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SPORTS | 29-04-2022 16:39

Inconsistency rules for Argentina’s clubs that remain fighting on two fronts

Aside from Estudiantes, it's been another week of mixed fortunes for Argentina’s top teams.

While there are still three crucial rounds to play, the Copa Liga Profesional play-offs are already shaping up with the first teams having clinched their place in the quarter-finals last weekend. Group leaders Racing Club and Estudiantes have been a cut above the rest for the entire competition to date and went through with ease, while Boca Juniors will join them in the next round on Saturday with a win over Barracas Central, or even a draw should Colón fail to beat Arsenal.

Both the Xeneize and their Superclásico rivals endured a week of mixed fortunes. A much-needed win for Sebastián Battaglia's men over Central Córdoba was offset by disappointment in the Copa Libertadores, as in São Paulo Corinthians proved too strong for the visitors and coasted to a 2-0 victory. That marked Boca's second defeat in just three games in the competition and leaves them in serious peril of missing out on the knockout phase, sitting as they do at the foot of Group E at the halfway point.

One must look all the way back to 1994 to find the last time Boca failed to advance from the Libertadores group stage having qualified for the competition, making this a situation almost without precedent in the modern era. There is still time to turn it around, but elimination would almost certainly spell the end of Battaglia's tenure on the bench – and if that were not enough to worry about, the next, decisive match is in the altitude of La Paz against the ominously monickered Always Ready.

River, meanwhile, attracted their own detractors with a tepid draw last weekend against lowly Atlético Tucumán, on the back of previous defeat at the hands of Talleres. Even Marcelo Gallardo seemed to be feeling the strain, as he took his frustrations out on young full-back Andrés Herrera with a stunning clip round the ear as the game was going on around him. “It was a game where we had everything sorted to have a great time and it ended up being an awful time,” he admitted after the final whistle. Claims that the Millonario were on the way down, though, were shown to be hilariously premature just a few days later. In Santiago, River took a 2-1 win away from Colo Colo to record maximum points in their own Libertadores group and move within a single victory of the next round.

Aside from Estudiantes, as imperious in South American competition – Tuesday's 2-1 defeat of Bragantino leaves the La Plata side top of their Libertadores group – as they have been domestically this season, inconsistency marked almost every Argentine team fighting on two fronts. Indeed, Racing, having seen their 10-game winning streak end with a draw to Newell's Old Boys, were comprehensively outplayed by Melgar in Peru to fall 3-1 in the Sudamericana, the first loss in any competition for Fernando Gago's charges since December 2021.

Conversely, Independiente were mathematically eliminated from the Copa Superliga at the weekend but kept their Sudamericana hopes alive by downing Deportivo La Guaira, though they still have some work to do to catch up to group leaders Ceará. And what of Talleres? The Córdoba club has now won as many games in its three Libertadores outings, two, as in the entirety of the Copa Liga Profesional, and just might hope to creep into the knock-out phase behind imperious Flamengo. 

All three competitions continue unabated in the coming weeks and no doubt will continue to throw up more surprises before we know who lives on to battle in the final stages.

 

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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