Is a Riquelme or a Moreno essential to win the Argentine title?
Losing the player voted best of the Apertura championship in the first half of the season to an injury that will keep him out for the whole of the Clausura seemed to dash any hopes Racing Club had of the Argentine title.
As with Boca Juniors’ loss of Juan Roman Riquelme to injury in the Apertura, so Racing feared the worst when Colombian Giovanni Moreno damaged knee ligaments in their opening match.
Worse still, Racing lost at home to Boca in their second match – the Boca side that with a not fully fit Riquelme in midfield had lost their opener by a crushing 4-1 scoreline at home to Godoy Cruz.
Who are Godoy Cruz? This modest team from Mendoza way to the west in the Andean foothills making a creditable debut in the Libertadores Cup (South America’s champions league) may not win the Clausura but they are making a good job of being major arbiters of the outcome.
They lose at home but cause trouble away, following up their victory over Boca last month with a 1-0 away win against title holders Estudiantes last weekend.
Meanwhile, Racing are making light of the loss of Moreno thanks partly to the goalscoring instincts of his fellow Colombian Teofilo Gutierrez.
They have won three matches in a row scoring 10 goals, half of them by new signing Gutierrez, and went top at the weekend with a 4-0 rout of Colon away at the Elephants’ Graveyard in Santa Fe – a name more apt for the home team than the visitors this time.
Racing have a direct style in which captain Claudio Jacob, a holding midfielder, has joined the creative Patricio Toranzo in providing the through balls for Pablo Luguercio, who roams both wings, and the front two, Gabriel Hauche and Gutierrez.
They are at home to Estudiantes at their giant Cilindro in Avellaneda next weekend in what will be a major test of their credentials.
In contrast Boca, Argentina’s most popular team suffering one of their worst seasons, lack the incisive passing they have relied on from Riquelme and show no direction.
The good news for them is that Riquelme, who missed the Apertura after knee surgery, could be available again next weekend having overcome a setback in his recovery.
Picture: Boca Juniors’ Juan Roman Riquelme (R) and Walter Erviti pause during their Argentine first division soccer match against Godoy Cruz in Buenos Aires February 13, 2011. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci