Velez Sarsfield v Newell’s Old Boys | Saturday 29 June | Mendoza (Neutral Ground) | 23:00
The Argentinean Primera season is divided into two parts, the Torneo Inicial (Initial first round of 19 games) and Torneo Final (second round). It was previously known as the Torneo Apertura and Clausura. The winners of the two tournaments play a final match to decide the champion.
To Win (90mins)
Velez Sarsfield 31/20
Newell’s Old Boys 19/10
Velez won the Torneo Inicial stage of the season that ended in December of last year. They finished on 41 points from their 19 matches, winning 13, drawing two and losing only four games. They had a much tougher second part of the season finishing 14th out of 20 in the Torneo Final, 18 points behind champions Newell’s. However, they did finish strong, having gone the last five matches unbeaten, winning two and drawing three. Their last match was a 2-1 home win over Atletico Rafaela. The Torneo Inicial was Sarsfield’s eighth title in 20 years as they cemented their status as the most successful club outside of the traditional big five. Their total of nine national titles is only bettered by the big five and amateur side Alumni - who disbanded 99 years ago - and their sustained success of recent years is without doubt heavily down to director of football Christian Bassedas and manager Ricardo Gareca. In a league where short-termism is rampant and managers are hired, fired and re-circulated on an almost weekly basis, Gareca has remained in his post for four years, delivering the club three league titles in that time. Like Newell’s’ coach, Ricardo Gareca is also a former player with over 100 caps and represented the national team.
Newell’s Old Boys
It was celebration time in Rosario as Newell's Old Boys clinched the Torneo Final title last Wednesday without even kicking a ball. Atletico Lanus' defeat to Estudiantes means that Old Boys had an unassailable six-point lead at the top of the Argentinean Torneo Final, with one game to play. Estudiantes and Lanus played only 45 minutes, as the first meeting between the two sides was abandoned earlier this month after a fan was killed during clashes with police. Estudiantes, who had scored twice in the last nine minutes of the first half before the match was abandoned, hung on for a 2-0 home victory. Going into last weekend’s final round of matches, Newell’s had 38 points, Lanus and River Plate 32 each. It was the sixth league title for the team coached by Gerardo Martino who played over 500 matches for Newell’s. Martino also steered Paraguay to the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals and the 2011 Copa America final.
Old Boys’ crucial win came two weekends back with a 3-0 win over Atletico Rafaela. Last weekend, with the league already wrapped up, they fell to a 1-0 home loss to Argentinos Juniors. In the Initial Tournament (first round), Newell’s fought for the title until the 17th round, in which they lost at home 2-1 against All Boys and Velez Sarsfield claimed the title. A key to the team’s success was the three signings before the start of the season. Argentina 2006 and 2010 World Cup players Gabriel Heinze in defence and Maxi Rodríguez in midfield, and striker Ignacio Scocco. All players started their careers at Newell’s but moved abroad only to return this season. Newell’s will also meet favourites Atletico Mineiro of Brazil in the Copa Libertadores (South American Champions League) semi-finals in July.
VERDICT: Newell’s Old Boys 19/10
Newell’s won both league meetings this season and also knocked Sarsfield out of the Copa Libertadores last month. They were by far the more consistent over both tournaments and should deservedly win the overall final to be crowned Argentinean Primera champions.