Traditional Big Five not so "Grandes"

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If you’re tired of the EPL's Big Four, or whether it’ll be Barcelona or Real Madrid, or whether Inter will win the scudetto again, fear not, there is hope.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez has a dream of 21st-century socialism in Latin America, and it’s already alive and kicking – in Argentine football.

The last six tournaments have been won by six different teams – a kind of power-sharing that goes strictly against the prevalent Peronist tendencies.

Traditionally it has always been the Five Grandes who have enjoyed a stranglehold on success out here, with Boca Juniors, River Plate, San Lorenzo, Racing and Independiente battling it out for the silverware.

That’s all changed though, given that the Grandes aren’t that, well, big anymore. For all their tradition, former glories, pesos and favourable decisions, nothing can save the Grandes right now.

None of them won at the weekend. San Lorenzo and Racing cancelled each other out in a simply horrendous match with no goals and no fun. The match commentators declared that both coaches – Diego Simeone and Ricardo Caruso Lombardi – should go away and think about their actions. The less anyone thinks about that game, the better.

Independiente have stooped so low that they celebrated a draw like a win (although in fairness they’d pulled back a two-goal deficit against the current champions Vélez).

The big story, however, is the Big Five’s Big Two – Boca Juniors and River Plate.

This blog was going to be about some iffy refereeing decisions. Boca were awarded a goal that suggests the linesman has Russian lineage, while River had a goal against them disallowed for no other reason than it being the second goal against them in as many minutes. And that can’t happen.

Despite these decisions, both clubs still managed to lose - Boca at home to Godoy Cruz to a late goal, and River away to Arsenal to an early one.

The season may be just five weekends old, but heads are already rolling.

News filtered through late on Sunday night. Alfio ‘Coco’ Basile, the man who made way for Diego Maradona to take over the national team just a few months back, had already had enough and resigned as Boca coach – but sporting director Carlos Bianchi refused to accept it.

Whether Basile stays or not, Boca have huge problems. Their two main players, striker Martín Palermo and playmaker Juan Román Riquelme, refuse to pass to each other. The defence is a mess, and the club’s enormous debt makes it impossible to strengthen the squad.

So far this season they’ve scraped one win out of five, and although being knocked out of the Sudamericana may be a blessing in disguise, the club basically need win the title to guarantee qualification for the Libertadores. Five games in, Boca are already eight points off the pace.

River Plate are in a similar situation: out of the Sudamericana, nowhere near qualification for the Libertadores, in massive debt and poor in the league.

River have, in fact, taken to breaking club records, but not the kind to sing about. Just a year ago they came last in the league in the Apertura ’08 – the first time ever that they’d finished bottom.

Sunday night’s defeat was their 15th consecutive away game without a win. Not since 1978 have the club travelled so poorly.

Gorosito has been in the job for nine months, and believes he’s got ‘balls big enough to handle the situation’. Those must be big balls then, because the situation is dire.

Like Boca, they have no money to buy new players. Inexperienced youth team players are promoted too quickly to the first team, while the side depends on the ageing legs of players like Gallardo, Ortega and Almeyda, who – put simply – are past it.

Gorosito may be saved by the club’s presidential elections in December. Candidates to take charge at the Monumental will all have their coach they want to bring in, making it virtually impossible for River to find a replacement for Gorosito between now and then.

All of this plays into the hands of Estudiantes – not one of the Grandes – who kicked off the weekend’s action with a 4-1 demolition of Huracán, and can laugh at the mess below them from the comfort of the top of the table.

VIDEO! See all the weekend's goals, this time with a backing track courtesy of Mick, Keef & Co
NEWS: Weekend round-up from Argentina
STATS: Argentina results, fixtures and table

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