Want real drama? Check Argentina
Here's a news flash: Some of you may not be Manchester United or Chelsea fans.
So with the attention of most of the soccer world centered on Wednesday's Champions League final, a small portion of you might be asking yourselves, "What else is going on out there?"
For those of you who would rather tune in to anything else other than the events at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium (yes,
The usual fan violence aside, it has been a captivating season, particularly because the competition has been extremely even. With only four rounds remaining, the race is still wide open, and six teams have a good shot at winning the title -- they're all separated by only six points.
What has generated huge interest around the country is that four of Buenos Aires' "big five" clubs are on track for the title for a change. (Click
Perhaps the greatest achievement has been the quality of soccer, which has picked up a great deal when compared to last season. This has much to do with the fact that the majority of the teams in the First Division were reinforced with lots of talent. The soccer has consistently been skilful, dynamic and exciting.
If we had to pick out the season's star performer so far, we couldn't look past
Tiny Lanús may have won the Apertura Championship last year, but this season's title will end up in the hands of one of the big guns. Estudiantes (33 points), River Plate (31) and Boca Juniors (29) have demonstrated they're all up to the challenge, while San Lorenzo, Independiente and Vélez Sarsfield still have an outside chance.
Most of these teams spent big money in the transfer market, and the effort has paid dividends: It has set up an intriguing climax that is likely to be won by the team that handles the pressure best. Traditionally this team is Boca, but what may affect the club's title aspirations this season is its participation in the Copa Libertadores. Boca's main priority is Latin America's biggest club tournament, and it will do whatever it takes to lift the title for a record seventh time, even if it jeopardizes its league performance.
In its last-gasp 2-1 victory over Racing Club at the Bombonera last Saturday, Boca fielded a complete reserve side thinking about Wednesday's vital Libertadores clash with Atlas in Guadalajara. But if Boca is eliminated by the Mexicans, it will turn its attention back to the Clausura.
With Huracán, Colón, Olimpo and Banfield as its opponents, River Plate has the easiest close to the season -- on paper, at least.
River's defense has also been very effective this season: It has conceded the fewest amount of goals in the league, with only nine, and its stability has benefited the whole team.
San Lorenzo also has a decent road, as Colón, Olimpo, Banfield and Gimnasia de Jujuy are all winnable games. But what plays against it is the fact that it currently trails league leader Estudiantes by five points. The absence of a suspended
Estudiantes has a huge advantage over everyone (except for River), and that's a big deal with such little time remaining this season. Verón & Co. should pick up at least eight points from their final four matches, while River should finish off the season undefeated: three wins and one draw (10 points).
If that happens, both teams will be tied with 41 points, and the champion will be decided by a dream playoff match at a neutral venue.
In the '06 Apertura Championship, Estudiantes beat Boca for the title that way. On this occasion, it should be River's turn -- the title finally appears to be in its reach.