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Weekend football round-up: Racing on a roll, Boca fall

La Academia haven't lost in a competitive match since November, form more or less matched by Boca, until this week.

Wednesday 7 March, 2018
Racing striker Lautaro Martínez, second right, celebrates after scoring against Brazilian club Cruzeiro in the Copa Libertadores last Tuesday.
Racing striker Lautaro Martínez, second right, celebrates after scoring against Brazilian club Cruzeiro in the Copa Libertadores last Tuesday. Foto:AP Photo/Pablo Aharonian

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Racing Club de Avellaneda are on a roll. They’ve won six games straight. They haven’t lost a competitive match since November. They’re charging up the Superliga table and are now in a Copa Libertadores qualification spot. They won the first leg of their Libertadores matchup last week emphatically, and look poised to advance to the next round. And now that the transfer saga of Lautaro Martínez is behind us—he signed a deal with Inter Milan in February but won’t leave until June—La Academia can focus on getting the most out of the 20-year-old striker through the end of the season, no distractions. Winning the league may be out of reach, but Racing sit only four points out of second place. Plus, they don’t face anyone higher than seventh-place Estudiantes in the league for the rest of the season, and are yet to face bottom-feeders Arsenal de Saraní and River Plate (yes, we’re at that point now).

And now to the in-form falling out of form. Boca Juniors had a nearly-identical streak going—they hadn’t lost a competitive match since November—until they fell 2-0 to Argentinos Juniors on Monday night. Taking 19 of 21 possible points in their last seven league games has helped push them firmly into first place, and even after this weekend they remain eight points ahead of second-place Talleres de Córdoba.

But a lacking performance against Argentinos isn’t Boca’s only problem. They were relatively toothless in a 0-0 draw away to Alianza Lima in the Copa Libertadores midweek, a result that can be disappointing or admirably realistic, depending on how you slice it. The Xeneize put four past San Martín last weekend in a rare goal-fest, but take that match out of the equation and they’ve only scored three in their last five games. They’ll almost definitely win the league and there’s no reason they couldn’t go deep into the Libertadores as well, but the perfection had to crack at some point. Maybe all the anti-Macri chants are getting into some people’s heads more than they’d care to admit.

Argentine Superliga
Talleres missed a chance to shorten Boca’s lead at the top but still gain one on the leaders with their 0-0 draw with Tigre. But they’re now starting to look over their shoulder a bit more: Independiente smashed San Martín 4-0, and if they win their game in hand would be level on points. San Lorenzo, also with a game in land, settled for a scoreless tie with Unión that leaves them level on 32 points with Independiente. After those two come Racing and Godoy Cruz in fifth and sixth, both of whom won at the weekend and now have 31 points after 18 games played.

Now several weeks into the second half of the season, the Big Five clubs have regained their stranglehold on Argentine football. Only Talleres in second breaks their monopoly on the top five spots. And as always now, River Plate, who tied 1-1 with Chacarita Juniors are the odd one out. They’re now in 21st place.

Find the whole week's results here, and the league table here.

 

La Selección
Lionel Messi was, for what feels like the millionth time, the star and difference-maker as he scored the only goal—a perfectly-placed free kick—in Barcelona’s (first, Spain) 1-0 win against Atlético Madrid. The victory effectively seals the title for Barcelona. They play their Round of 16 second leg against Chelsea on March 14.


Éver Banega played 90 minutes at the heart of the Sevilla (Spain, fifth) in their comfortable 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao (14th).


Sergio Agüero played 85 minutes in Manchester City's (England) 1-0 win over Chelsea. City face FC Basel in their Round of 16 second leg on Wednesday. They won the first leg 4-0.


Érik Lamela was a 70th minute substitute in Tottenham's (England, fourth) routine 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town (15th).


Marcos Rojo nor Sergio Romero were not in the 18 for Manchester United’s (England, second) dramatic 3-2 win over Crystal Palace (18th).


Ángel Di María started and scored in Paris Saint Germain’s (France, first) 2-0 win over Toryes (18th). Giovani Lo Celso started and played 79 minutes and Javier Pastore was not in the 18. But much more important than the weekend action was PSG’s midweek clash with Real Madrid in the all-import Champions League Round of 16 second leg. Things did not go to plan, with PSG being soundly defeated and going out with the wimpiest of whimpers. Di María started but was completely ineffective in that game, Pastore played the last half hour and Lo Celso was an unused substitute.


Paulo Dybala started scored a massive 93rd minute winner in Juventus' (Italy, second) 1-0 victory over Lazio (fourth), a moment to remember for the 24-year-old. Gonzalo Higuaín was out with a short-term injury. Juventus play Tottenham on Wednesday in their Champions League matchup, perhaps the most exciting tie of the round. Dybala will likely be in the thick of the action, while Higuaín’s fitness is a slight possibility.


Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Mascherano both played 90 minutes in Hebei China Fortune’s (China, eighth) 1-1 draw with Tianjin Teda, the first game of the season.


Tweet us @theBAtimes or me @jacobmeschke to let us know if you want something different in your Weekend Football Round-up.

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