The Race for the Title: Newell’s, Lanús or River?

With just six games to play in the Torneo Final, it is looking increasingly likely that one of Newell’s Old Boys, Lanús or River Plate will take the crown.

After thirteen games, the Primera has become a three-horse race. Newell’s stand in prime position to take the title with 28 points, however, Lanús are right on their tails with 27 points. Newly promoted heavyweights River are looking to return to past glories and find themselves in the fight, just three points behind Newell’s.

As it stands

The league table – as it stands

Torneo Inicial runners-up, Newell’s Old Boys, impressed many on their way to finishing second in the first of the two ‘mini-seasons’ earlier in the year. Following the season interval, La Lepra have continued their fine form and have been aided by the return of Maxi Rodriguez, the experience of Gabi Heinze and the ruthless finishing of inspirational front-man Ignacio Scocco.

Newell's face a tough season run-in

Newell’s face a tough season run-in

Scocco’s nine Final goals have put the dynamic lynchpin at the top of the goalscoring charts and his team at the top of the table. Not a traditional striker, his ability to float between roles makes the long-range specialist a real menace around the box.

Impressively, Newell’s have scored three goals or more in six of their thirteen league games so far this campaign. Equally as impressive is their ability to progress in the Copa Libertadores without letting their league form suffer as a consequence – a rare occurrence in Argentina.

Newell’s remaining fixtures look to be the more straight forward of the three teams involved in the fight for the title. Meanwhile off the field, the pressure could be starting to affect boss Gerardo Martino after some controversial comments were made by the Newell’s DT after their 2-0 loss to Arsenal.

Lanús remain the only unbeaten side in this year’s Torneo Final, having won seven and drawn six of their fixtures so far. Granate went surprisingly close to the Inical title before falling away in the final few weeks.

Based on a firm basis of defensive strategy and arguably the best goalkeeper in the divison in Agustin Marchesin, Barros-Schelotto’s side have conceded just six goals so far this term – easily the best in the division. Meanwhile, despite the goals of Mario Regueiro drying up and Ismael Blanco failing to impress following his move to La Fortaleza, Silvio Romero’s eight goals have kept the Buenos Aires side right in contention for the title.

Lanús fell from the leaders in the last few weekends of the Inicial

Lanús fell from the leaders in the last few weekends of the Inicial

In an unconventional (in Argentina) 4-2-3-1, the towering Guido Pizarro runs the centre of midfield with his consistent short passing and leggy and athletic style from box to box. Following the departures of the experienced Mauro Camoranesi to Racing and Diego Valeri to MLS side Portland Timbers, Pizarro has featured more frequently in GBS’s first eleven and has clearly impressed the Boca legend.

The most successful Argentine club, River Plate, are aiming for their 35th Primera title and their first since the 2008 Clausura.

Following relegation into the second tier of Argentine football for the first time in their history two years ago, River Plate have redeveloped and become stronger. Relegation has given Los Millonarios further depth and confidence has returned to the club.

River Plate must make up ground

River Plate must make up ground

Despite off-field problems affecting the club in recent years, with debts reaching $75m, the club has improved on the pitch. Following Daniel Passarella’s decision to remove manager Matias Almeyda, the club reappointed club legend Ramon Diaz for a third time. After finishing in a respectable 8th in their first mini-season following promotion, Diaz has lead his side to 3rd in the Primera and the club have now gained a fantastic 1.687 points per game in their past 32 fixtures – the second most in the division.

With a spine of Barovero between the sticks, Bottinelli at the heart of defence, Lanzini running the midfield and Luna thriving on service, River have a side which rightly should be challenging for Argentina’s top prize.

With just six games remaining in the Final, there will undoubtedly be some key fixtures for all three teams to encounter. However, there is one game that could play a pivotal role in where the Final title will end up at the end of June. Newell’s Old Boys play Velez Sarsfield in the second leg of the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores this evening. Going into the tie 1-0 down on aggregate, the Old Boys will be aiming to take the game to the Inicial champions. However, as is commonly seen in Argentina, the further a team progresses in the Libertadores, the least likely it is for a team to maintain their form in their domestic league.

Domestically, there is a head-to-head between Lanús and River Plate at La Fortaleza on the penultimate week of the season in a match that could potentially hand the title to either side.

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