Avellaneda calling

With the World Cup qualifiers out of the way, the focus returns this weekend to Argentine domestic action, and one fixture stands out above the title-chasers’ clashes – because this weekend sees the ‘second derby’ of Buenos Aires, the clásico de Avellaneda. Racing will host Independiente on Saturday and will be eager, of course, to kill off their rivals’ lingering, distant hopes of the league title.

The match is scheduled for 16:10, a rather more sensible time than the morning kickoff fans had to put up with (for security reasons) when the two met in the Clausura earlier this year. That match was a 1-1 draw, but the main source of relief was that it lasted the distance. Racing’s barra are banned from their home matches, but last time Independiente hosted the fixture – in last year’s Apertura – they were allowed in and riots in the stand as their side were losing caused it to be called off midway through the second half.

Independiente’s two full backs, Ricardo Moreira and Lucas Mareque, will be going through their first Avellaneda clásico but are both already well-versed in footballing rivalries – Mareque has played in two supers, winning one and losing one for River, whilst Moreira played five times for Central, winning two, drawing one and losing two, against Newell’s in the clásico rosarino. But they and their team-mates will be needing to go against form, because Independiente have yet to win a clásico in this championship. They drew 1-1 with River and lost to Boca and San Lorenzo, 3-2 and 2-1 respectively.

The hosts, meanwhile, don’t have to worry about being useless in derby matches. They’re more concerned about the fact that they’ve just been useless full stop. They have their first XI already, despite the fact that that team lost 2-1 to the reserves in a practice match on Wednesday, and the main source for optimism is that Facunda Sava, out for some time with an injury, came through without any problems. He’ll partner Claudo López up front, at the front end of a 4-4-2.

Independiente won’t be too worried about playing in a strange stadium, having used El Cilindro for all their home matches this season whilst the Doble Visera is rebuilt, but will have to face opponents who’ll be hell-bent on ending their title dream. If Lanús beat Argentinos on Sunday, it will be over anyway, but if Independiente don’t win, the dream won’t even last until that match. Will hope spring eternal for El Rojo, or can La Academia teach them a lesson?

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