Although the clasico clash between Argentine giants Boca Juniors and River Plate may be better known on the world stage, few derbies can match the passion exhibited when Avellaneda rivals Racing Club and Independiente meet. Battle between the two world champions has been waged since their first clash in 1907, 105 years ago; while the fact that the clubs’ grounds lie barely 300m away from each other gives this match an intense local flavour almost unmatched in world football.
The latest edition of the clásico de Avellaneda will take place this Saturday, when Luis Zubeldia’s Racing will host an Independiente side coached by Cristian Diaz. Occurring in just the third week of the Inicial 2012 season, there is a certain unknown quantity to the derby which could make compelling viewing.
Both sides reinforced heavily over the winter break, and on first glance it is Racing who start as favourites. Experienced stars such as José Sand, Diego Villar and Mauro Camoranesi have added backbone to the squad; and although La Academia experienced disappointment in their Copa Argentina final against Boca, four points in their opening two league fixtures put the club in the upper reaches of the table.
Sand endured a debut to forget with two missed penalties as Zubeldia’s charges were held to a 1-1 draw by Atletico Rafaela. But there were happier days ahead for the Racing faithful: Fernando Ortiz netted a towering header to put his team on the lead against Argentinos Juniors, before young promise Ricardo Centurion scored his first ever professional goal to seal a 2-0 victory and send the club into the clásicoin the best possible fashion.
The Diablos Rojos also splashed the cash in pre-season, and the result so far has been two encouraging draws against highly-fancied Newell’s Old Boys and VélezSarsfield. The club is yet to find the net, but a pair of clean sheets speaks highly of the defensive resolve brought by uncompromising Paraguayan defender Claudio Morel Rodriguez, playing alongside Cristian Tula who played the first half of the year in Medellin with Atletico Nacional.
The last match between the sides ended in a resounding 4-1 victory for Independiente in their own backyard, helped by sendings off for Teófilo Gutierrez and Bruno Zuculini. That took the Rojo to a commanding lead in the history of this fixture; 88 victories, compared to just 55 for their neighbours in 203 meetings.However, it would be very ambitious to expect as many goals this time round. Although Racing will be hoping to gain revenge on home soil and inflict a humiliating victory, the strength Diaz’s men carry at the back means that a draw looks a very interesting bet with Youwin at 3.05.
Fireworks, smoke bombs and a cascade of paper thrown from the stands are just part of the carnival put on every time these two bitter rivals fight for supremacy in Avellaneda. Racing-Independiente matches are never without incident, and the only guarantee is that events on Saturday will dominate the headlines in Argentina for the entire week.
Buenos Aires-based Dan Edwards is a freelance journalist specialising in Argentinian football, you can follow him on Twitter here