by Cody Masters (@codymasters_)
We have just completed the 12th of 14 match days in the Argentine Primera Division, and the Playoffs are looming. With only the top four teams out of each group making it into the bracket, the margins are incredibly thin. Both groups have some surprises and some teams that are expected to be right there near the top and we will cover both ends of that spectrum right here.
For Group A, the four teams that are currently in the playoffs are Racing Club, River Plate, Newell’s Old Boys, and Argentinos Juniors. Racing are a bit of a surprise to be topping this group, as they finished 15th out of 26 teams last season, and have not lost a game yet in the league season. They have already locked up their playoff spot, and only need a River loss or draw to lock up the top spot in the group. It’s truly remarkable the turnaround this team is having right now while also navigating Copa Sudamericana where Racing are currently tied for first in their group with Melgar, of Peru, after three matches. In second place in this group are River Plate. They currently sit five points behind Racing and tied on points with Newell’s, as well as only being two points ahead of fourth place Argentinos Jr. River truly have no margin for error in these matches as one loss along with results from Argentinos, Sarmiento, and Newell’s could result in River falling to fifth place and missing the playoff entirely. River are also competing in Copa Libertadores right now, so to say that they are not entirely focused on league play would be a fair assessment as their group is turning into a bit of a wrestling match between them and Colo Colo, of Chile. They are absolutely loaded to be able to handle multiple competitions at the same time, but maintaining focus in every match from here on in both competitions will be difficult.
In third, we have Newell’s Old Boys. Newell’s is a team focused on only one competition right now. They do not have any continental competition to take away their focus from making the playoff. They are currently tied on points with River, and are in a great position to push for that second place position in the group. At the time of writing, Newell’s are currently losing their 13th match day to San Lorenzo, but that result could flip at any minute because this is Argentina and why would anything be calm or reasonable? In fourth, Argentinos Juniors is hanging on by a tiebreaker over fifth place Sarmiento. The final two games for Argentinos Juniors are Platense (12th place) and Union (9th place), while the final two games for Sarmiento are River Plate and Talleres (13th place). So if I had to make a prediction for which one I thought got into the playoff, I would guess Argentinos just based on their final two games. Sarmiento playing River is a tough draw and I’m not sure they can get points off a rolling River Plate.
In Group B, the top four teams are currently Estudiantes, Boca Juniors, Tigre, and Aldosivi. Estudiantes is currently nine points over fifth, they’ve already locked themselves into the playoff, seeding is all that they are playing for, so I expect them to start rotating players as they are juggling Libertadores at the same time as these last few league games. In second place is Boca Juniors., and they are currently five points over fifth place, needing only a draw over Barracas Central, and a loss or draw by Colon, to lock up their playoff spot. In third and fourth are the newly-promoted Tigre and previous mid-table finisher Aldosivi. These two teams are currently tied at 20 points and are four points ahead of fifth place Colon. If Colon does not win their next game, then the clinching scenarios get pretty simple for both of these teams.
Ultimately I think these eight teams, that are currently going through, will be the eight teams that go into the playoff. As all MLS fans know, once you get into the playoffs anything can and will happen. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how the season wraps up, as well as be entertained by the playoffs as only Argentina can.
(Photo credit @LigaAFA)