15 PM) and Estudiantes then beats Boca (who’ll probably be fielding a reserve team as they’re between the two legs of their Copa Libertadores quarter-final) at 8 PM on Sunday. Any other combination of results in those two matches means that place will be decided on the last weekend.
As For The Other Matches…
Hmm. Well, Huracán v Unión (Friday, 7 PM) and River Plate v Gimnasia (Saturday, 5:45 PM) might be okay, in both cases largely depending how much the home team cares for it, but otherwise I fear late season syndrome might set in now, with almost nothing to play for in the vast majority of cases. I can’t pick out any one match that’s obviously going to be dreadful – it has after all been a very entertaining season so far, for the most part – but now fewer teams have things left to play for, I can see things starting to wind down a bit.