The Gloriously Respectful preview
Ã¢ÂÂYou have to respect the glory,Ã¢ÂÂ says Alex Sabella. Various sectors of the press, the fans and the world have not exactly been forthcoming in lavishing praise on his Estudiantes side in recent weeks, and the men from La Plata are not happy about this lack of respect.
After losing to top-flight newcomers, All Boys, in the league recently, the critics have rained in. After losing to NewellÃ¢ÂÂs in the Sudamericana and going out of the competition, the critics rained in. And after losing the Recopa Ã¢ÂÂ South American Supercup to you and me Ã¢ÂÂ to Liga de Quito, yes indeed, the critics rained in.
Estudiantes had been the darlings of Argentine football before this campaign. TheyÃ¢ÂÂre not one of the Big Five, they have a Millwall Ã¢ÂÂnobody likes us and we donÃ¢ÂÂt careÃ¢ÂÂ swagger about them, and although they havenÃ¢ÂÂt won the league since 2006, winning the 2009 Libertadores Cup meant that nobody could come close when it came to bragging rights.
Along with VÃÂ©lez, they were the favourites for another successful season a couple of months back. And it wasnÃ¢ÂÂt just going to be any old successful season, but a championship, Sudamericana and Recopa grand slam.
But then All Boys, NewellÃ¢ÂÂs and Liga de Quito put paid to that talk. Everone was on the PichaÃ¢ÂÂs back again. Lacking respect.
Fortunately, in Argentina there are two types of competition that save seasons - one is the league, the other is the clÃÂ¡sico. The La Plata derby had been postponed because of the Recopa final, but on Wednesday the two went to battle. Fortunately, in light of recent gun-wielding antics from the Estudiantes fans, there was no battle. Although there was a victory.
The Pincha breezed past GimnasÃÂa winning 2-0, including a penalty from Juan SebastiÃÂ¡n VerÃÂ³n, forcing the gymnasts coach Diego Cocca to quit, and went top of the pile again.
Ã¢ÂÂWe have to thank these players, they lead us to glory and that deserves respect,Ã¢ÂÂ Sabella demanded after the derby.
The problem is that the current squad is nowhere near that has been so dominant in recent years. To balance the books, Estudiantes were forced to sell Mauro Boselli to Wigan, Marcos Angeleri to Sunderland, Clemente Rodriguez and CristiÃÂ¡n Cellay to Boca, plus JosÃÂ© Sosa to Napoli over the close season.
Without that group of players, challenging in the Sudamericana and on the home front would be far too big a task.
Ã¢ÂÂWe are like a pick-up truck,Ã¢ÂÂ reckons Juan SebastiÃÂ¡n VerÃÂ³n, obliging the journalist who unflinchingly continued the insidious newly-installed trend in Argentina to compare all teams to cars. This weekend they take on San Lorenzo, the Ford Falcon, readers may recall, where sanlorÃÂ©Ã¢ÂÂs coach RamÃÂ³n DÃÂaz believes the whole country will be supporting the ciclÃÂ³n in order to knock Estudiantes off the top spot.
The clash between the two ought to have been two contenders for the biggest, most powerful, most glorious and most respected job of them all Ã¢ÂÂ national team coach. RamÃÂ³n DÃÂaz has the CV for the gig. Alex Sabella is Carlos BilardoÃ¢ÂÂs favourite for the role. But as Maradona pointed out this week, itÃ¢ÂÂs all about profile. And that must be respected.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs not my fault if the new coach has a low profile because he only scored three goals. I scored 200, I earned my profile on the pitch,fÃ¢ÂÂ said Diego about Sergio Batista in Russia while helping to raise $500,000 for charity.
Maradona, you see, isnÃ¢ÂÂt being shown enough respect for what he did as a player, for his time as coach and for what he can still bring to the national team. This lack of respect has been turned around on a sixpenny piece by pelusa himself, and thrown back in the face of just about everyone.
Between his fund-raising trips to Moscow and interviews with local TV stations, Maradona has criticised everybody Ã¢ÂÂ from AFA head-honcho Julio Grondona for lies, to Carlos Bilardo for not being able to sing karaoke, to Sergio Batista for not being recognised in Uruguay (and only scoring three goals), to the players when they were still his players for their lack of concentration against GermanyÃ¢ÂÂ¦
The list goes on, but the story is the same. The glory must be respected.
Matchday nine fixtures
Quilmes Ã¢ÂÂ Arsenal
NewellÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂ VÃÂ©lez
All Boys Ã¢ÂÂ Tigre
Godoy Cruz Ã¢ÂÂ Independiente
Gimnasia Ã¢ÂÂ Argentinos
Racing Ã¢ÂÂ HuracÃÂ¡n
Olimpo Ã¢ÂÂ ColÃÂ³n
San Lorenzo Ã¢ÂÂ Estudiantes
Boca Ã¢ÂÂ LanÃÂºs
Banfield - River