Boca Juniors v Defensa y Justicia
We have reached the play-offs of the Primera Division and it is all or nothing, as the semi finalists are decided in this one tie. The teams who finished highest in the league got home advantage and that may prove vital here. Especially in this game between Boca Juniors and Defensa. The fact they are playing on Tuesday is a shambles already, Defensa played the final game of the league only two days ago and had to give everything to qualify with a difficult 1-0 victory.
Only 50 hours after their last game, it is hard to believe they’ll be fit enough to be at their best level already. Defensa asked to change the game to Wednesday, but the federation turned that request down because of TV rights. Boca Juniors also played most of their strongest XI at the weekend, but they played on Saturday and were able to take it a bit easier, as they were already qualified for the play-offs.
Boca Juniors are slowly improving further, with Dario Benedetto and Eduardo Salvio fit and getting in form again, the side seem stronger than at the start of the season. The opposite seems to be the case for Defensa, who started the season well, but struggled their way to the finish line.
Sebastián Beccacece will surely play the same XI as Sunday with Defensa, as he’ll surely not rest players for the quarter-final. They rested their strongest line-up once this season and that was in the Copa Sudamericana, but for the rest the usual starters played everything, so on top of the short rest time, they may be a bit lacklustre in general due to the substantial amount of games they’ve played recently. That should all point towards the home side as the clear favourite for the victory, so I’d put my money on Boca to take this.
Estudiantes de la Plata v Argentinos Juniors
Estudiantes were easily one of the best teams this season, despite playing an incredible amount of games, with Copa Libertadores qualifiers and group stage. Manager Ricardo Zielinski kept the squad fit, by regularly playing the reserves, but it never really cost the side as even the reserves won the majority of the games. Estudiantes were the first team to qualify with three matches to spare and has had the luxury to rest most of the starting line-up in recent matches.
For Argentinos Juniors that wasn’t the case, as they only qualified with a victory last Sunday. However, the away side don’t play an international tournament, so the strain on the players hasn’t been the same. Argentinos had a pretty average start to the season, but with five victories from the last eight games, they climbed into the top spot and qualified with a hard fought victory over Unión Santa Fe last weekend.
Both teams seem complete for this game, but where Argentinos played a tough game three days ago, the last match for the Estudiantes starting XI was eight days ago, so the home side may be fitter. Estudiantes have the league top goalscorer in their ranks with Mauro Boselli. At 36-year-old, the former Wigan striker is still at his best and is joint top goalscorer with nine goals, despite only having played ten from 14 matches. Like most of Estudiantes, Boselli is in great form and the Argentinos defence hasn’t been the steadiest this season, so I just don’t see them stop Estudiantes in their quest for the title.
River Plate v Tigre
Tigre made it into the play-offs, but only just about. After 19 points from the first 10 games and conceding a mere five goals, they seemed steady for the play-offs. But they almost bottled it. It had to be said that their schedule at the end of the season wasn’t easy, but the one point from the last four games doesn’t bid too for their chances in the play-offs. Against River Plate, they are facing one of the strongest teams in Argentina, so nobody really expects them to make it through to the semifinals.
El Millionario had a tough schedule with Copa Libertadores and league duty, but manager Marcelo Gallardo rotated a few players every game from the start of the season and kept his team fit until now. What stands out at River is the ease with which they create chances and score. Class striker Julian Álvarez hasn’t really been in good form this season, but he is on seven goals anyway.
Tigre were one of the best defending teams for most of the season, barely giving away chances and the five goals conceded in the first ten games wasn’t even flattering. But that changed, in the last four games they conceded seven goals and especially away at Vélez Sarsfield (3-2), who were already eliminated, there was little left of this steady defensive work. River’s defence isn’t bad, but it is really their offensive strength that stands out. Tigre will surely try to keep things tight in defence, but I don’t expect them to be able to hold that for long and then we could see lots of goals. So I’d put my money on goals for this game.
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