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Primera A 2007 Apertura logo

The clash of the two unexpected sides in the title race and the glut of clásicos aren’t the only games taking place in Primera A this weekend, you know. They do, it is true, take up half of the weekend’s fixture list. But there are other matches on as well, and with practically half the teams in the league still in with at least a distant shot at the title, they could prove every bit as important…

Arsenal take on Central in the Viaducto desparate to cut short a run of poor form that stretches back some way. Yes, I know they’re taking on River on Wednesday in their first ever continental semi-final. But in the league, they’ve won none of their last six since beating Los Millonarios 2-1, and have only scored twice. That run has seen them plummet to 17th, but they’ve got one ray of light at the end of the tunnel: they may be bad, but Central this season are absolutely useless, having won only one match (the clásico rosarino a couple of months ago) and currently sitting bottom of the table, one of only two teams with fewer points than matches played.

The other of those, Olimpo, have a high-altitude game against Gimnasia de Jujuy on Saturday. Bang on mid-table in tenth, the hosts are only 8 points off the lead and whilst the title isn’t realistic could well be looking to push on for continental competition if they can improve further in the second half of the season. Olimpo haven’t lost in two, but the only match Gimnasia de Jujuy have lost in the last seven was to title contenders Independiente…

Also promoted this season, and struggling as much as Olimpo, are San Martín de San Juan, who host a Banfield side for whom a win could, with lucky results elsewhere, throw them back into the thick of the title race. Banfield striker Darío Cvitanich, however, claims that his main concern is merely that Lanús, his side’s main local rivals, don’t win their first ever title. ‘Wait and see, I’m sure they won’t win the championship,’ said Cvitanich today, whilst conceding that, ‘they have a good team.’ A shame for him, then, that Banfield won’t have a say in that matter – they’ve already lost the clásico, 2-1 at home back in the fifth round.

Vélez play Argentinos in the round’s last match, on Monday evening, with visiting manager Néstor Gorosito perhaps handing the initiative to the hosts by declaring Vélez boss Ricardo La Volpe ‘A manager to emulate.’ La Volpe’s had some criticism since arriving back in his homeland, first (disastrously) to manage Boca Juniors to a spectacular cave-in at the climax of last year’s Apertura, and this time with better results (relative to the size of the club) at Vélez since the start of this year. But, ‘he’s come from a different kind of place [Mexico] and for 27 years he was used to working differently,’ said Gorosito. We’ll see tomorrow what words La Volpe has in return.

And the other non-clásico… oh Lord, it’s a clásico after all. Of sorts, anyway – an all Santa Fé tie between Newell’s and Colón in El Coloso del Parque on Saturday. The sides are 16th and 15th respectively, and Newell’s manager Ricardo Caruso Lombardi has had a very stern chat with his players in an effort to get them to concentrate on bringing to an end some inconsistent recent form. They’ve actually won their last two home games – most recently against Independiente two rounds ago – but have lost three on the bounce away. This weekend’s visitors have lost the last two, but will be looking to get back on the right track against their Provincial rivals, having already accounted for Central 2-0 back in August.

So, spare a thought for the ‘normal’ clashes this weekend. The clásicos will get most of the headlines, but the rest of the fixture lists might well prove just as vital in the final reckoning…

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