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SPORTS | 29-09-2018 09:57

Frontrunners emerge as Superliga gets into gear

The Superclásico drew everyone’s attention last week, but it is Racing and Atlético Tucumán that are leading the table.

The dust has now settled on last week’s Superclásico, with two irrefutable conclusions coming to the fore. Firstly, as per the song dreamed up by jubilant River Plate fans and shared on social media at a near-exasperating rate, Pity Martínez is a crazy man. Second, when it comes to clashes between the Millonarios and Boca Juniors it is the former who now claim the upper hand, having waltzed to a 2-0 victory at the Bombonera thanks to cracking goals from the aforementioned ‘Crazy’ Pity and Ignacio Scocco.

It is also valid to say, however, that despite its place at the forefront of television schedules over the weekend – the rest of the Superliga calendar was essentially organised solely to give the Superclásico pride of place. But while no further games were played once the final whistle sounded at the Bombonera, in order to devote further exhausting hours to an analysis that still continues, Boca and River’s clash was largely irrelevant in the title race. Both sides now lie six points off the Primera summit after just six games, with the promise of more points to be dropped in the future if each continues in the hunt for the Copa Libertadores.

Away from the Superclásico, there are two teams whose interest in the Libertadores is already over or rapidly fading who rule the roost: Racing Club and the eternal dark horses, Atlético Tucumán.

The clubs in fact met in the very first week of the season, kicking off the Superliga with a four-goal thriller that saw Racing throw away a 2-0 lead to draw against the Decano. Since then they have been in nearimperious form, despite having the additional distraction of the Copa.

Racing have gone on to win all five of their subsequent matches, scoring nine without conceding a single further goal. Atlético’s record is not far behind; four wins in a draw in their matches, outscoring their title rivals with 11 further goals while conceding twice along the way. Those early clashes give Racing a twopoint advantage, with only fellow surprise packages, newly promoted Aldosivi, keeping track at this point a further two points behind.

LEGENDS

For both the front-runners, moreover, the touch of a club legend has proved vital so far. Racing, showing a slightly more restrained, pragmatic football this season under Eduardo Coudet than the whirlwind tactics ‘Chacho’ unleashed at the start of 2018, have benefited from the imperious Lisandro López, who at 35 has netted three goals and generally commanded the Academia attack, leading by example to pull his team-mates out of the emotional trough that was caused by August’s Libertadores elimination at the hands of River.

“There is no chance he is leaving in December,” Coudet stated when asked whether ‘Licha’ could be driven to retirement by the disappointment of the Copa. “I will go and pick Licha up from his house! I am in no doubt, he is a vital guy, the captain of the team.”

It is a testament to the exPorto and Lyon star’s commitment to his club that he has shaken off that blow and is leading from the front to keep Racing at the top.

He is not the only veteran making waves, though. Tucumán’s answer to Lionel Messi, Luis ‘Pulguita’ Rodríguez, is in the best form of his life at 33, boasting four goals in the league as well as a pivotal role in the team that has battled through to the Libertadores quarters for the first time in its history.

That adventure looks soon to be over after the team coached by Ricardo Zielinski were downed 2-0 by champions Gremio in the first leg, leaving them a mountain to climb. But even more so it is beyond the dreams of even the most optimistic fan, seeing the Decano rub shoulders with South America’s elite less than three years after earning promotion back to the top flight.

All of which goes to show that there is far more to the Superliga than Boca and River, with the above two teams in particular looking down on the Superclásico pair from their comfortable position at the top of the pile.

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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