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Psychological war resumes in Argentine championship

© Reuters 2002

By Brian Homewood
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Independiente, who are on the brink of winning the Argentine championship title for the first time in eight years, have accused rivals of resuming a psychological battle in an attempt to destabilise them.

The Red Devils have an eight-point lead over Boca Juniors and River Plate with five matches each to play, but Boca striker Guillermo Barros Schelotto said if his team could close the gap at the weekend, the leaders would tremble.

Boca still have to play Independiente and Schelotto, who enjoys provoking opponents on and off the field, said: "If we're down to six points when we play them, we will win, without doubt."

Independiente striker Daniel Montenegro accused Boca of repeating unsettling tactics used earlier in the championship by River goalkeeper Angel Comizzo.

"You don't win anything by talking and at the moment, we just depend on ourselves, full stop," he told the sports daily Ole. "It seems that we've gone back to the Comizzo era and the quotes game."

The weekend's games give Boca hopes of closing the gap as they are at home to bottom-placed Huracan while Independiente are away to second from bottom Nueva Chicago.

Boca went ahead of arch-rivals River on goal difference after beating them 2-1 last Sunday, a result which has given a new lease of life to Boca coach Washington Tabarez and increased the pressure on his River counterpart Manuel Pellegrini.

Speculation is rife as to whether the respective coaches will stay in their posts at the end of the year. Tabarez has been at Boca for one year while Pellegrini has had less than six months at River.

Newell's Old Boys coach Hector Veira, one of the few men to have coached both Boca and River, said he was saddened after the team were jeered during last weekend's 1-0 win at home to Olimpo.

"The other day, we were booed and that hurt me a lot," he said. "We are working so they Newell's can play to their potential.

Newell's kick off the weekend's programme when they are away to Racing Club, who are 12th after a roller-coaster campaign under former Tottenham Hotspur and Argentina midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles.

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