Estudiantes v Aldosivi
We start this round in the Primera Division on Friday night as Estudiantes take on Aldosivi in a match between two teams who are currently holding a play-off spot. For Estudiantes that is no real surprise, but the way they have done it has been impressive. With four Copa Libertadores qualifiers, they have played at least four games more than any other team in the Argentinian league and they have rested the entire squad in several games. Despite rotating lots, they are the most scoring team in the league, seven goals ahead of the second on that list.
In this game they are mostly going to field reserves again, as they play in the Copa Sudamericana on Tuesday, but that hasn’t really cost them in previous occasions, so even though they are weaker than the usual starting XI, they are still clear favourites against Aldosivi.
Martin Palermo’s team are an even bigger surprise in the play-offs. After a rough start, they won five matches in a row. It catapulted them into a play-off spot, but they have been lucky. In each of those five victories, their xG was lower than their opponent’s xG. They have a practical side, but could easily have had several points less.
Aldosivi hold a four point lead over the number five, Colón de Santa Fe, so a win would be enough to qualify. Motivation won’t be a problem, but I think quality will be an issue for Aldosivi. Last week against Huracán showed Aldosivi’s weakness, as Palermo’s team had no chance at home against the already eliminated side. That’s why I expect Estudiantes to be the better side and take the three points here.
Atlético Tucumán v Talleres de Córdoba
Tucumán and Talleres are bottom of the league in Argentina and have no chance at making the play-offs any more. But where Tucumán only have two league games left to play, Talleres will have three Copa Libertadores games as well, so there is a good chance they won’t play their strongest XI in this game.
For Tucumán that’s different. They have nothing else and with new manager Lucas Pusinero there is a lot more spirit in the team. With Pusineri, they already claimed draws against strong teams like Defensa y Justicia and River Plate, and the improvement in the team is visible.
Talleres may field some of the regulars as their previous Copa Lib game was on Tuesday and the next one on Thursday, but given they have nothing to play for, it seems more likely they won’t. On top of that, Diego Valoyes had to come off injured again against Sporting Cristal. The Colombian winger was one of the best players last season, but has been struggling with injury throughout this season.
Talleres have improved a fair bit since manager Pedro Caixinha took over in March, but I just don’t see them want to waste a proper amount of energy on this game. For the Tucumán players, these are the only games to show manager Pusineri that they should be considered for next season as well. And that’s why I expect Tucumán to take their second three points of this season.
Racing Club v Banfield
Both Racing Club and Banfield have a double schedule with Copa Sudamericana games. For both of them that tournament holds a bit more importance than the league this weekend. Nevertheless, Banfield might play a strong line up, whereas Racing will almost certainly use only reserves for this game. That is because Racing have long qualified for the play-offs, but Banfield are pretty much on their last chance. With four points behind the number four, they could still make it, but if they don’t win, they are pretty much done.
Banfield have been rotating the squad after pretty much every game this month and the expectation is that that will be the same again. Especially given they played in Quito at 2800 metres last Wednesday and the starters in that game are expected to feel a trip like that. Banfield will again be without Mauricio Cuero, Ian Escobar and Alexis Maldonado, so their squad is smaller than Racing’s as well, who don’t really have injuries in the side.
Racing have been great this season, with Fernando Gago as manager, they play a good carefully crafted type of football, barely giving away any chances. They were away in Arequipa in Peru on Wednesday. At 2300 metres altitude, that wasn’t an easy game either, but the players who didn’t start at Racing seem to be at a higher level than the ones at Banfield, so I expect the home side to take the three points here.
Boca Juniors v Barracas Central
Boca Juniors are going through a pretty difficult season. They have lots of injuries and have several players suspended for the Copa Libertadores. It means that they might not make it through the group stages. They do seem to qualify for the top four, but that hasn’t been easy either. Scoring seems to be the biggest problem for most of the season. They have a decent attacking line with Sebastián Villa, Dario Benedetto and Eduardo Salvio, with some young talents added to that, but partly due to physical issues, that hasn’t been a guarantee for goals.
Against Barracas Central, they seem to be playing their strongest XI. As a complete surprise, Barracas are a rival for the play-offs. In fact, a victory in this game could push Barracas to only two points behind Boca and put Boca’s play-off place in jeopardy.
Since manager Alfredo Berti took over from de Paoli, Barracas improved massively. Berti’s team seems fearless and finds the goal a lot easier, but also showed against Estudiantes (6-1 defeat) that their defence can still be pretty leaky. Still, Boca don’t seem to take any risks and come out with a quality XI.
After two months, defender and captain Carlos Izquierdoz is back from injury and goalkeeper Agustín Rossi is also fit again. Both seem to be starting this game. It may lower the chance on goals, but the lack of rhythm could also backfire. More importantly, their attack is pretty much the strongest they have and we haven’t seen much of that so far. It is hard to see Barracas being able to contain that, that’s why I suspect there will be several goals in this game.
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