Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Copa Qualifiers

Bulletin No 4174 slipped out of AFA headquarters on the 17th July 2008, setting out amongst other things match schedules, relegation procedures and the colour of corner flags........ Hidden away in Section 7 of the document can be found the qualification criteria for the 2010 Copa Libertadores. Argentine clubs have 5 places available, one each for the winners of the Clasura and Apertura with the remaining places assigned to the three teams with the highest accumulated points totals throughout the previous two campaigns. Estudiantes qualified automatically as reigning Copa Libertadores champions. At time of writing Vélez have secured their place as Clasura champions, which leaves 4 places up for grabs, and a myriad of possibilities and combinations.

Eyes are inevitably drawn firstly to Boca (42 pts) and River (40 pts) both are virtually out of the running and will not be appearing in South America's lucrative club tournament. This will be the first time since 1992 that the competition has been without these two at the same time - expect tears from TV execs, CONMEBOL administrators and fans a like. Poised to take advantage of this situation are Corinthians of Brazil who are actively courting Boca's Juan Roman Riquelme, unlike his current club they can entice him with the prospect of Copa Libertadores football. The club may be forced to let him go (or force him to go) given fiscal constraints. River Plate have played more Copa Libertadores matches than any other Argentine club - outgoing president Aguilar's legacy will see them unable to add to their tally in 2010.

Of the teams that have a good chance of qualifying we find this campaign's leading scorers Colón of Santa Fe (62 pts) who've only ever appeared in one previous tournament in 1998. Lanús - currently 12th in the table but with an accumulated total of 55 points. Tight-fisted Apertura leaders Banfield (55 pts) who've only conceded 6 goals so far are also well placed. In what is a refreshing change two more teams from the provinces are challenging for places - Newell's (53 pts) and Rosario Central (49 pts) with the small matter of this weekends Rosario derby to come, Perversely Rosario Central were involved in the relegation play-offs only months ago. Huracán (48 pts) are paying for a poor Apertura and despite being runners-up to Vélez are now looking doubtful to secure a place amidst continued inconsistent form. El Globo take on Diego Simeone's San Lorenzo (47 pts) this weekend who themselves haven't won in three - the loser can kiss any dreams of intercontinental football goodbye for 2010. Finally rejuvenated and re-housed Independiente (47 pts) are still in with chance.

Roll on January.