The relegation situation

Racing fans hope they're too big to go down

With just a few matches to go of the 2010 Torneo Clausura, the race down at the bottom of the Promedio is hotting up now. Racing’s victory on Wednesday night over Atlético Tucumán has affected the race in a huge way, but with the relegation table worked out over three seasons it’s not always immediately apparent what the pressing issues are for all involved. So here’s a quick look at what Atlético, Chacarita, Central, Gimnasia and Racing still have to aim for. We’ll also consider exactly why Ángel Cappa’s River Plate aren’t resting on any laurels…

Wednesday’s result leaves Atlético rock bottom of the Promedio, which you can see – along with an explanation of what exactly it is – on the HEGS Tables page. They’re not at all far behind Chacarita – the other newly promoted side – but remember, it’s both of those bottom two teams who’ll go down automatically and the end of the season. The complication here is that those bottom two teams have both played fewer matches for their points tally to be averaged out over – and therefore a win for Chacarita, say, is worth more ‘.points’ than a win for Central would be at the weekend.

If Chaca were to win all of their remaining games (we’re speaking very hypothetically here) then they’d finish on 44 points divided over 38 matches, giving an average of 1.158 points per game. That’s a much bigger jump from their current average of 0.941 than Central’s would be – from 1.136 at present, they would finish on 1.202 points if they won all four of their remaining matches (they’d have 137 points divided over 114 matches). Of course, if Central were to lose all of their remaining games then their points average would go slightly down, whilst if Chacarita were to do the same theirs would go south a lot more drastically.

As such this Sunday’s match in Tucumán, where Rosario Central visit Atlético, becomes a key clash. If Central win, they’d probably leapfrog Gimnasia, who are away to Argentinos Juniors, to rearrange the order of the two playoff places. More immediately though, a Central win would relegate Atlético, who currently have to win all their remaining matches in order to surpass the lowest possible points average that Central (the bottom-placed playoff team) can finish the season with (1.095, if they lost all their remaining matches). Chacarita, by the same token, can afford a draw but not another loss. Both of those required runs for the two new boys seem highly unlikely, so it’s looking like 18th is the lower limit for the other clubs, who will just want to avoid the playoff places.

This is why Racing’s recent resurgence has been so vital for them. They’re not far clear of Gimnasia – just three points (and the averages aren’t such a big issue with all the teams now being discussed having played the same number of games) – but they’re on an upswing and will be hopeful of a third win in a week against a Banfield side who ensured on Wednesday night that the Copa Libertadores will continue to be a (welcome) distraction for them. Racing can’t catch Arsenal in this year’s Promedio, but they can put enough daylight between themselves and Gimnasia to end the season without needing to worry about the relegation playoffs this year – especially considering their final match is away to Chacarita, who by then will surely have been relegated, and may well already have let a number of players go before the season ends.

If you’re a betting man (or woman), then, and you pressed me, my advice would be to put money on Atlético Tucumán and Chacarita Juniors filling the bottom two places in the table, with Rosario Central and Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata condemned to the uncertainties of the playoffs against the 3rd and 4th best sides from Nacional B. As well as that last day game against Chacarita Racing also visit Tigre in the next but one round, and with the hosts on a slide somewhat in recent weeks and Banfield’s potential tiredness (or reserve team) this coming weekend I can see La Academia doing enough to stay clear of trouble this time round.

The nature of the Argentine relegation system, though, dictates that one fixture at least this season could have a huge bearing on next year’s relegation dogfight. At the end of 2009-2010, the points totals from the 2007-2008 season will be struck from the Promedio bearings (a breakdown of all three seasons is too cumbersome to fit on HEGS but there’s one at the excellent stats site Universo Fútbol which you can see here), and when that happens no team is going to be affected quite like River Plate, who won 66 points in that season – they won the 2008 Clausura, remember – but only 41 in 2008-2009 (when they finished bottom of the Apertura just six months after being crowned champions), and have just 37 so far this term. They’re being artifically propped up by one good semester two years ago. This is exactly what the ludicrous Promedio system was brought in for, to prevent the country’s big teams getting relegated due to one bad season. The AFA didn’t legislate for three bad seasons, though.

As such the penultimate round of matches in the championship sees one game of potentially enormous significance to next year’s relegation table – the clásico when River visit Racing in Avellaneda. If Racing win that then they could at one and the same time save their own skins this year, whilst complicating things just a little further for River in twelve months’ time. Daniel Passarella’s been negotiating with an American investment group to bring new players in whilst getting rid of much of River’s current debt, and he’d better hope that deal, and the decision to bring in Ángel Cappa as the new manager, continue to pay the kind of dividends reaped from Saturday’s emotive victory over Godoy Cruz.

The photo above was taken by Flickr user RACING CLUB (ARG), and uploaded to the HEGS Flickr pool. If you’ve got pictures of the wonderful world of Argentine football you’d like to share, please join us there.

The remaining fixtures for the five sides in the mixer:

Atlético Tucumán (currently 20th in the Promedio with 31 points from 34 games giving an average of 0.912) – needing to win every game to avoid automatic relegation:
Central at home
Colón away
Arsenal at home
Gimnasia away

Chacarita Juniors (19th, 32 points from 34 games = 0.941) – must claim 10 of the remaining 12 points and hope Central lose all four matches):
Godoy Cruz away
Estudiantes at home
Vélez away
Racing at home

Rosario Central (18th, 125 points from 110 games = 1.136):
Atlético Tucumán away
Godoy Cruz at home
Estudiantes away
Vélez at home

Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata (17th, 126 points from 110 games = 1.145):
Argentinos Juniors away
Lanús at home
Newell’s away
Atlético Tucumán at home

Racing Club (16th, 129 points from 110 games = 1.173):
Banfield at home
Tigre away
River Plate at home
Chacarita away

You can follow the Clausura and the Argentine sides in the 2010 Copa Libertadores via HEGS on Twitter (including updates during and between matches and similar stories that might not go up on the site until later). I’m slowly gaining followers, but if you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here.

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5 thoughts on “The relegation situation

  1. Fantastic analysis Sam. What with you producing this and an in-depth look at the latest talking points in Argentina a couple of days ago, can we expect more pieces of a similar nature in the future, on a regular basis? Would be great if you could because they’re great reads.

    Anyway, I’ll have to agree that Tucu and Chacarita are doomed. The former have some winnable games left but lack the quality to get the goals, while Chacarita’s run-in is daunting to say the least. Central have a similarly tough last few games, so I expect them to finish 18th. I do think, however, that Gimnasia La Plata have a chance to escape. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with them in the Clausura, particularly with their front pairing of Stracqualursi and the ever-so impressive Marco Perez – he looks a real talent. I could easily see them picking 7-9 points from their last four games, but I reckon it may be just a tad short of the mark, giving that Racing have an equally good chance of picking up a similar tally.

    Either way, it shall be an interesting end to the season, and that’s completely ignoring the tight tussle at the top between Estu, Inde, Argentinos and Godoy for the right to be crowned Clausura champions.

  2. You can indeed expect a bit more ‘content’ on a regular basis, AJ. I’m very aware that over the last year in particular the site largely consisted of fixtures lists, result lists and links to my articles elsewhere (an inevitability born of the fact I was doing it in my spare time along with an increased amount of other writing and dancing), but now I’m based in Buenos Aires I’m aiming to build it up into something a little more informative and navigable again.

    Argentines Abroad will also be back next week (I know I said it would be this week) and there are one or two other developments which may appear in the next few weeks…

  3. Will Marco Perez be able to play down the stretch, the last i read he had either a charlie horse or pulled the groin?

  4. Thanks for your reply Sam, that’s great news as I’m sure everyone else will agree.

    Re: Perez, I actually read about his injury moments after singing his praises, and that will likely be disastrous news for El Lobo down the home-straight. I just hope that they sign him up in the Summer so that we can see more of him next season (presuming they win their Promedio battle and survive relegation) before he, inevitably, goes on to bigger and better things.

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