Now’s as good a time as any to check back in on our favorite underachieving club from South America. There’s four weeks left on the Nacional B season. Only twelve points up for grabs. You might expect a big club like River Plate, with all its resources focused on earning promotion back to the top flight, would have this thing sewn up and bagged by now. But you’d be wrong. It’s been a rocky, nerve-racking ride for Los Millos, and this weekend won’t be any smoother or less nervy. It’s been squeaky bum time at River Plate for several weeks now.
So where are we right now? Well, last weekend River was held to a draw at home against lowly Brown. The sort of performance that inspires confidence, right? The dropped points meant they wasted a chance to grab hold of the top of the league. A gentle reminder about promotion: first and second place automatically go up, while 3rd and 4th place have to play a 2 game playoff against the 17th and 18th place teams from Primera A. River is in second place right now, but they’re only ahead of Instituto on goal difference. The league leaders are Rosario Central, ahead of River by two points. Guess which team River gets to face on the road this weekend?
That’s right. Las Gallinas will have to defeat the league leaders in Rosario if they want to hold on to an automatic promotion spot for another week. It’s a huge matchup. Instituto has a relatively easy game against Independiente de Mendoza, so assuming they win, River has no choice but to win against Rosario Central in order to keep pace.
How are River’s coddled stars doing so far? Ex-Bordeaux goal poacher Fernando “Cavegol” Cavenaghi has 19 goals on the season, but he’s well behind Rosario’s Gonzalo “Argie Crouch” Castillejos, who has 24. David “Trezegol” Trezeguet has done pretty well for a dusty old striker with creaky knees worn-out hamstrings. He’s got 11 goals in just half a season.
The big challenge for gaffer Matías “Buzzcut” Almeyda this season has been holding on to leads. They’ve dropped 8 points by giving up the lead late in the game. Almeyda is considering an attack-minded 3-4-3 to face Central. I’m not sure how 3 backs helps you keep a lead through 90 minutes, but he can ill afford to leave anything in the tank now. Should River lose and Instituto win, River will be on the outside looking in: third place, 3 points behind Instituto with only 3 games left.
For River fans, the prospect of facing San Lorenzo or Tigre in a promotion playoff is chilling.