This Sunday sees perhaps the most exciting end to a football season in many years in the Argentinian Primera División. With only one game to play, there are still four teams that could win the championship. San Lorenzo heads the table with 32 points whilst Lanús, Vélez Sarsfield and Newell’s Old Boys jointly sit on 30 points. The incredible thing is that they are playing each other too! San Lorenzo visit third place Vélez Sarsfield, whilst second place Lanús are away to fourth place Newell’s Old Boys! What makes the Primera División all the more interesting is that if the top two teams finish on level points, it is not decided on goal difference but rather goes to a championship playoff game between those teams at a neutral venue to decide the winner of the Torneo Inicial championship.
What makes this weekend of football all the more fascinating is the history that the various teams have with each other. San Lorenzo was the preseason favourites having built a formidable team with a particularly strong midfield. This is actually something to take note of, as for the majority of the season they have played without a recognized striker. Lanús, on the other hand, have just won the Copa Sudamericana for the second time in their history beating Brazil’s Ponte Preta so they have a chance to win a unique double should they win the Primera División. Vélez Sarsfield have quietly snuck up the table with no one expecting them to be in contention at this stage of the season after a poor start to the Primera División season. Finally Newell’s Old Boys, who just a few weeks ago led the Primera División, have fallen away after a terrible run of form where they have failed to win any of their last 7 games.
To better prepare for these games, we took a look at all four teams over the course of the season up to now and picked out a few interesting points from the teams . San Lorenzo may have a lead of 2 points over the other teams but they have only picked up a total of 6 points out of a possible 12 whereas their opponents, Vélez Sarsfield, come into the game in a rich vein of form, having picked up 10 points out of a possible 12. Despite this great run of form over the last few games, Vélez Sarsfield have only managed to hold 51%, on average, of live ball possession over the course of the season. San Lorenzo, on the other hand, has had an average of 56% live ball possession. They have also had, on average, 12.7 shots on goal per game which have resulted in 1.6 goals per game whereas Vélez Sarsfield have had 12.7 shots on goal which resulted in 1.3 goals per game.
San Lorenzo has an average of 120 attacking events per game. This being an attacking action undertaken by the team. Vélez Sarsfield, on the other hand, have had a fewer such events in their games with an average of 106.1 per game.
In the other game, Newell’s Old Boys, despite their horrific run of form, have enjoyed a very high average when it comes to live ball possession with them seeing 61% of the ball in the previous 18 games. They only managed to take 12.2 shots on goal, the lowest of the top four teams, and only scored 1.4 goals per game. So despite having dominated possession, they seemed unable to do anything meaningful with that possession. Lanús enjoyed a healthy 54% of live ball possession and managed to take 12.3 shots on goal per game with 1.4 being converted into goals.
Whilst they have a higher percentage of possession, Newell’s Old Boys have not done much with it, having only being involved in 110.7 attacking events per game. One reason for this could be their apparent love for starting short from the back. They start an average of 18.2 attacks per game with a short pass from their goalkeeper. This is significantly higher than any of the other top teams. San Lorenzo, for example, only started 5.7 attacks in this manner. A common element of Lanús’s game is the long ball with them making use of this play to attack the opposition goal 9.6 times per game – more than any other team.
Whilst, in normal circumstances, looking at the statistics of previous games can give a good indication of what can be expected in an upcoming game, the fact that the championship itself could be one in either one of these games, it is plausible to expect this to be on the minds of the various players and thus impact their respective styles of play. Either way, we can expect a lot of excitement on Sunday evening as the Torneo Inicial comes to a head!
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