Weekend Primera preview: 2016-17 round 12

Welcome back to my humble blog, everyone! Budget tightening at The Bubble means that I’ll be writing for them less frequently for a few months, and the main victim of that decision is my weekly Friday article in which I give a quick preview of the main things to watch for in the weekend’s Primera action. So, to keep in practice, I thought I’d keep writing it each week and stick it up here on HEGS instead. Let’s see what we’ve got in store this weekend.

Oh, one thing before we begin: all kick off times are in Argentine time. Add three hours for Greenwich Mean Time, or take two off for Eastern Standard Time in the States. I assume everyone will be able to work out their own time zones from there.

What’s the weekend’s biggest game?

That’s a hard one to narrow down, frankly. For starters because there are no ‘true’ clásicos, then because there are two ‘secondary’ clásicos in which members of the Big Five play each other (these are referred to as clásicos in the media, but aren’t as heated as matches between primary rivals). And finally, because there are a couple of other interesting matches as well. But let’s start at La Bombonera, where Boca Juniors host Racing (Sunday, 18:45).

After seeming to stumble into a good run of results as much by luck as by judgement early in the season, Boca have started impressing a little more recently. They finally ended an almost nine-month run without an away win in the league, and have now won twice in a row away. This game, of course, is at home, where they were held by Rosario Central two weeks ago, but their form is promising. That being said, so is Racing’s. Functionality has been the order of the day since Ricardo Zielinski took charge, but last weekend they cut loose for the first time and thrashed Independiente 3-0 in the clásico de Avellaneda. It felt like the kind of result – and performance – that could cement Zielinski into the club, so it’ll be fascinating to see how they follow it up here.

The other all-Big Five clash is Independiente v River Plate (Sunday, 20:00). This one has the prime time spot but looks less enticing. For one thing, Independiente are seriously underwhelming lately – initially they were solid but dull under Gabriel Milito, now they’re not even sold any more, with five goals conceded in their last two games – and for another River have just (on Thursday night) qualified for the Copa Argentina final. That will be on either the 15th or 16th of this month, but given that it represents their last remaining chance of Copa Libertadores qualification, don’t be too surprised if Marcelo Gallardo rotates the team somewhat to keep his starters fresh. In short, if I were a neutral and lived in Europe, I wouldn’t bother staying up late for this one.

And those other interesting matches?

There are two that stand out from the remaining games. The first is Newell’s Old Boys v Banfield (Saturday, 18:00). As recently as this week on Hand Of Pod we were asked where Newell’s transformation had come from, and it’s certainly been remarkable. They were dreadful during the transitional championship but have looked very good so far this season and are second in the table; a win here would take them top, at least overnight. And why is it that they’re so close to league leaders Estudiantes? Well, it’s because Estudiantes suffered their first league defeat of the season last weekend. And who beat them? Banfield!

If anyone tells you they saw Banfield’s win coming, they’re a liar. Julio César Falcioni’s team had been struggling for consistency before last week and while they’d won their previous game 3-1, that game was against Arsenal de Sarandí, who are really spectacularly bad. Walter Erviti put in the individual performance of the weekend though, and they beat Estudiantes 3-2 in a very entertaining game. Having beaten the leaders, can they get a win here against the team in second? It could be fun finding out.

The other match I’ll be looking out for is Estudiantes v Talleres (Sunday, 17:00). Estudiantes are still the league leaders, but this game should be a test of their mettle because Talleres are in fine form, six games unbeaten and high on confidence. It might or might not turn out to be a close match, but either way Estudiantes’ response to last week’s defeat could tell us a lot about whether their current title challenge could go the distance.

What about the rest of the fixtures?

With so many of the title hopefuls playing each other, a lot of the other fixtures look less inspiring this week. Patronato v Vélez Sarsfield (Sunday, 18:00) could equate to something like a relegation scrap, but neither team are in particularly deep trouble right now. Belgrano v Temperley has serious potential to be the worst match of the weekend (it’s on Sunday at 19:15, if you want to make other plans).

Oh, and every club in the league this weekend will carry a homage to Chapecoense on their shirts following Monday night’s tragic plane crash. Even so, the moment most likely to bring a tear to the eye or a lump to the throat is easy to predict: according to Sebastián Blanco, San Lorenzo will be taking to the pitch for their match away to Olimpo (Saturday, 20:00) wearing the shirts Chapecoense’s players swapped them after the second leg of their Copa Sudamericana semi-final a couple of weeks ago.

Posted in 2016-17, Argentine league, Boca Juniors, Estudiantes, Independiente, Newell's Old Boys, Primera A, Racing Club, River Plate, San Lorenzo | Tagged ,

Talking to Lionel Messi’s youth coach ahead of the Copa América Centenario

In April, I headed up from Buenos Aires to Rosario, Lionel Messi’s hometown, for a feature for ESPNFC ahead of the Copa América Centenario. Whilst there, I talked to Ernesto Vecchio, the youth coach who oversaw Lionel Messi’s childhood development for longer than anyone before Messi moved to Barcelona, and to Nicolás Canessa, an occasional team-mate of Messi’s for Newell’s Old Boys’ youth teams and a friend of his to this day, among others. The article I wrote about Messi, his early footballing development and his relationship with Argentina – or rather, Argentina’s relationship with him – is online here. I hope you like it.

Posted in Argentine football, Argentine national team, International football, Lionel Messi, Other football sites | Tagged , , ,

This week in The Libero: what is the Copa América Centenario, exactly?

On Friday, the Copa América Centenario kicks off in the United States, and in this week’s issue of The Libero, I was asked to preview it. I’ve gone for a piece looking at why although it’s going to be a good tournament, it’s still important to remember it’s not an actual Copa América. To give you a taster, here’s the start of the article.

The Libero is a weekly email newsletter containing four quality articles per week from Andrew Gibney, Adam Digby, David Cartlidge and myself among others. It’s available by subscription for just £3 (about US$4.70) per month, from this website.

In 1980, an odd little international tournament was held in Montevideo to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first World Cup. That word ‘little’ isn’t used to ridicule or demean; it’s how the tournament is popularly known in the Spanish speaking world, where it’s called the Mundialito, or ‘Little World Cup’. It brought together the six nations which at that point had won the World Cup – or was meant to, because England declined to join in and were replaced by the Netherlands, who’d finished as runners-up in the previous two ‘full-sized’ World Cups.

Why mention the Mundialito ahead of Friday’s Copa América Centenario kick off? Because, in essence, they’re the same thing – a celebratory competition to mark an anniversary, but not (this correspondent would argue) a truly ‘canonical’ part of the real competition’s history.

To read the rest of the article, subscribe to The Libero here. Issue five will be sent out at 2pm British Summer Time on Thursday, 2nd June.

Posted in Argentine football, Argentine national team, Copa América, International football, Other football sites | Tagged , , , , ,

Episode 224: Lanús close in, Godoy Cruz win again and Argentina’s Copa América shortlist

Episode 224 of Hand Of Pod is online – get it here!

Hand Of Pod

The two hundred and twenty-fourth episode of Hand Of Pod is short but sweet with plenty of food for thought. Lanús and Godoy Cruz continue to look like the two favourites for the title playoff – indeed, Lanús could confirm their place with two matches remaining depending on results this weekend – whilst last year’s bigger sides all had underwhelming weekends due to Copa Libertadores commitments (Huracán went out on Tuesday night; River Plate and Racing followed them shortly after this episode was recorded). As well as this, we run the rule over Gerardo Martin’s 40-man Copa América squad shortlist, answer listeners’ questions, and predict what results will be like this weekend with the help of a die, to see whether it really is just pot luck…

You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher, and follow us on Twitter.

The Mystic Die’s predictions for round 14…

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A new place to find my writing: The Libero

Today The Libero launches. It’s an online football magazine, and the deal is simple: you get a weekly email containing four articles covering world football, as long as you subscribe. You can subscribe by credit or debit card, or by PayPal, and it costs you £3 per month (about US$4.50 or AR$63).

So for the price of a pint or less, you get sixteen articles per month, and as if that wasn’t enough, two of them will be written by me, as I’m in every other issue*. Issue one goes out at 2pm BST today (Thursday, 5th May 2016), so I assume you’ve still got time to sign up before it does so. Get on board. You can subscribe by following the link on this page.

*If you’d rather NOT read stuff by me then I’m not sure what you’re doing here, but in any case please ignore that sentence and focus on the fact that fourteen of your sixteen articles each month will be written by someone other than me.

Posted in Argentine football, Football, Other football sites | Tagged , , ,

Primera 2016, round 13: all the goals

All the goals from the ‘weekend’ of action which ended on Tuesday evening are here for your viewing pleasure, including a couple of fine diving headers in Mar Del Plata to kick things off, and a wonderful strike from Jaime Ayoví for Godoy Cruz against Arsenal de Sarandí in Mendoza. Enjoy.

Posted in Atlético Rafaela, Belgrano de Córdoba, Colón de Santa Fé, Goal videos, Godoy Cruz, Lanús, Primera A, San Lorenzo | Tagged ,

Primera 2016, round 12: all the goals

The round of clásicos was by a long way the lowest-scoring weekend in an otherwise goal-packed championship, but there were some goals, including a superb free kick from Santiago García for Godoy Cruz against San Martín in the wine region derby, and two beauties for Lanús to beat Banfield in the Clásico del Sur. All of them (and what few others were scored this weekend) are in this video, so enjoy.

Posted in Atlético Rafaela, Goal videos, Godoy Cruz, Lanús, Primera A, Results, San Lorenzo, Tigre, Vélez Sarsfield | Tagged , , , , , ,

Boca Juniors v River Plate April 2016: three links to watch on

Boca Juniors host River Plate in the centrepiece of this weekend’s round of clásicos in Argentina, and it’s being shown in Argentina on three TV channels – meaning you’ve got three official streams to choose from. The game kicks off at 16:15 Argentine time (add four hours for the UK, 5 for Central Europe, and take one off for the eastern seaboard of the USA), and you might (or might not) need a VPN enabled for some or all of the following, but you should be able to see the game on at least one of them…

Click here to watch on América TV.

Click here to watch on Telefé.

Click here to watch on Canal Trece.

The teams

Boca (manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto)


Peruzzi Tobio Insaurralde Silva

Jara —- Gago —- Pérez


Tevez —- Pavón

River (manager Marcelo Gallardo)


Mercado Maidana Álvarez Balanta Casco

Mayada —- Domingo —- Bertolo


Mora —- Alario

Posted in Boca Juniors, Primera A, River Plate, Superclásico | Tagged , , , , , ,

2016 Primera, eleventh round: all the goals

The goals from the eleventh round of action in the 2016 Primera División are right here for your enjoyment, including Atlético Tucumán legend Luis Rodríguez’s hundredth career goal, all the goals from Boca Juniors’ 4-1 thrashing of Aldosivi and a brilliant hit from San Lorenzo midfielder Franco Mussis.

Posted in Arsenal de Sarandí, Belgrano de Córdoba, Boca Juniors, Estudiantes, Goal videos, Independiente, Lanús, Primera A, Results | Tagged , , , , , ,

Primera 2016, tenth round: all the goals

A few days late, this post, but here are all the goals from last weekend’s Primera División action, including two penalty-taking goalkeepers, a hat trick for Huracán forward Ramón Ábila and an amazing late comeback from Vélez Sarsfield to hand Rosario Central their first home defeat since November 2014.

Posted in Estudiantes, Goal videos, Huracán, Primera A, Results, San Lorenzo, Tigre, Vélez Sarsfield | Tagged ,