With 48 goals in last week’s fifteen Primera matches, this weekend has got some awfully big boots to fill for Argentine football fans. The fixture list is doing its best to help though, as there are a number of encounters in the next few days that look more than a little interesting. On a somber note, the first thing to say is that all Argentine domestic matches will see a minute’s silence this weekend in honor of Racing, River Plate and Argentina legend Roberto Perfumo, perhaps the greatest defender the country has ever produced (and, apparently, an unspeakably lovely man), who died at the age of 73 on Thursday after falling down a flight of stairs. Que en paz descansa.
When’s Messi Playing?
Barcelona hosts Getafe at noon Argentine time on Saturday, but you’ll need DirecTV to watch it legally – it’s on channel 610 (or 1610 if you’ve got HD). Watching by other means is illegal and The Bubble’s lawyers have asked me to point out that you definitely therefore shouldn’t get on Google and look for internet streams. You know what happens to people who break the law in Argentina. (Okay, bad example.) If you’re from DirecTV’s marketing department and would like to thank us for telling people where to watch Messi each weekend, preferably through the medium of a regular bank transfer, please get in touch.
This Weekend’s Derby
The clásico should be an interesting one this time round. Last Sunday’s superclásico was a tight, fairly dull affair, though the 0-0 final score did owe a fair bit to the River Plate strikers’ lack of nerve (Rodrigo Mora, I’m looking at you) and Boca Juniors goalkeeper Agustín Orión’s performance. If last week’s derby was a cloud on an otherwise brilliant weekend, though, this week’s comes with a silver lining. That’s a pun, because it’s the La Plata derby, and La Plata in Spanish means silver. Get it?! Oh, suit yourselves. Estudiantes hosts Gimnasia at 5:45 PM on Sunday.
Both sides have started reasonably in their respective groups – with three wins, a draw and defeats each they’re sitting just below the leaders, though in both cases there’s a bit of a suspicion that their best results haven’t come against any especially impressive opponents. To be honest, the main reason this one could turn into the weekend’s main talking point is that this sort of behavior is what passes for a pre-season “friendly” between these clubs, and that was barely more than a month ago. Some Gimnasia players are still suspended due to that fight, in fact. Just be happy you don’t have to referee it (unless you’re Néstor Pitana, in which case you do have to referee it, so good luck).
And There’s More!
Banfield v Independiente (Saturday, 5:45 PM) jumps out at me from this week’s fixture list. Looking at the Group 1 table, you might wonder why – after all, the visitor is ninth and Banfield eleventh, and they’ve only clocked up three wins between them. So why pick this match out? It’s a question of style. Both teams like to get forward and are trying to play their way out of their current rut – and both have had poor runs but against a series of difficult opponents (although Independiente’s have been more difficult, it’s true).
To differing extents, we saw the fruits of those endeavours last weekend. Independiente’s match against Colón was more even than the final score suggested, as two late goals helped them to a 4-1 win, but the players’ confidence will have soared following that result and the team is bound to be eager to follow it up here. Banfield, meanwhile, went into the lions’ den and its players came out with heads held high; it held a half time lead and, though it fell behind in the second half, got a stunning equaliser (below) from Cristian Villagra to claim a 2-2 draw away to the country’s best team, Rosario Central. For a team that hasn’t won since the opening weekend, it was a fantastic performance and result. Saturday’s clash should be an open one, with two teams who have confidence renewed, and ought to be good fun for the neutral.
One of the tastiest matches of the lot is the one that opens the weekend, and if you’re after a game to attend this week you could do a lot worse than jump on the bus down to Avellaneda and head to Racing v Lanús (Friday, 8:15 PM). Racing started the season very poorly in domestic terms, but has begun to translate its decent Copa Libertadores form into the local league of late. Manager Facundo Sava’s attacking instincts were well and truly exposed during last Sunday’s frankly ridiculous 6-3 win away to Unión, so fingers crossed the goals continue to flow tonight. Lanús, for its part, is unbeaten so far this year, racking up five wins and a draw top sit top of Group 2.
To fly through some of the others quickly, Central ought to rack up a win away to Patronato (Sunday, 5:45 PM), but it might be interesting to tune in and see how Eduardo Coudet’s squad rotation goes as he continues to juggle the demands of the league and the Copa Libertadores; Colón has a tough test to see whether it can regains its early season form on Sunday evening as it hosts River Plate (8:15 PM), though the visitor’s defense will again be below full strength due to injuries, and Boca Juniors is in action on Monday night due to travelling home from a heroic late draw against Bolívar in the altitude of La Paz in the Libertadores last night.
Games to miss? Temperley v Argentinos Juniors (Sunday, 3:30 PM) doesn’t look great, and nor does Newell’s Old Boys v Atlético de Rafaela (Friday, 9 PM). But otherwise, there are varying amounts of promise in pretty much all the matches this week…