Estudiantes and Vélez battle for the title as 'big five' whittled down to two

Both lost twice in the season, and only the two points dropped in a draw keeps Vélez behind Estudiantes.

They have the same goal difference, with the Students scoring one less, and conceding one less too.

And while it has become standard bar-talk to say that one is defensive and one is attacking, this is hardly Chapter 1,482 of the Bilardo vs. Menotti debate.

Estudiantes may be where Dr. Bilardo developed his palate for a more raw style, but Vélez are far from claiming to be – historically – the cradle of beautiful football. It is true that Vélez have looked like a stronger attacking side this season - in Santiago Silva and Juan Manuel Martinez they have two of the top scorers in the league with 11 and nine goals respectively. Throw in Maxi Moralez for added flair, or the late entrance of Jonathan Cristaldo, and The Fort have overwhelmed several sides going forward.

But Estudiantes have scored just one less this term. They lost Mauro Boselli and José Sosa in pre-season, and then lost Hernán López – Boselli’s replacement – to injury. Gastón ‘La Gata’ Fernández is far from a target man and chipped in with six goals as the Pincha’s top scorer.

But even without captain Juan Sebastián Verón and the dynamic Enzo Pérez, Estudiantes still thrashed River Plate in midweek. That 4-0 result speaks volumes of the dire state River are in, but also how strong Estudiantes are, despite missing two key midfielders.

Fernández has lead the way, goal-wise, for Estudiantes

So the title race goes down to the final day. Vélez are away to Racing with the Academy currently in mourning after losing the chance of qualifying for the Libertadores to their local (100 metres away) rivals Independiente, who won the Sudamericana and snapped up that final place.

Estudiantes are home (if playing in Quilmes while their new stadium is finished can be called playing at home) to third placed Arsenal. The title is there for Estudiantes to lose.

Yet in all this, this season has grabbed the attention. Not necessarily for the quality of football, because as everyone here admits this has been far from a vintage season. But there has been no surprise package. Over the past few years the Argentine league had become characterised by one-off seasons from the football middle classes who challenged for the title. Argentinos Juniors, Banfield and Lanús went all the way and won.

There are eight points separating second-placed Vélez and third-placed Arsenal. The gap between the front pack hasn’t been so large in years. It was to be expected that Vélez and Estudiantes would challenge, but for nobody else to even come close has be a surprise.

Are they settling in to their role as the Big Two? Are the traditional Big Five of Boca, River, Independiente, Racing and San Lorenzo beyond redemption? A few more seasons will need to pass before we can answer that question, but in the meantime, for the drama queens out there, lets hope for a grand finale – Estudiantes draw and Vélez win, setting up a tasty one-off winner-takes-all playoff.

FIXTURES Saturday All Boys v Godoy Cruz Sunday Racing v Vélez, Estudiantes v Arsenal, San Lorenzo v Banfield, Colón v Newell’s Monday Huracán v Independiente, Lanús v River, Boca v Gimnasia, Olimpo v Quilmes, Tigre v Argentinos

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