Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Yes it's back! After all of the Copa America action (which technically hasn't finished as the ball from Elano's penalty against Paraguay is still travelling through space), the domestic bliss that is the Primera División returns and truth be told, Argie Bargy is seriously relieved, and rather looking forward to it.
There are so many ways to do a season preview: team-by-team, just as a huge block of prose, using expressive dance and so on. But we've decided to do it roughly based on where teams finished in the last Clausura season, grouped together in a careless and whimsical fashion...
VELEZ won the title by four points and were by far the best team in Argentina over the whole 2010/11 season. They will begin the new season with a weaker squad though, having lost Ricky Alvarez to Inter for a fairly hefty sum, but more importantly, Maxi Moralez to Atalanta. While they have players like David Ramirez in the squad to soften the blow, they have not made any signings to take the breath away.
Last season's runners-up, LANUS, have also lost some key individuals, including Hoyos, Pelletieri and Valeri (who hasn't left yet but definitely will). They've been linked with Nacional playmaker Mauricio Pereyra, who'd be a great replacement for Valeri, but the key thing will be the continued development of young Romero up front. If he keeps on his upward curve, then Lanus will be contenders once more.
It will be tough for GODOY CRUZ to improve on their best season ever, but it will rely on how their raft of signings from the lower leagues bed in at the higher level. If one or two turn out to be gems then there's no reason why they can't finish in the top 4 or 5 again, and they haven't lost any key figures of their successful campaign. It's been a great year for provincial football in Argentina.
The Chasing Pack
OLIMPO were a surprise package last season, and were well in the title race for the first half of the Clausura campaign. Rather predictably though, a club of little financial means, they have been fleeced of many of the players that got them there. Gone are Ezequiel Maggiolo and Martin Aguirre amongst a list of 13 departures from the Bahia Blanca club, where new recruits - much like at Godoy Cruz - will have to make the transition from the lower leagues. Expect them to be lower mid-table.
ARGENTINOS conceded just 11 in 19 last season, but only netted 16 times. If they can build on this defence then there's no doubt that they could be contenders.
Best of the Rest
ESTUDIANTES had a shocking Clausura when you consider they'd just been so dominant in winning the Apertura title, but the fact is that Berizzo never got hold of things in La Plata and with largely the same squad, he just failed to get the results that his predecessor got. They've arguably had the most impressive incoming signings of any side in this off-season, so despite losing Enzo Perez and Federico Fernandez to Benfica and Napoli respectively, they look set for a return to title challenging. The only concern is new boss Russo, who was frankly unimpressive at Racing.
As you'd expect, INDEPENDIENTE and RACING have both bought well, without losing any vital cogs from their respective machines. Racing have got Diego Simeone in as boss in what could be a master-stroke - twinned with the return of the stupendous Gio Moreno, Argie Bargy predicts Racing to be top 4, starting slowly and building momentum. The red side of Avellaneda has the players to move up the table, but has 'the Turk' done anything in the league to merit still being in charge there?
BOCA JUNIORS have the money to get the right men in, but they won't win the title - we just refuse to believe they can do it. It's an ok side, which will win more than it loses but it is nothing more. 4th-8th.
From the rest, the only two clubs you could see surprising are BANFIELD and SAN LORENZO. The former have one of the bright young striking talents in Argentina (Facundo Ferreyra) and Acevedo could be an inspired signing from relegated River, whilst Eluchans is an exciting prospect. San Lore have a new manager and with that, hope that their already strong squad will be moulded into a team that can at least head for continental qualification.
Down The Bottom
That leaves us with five teams that featured last season but didn't impress. These could be roughly split into two groups - the ones that will be ok, and the ones that will struggle.
In the primary grouping, you'd place TIGRE and COLON. Tigre have held onto goalscorer extraordinaire Denis Stracqualursi, and strengthened well with players like Maggiolo. Colon have brought in two of the most exciting signings of the window, in Chevanton and Tino Costa - both returning from Europe. They have the evergreen 'Bichi' Fuertes up front who will score goals as long his legs still carry him, and because of this, there seems no way they will finish below mid-table anonymity.
The remaining three are your strugglers. NEWELL'S are an obvious one given their performances between January and June which barely merit the tag of 'football'. An utterly hopeless entity that has lost some good talent as well. ALL BOYS and ARSENAL both were in the lower reaches of the table and have got weaker squads, therefore it's kind of logical that they will struggle.
The New Boys
Of course, there are four relative unknowns joining the party this year and guessing how well promoted sides will do (apart from 'not') isn't particularly easy. BELGRANO have recruited some of the better players to the naked eye but it's usually the undiscovered gems that come to the fore. Ribair Rodriguez is an excellent midfielder though and with him the Pirates could well be the surprise of the promoted sides, but fans should look forward to a renewal of the Santa Fe clasico with the arrival of UNION in the top flight.
Argie Bargy PredictionsChampions - EstudiantesSurprise Package - Banfield or RacingDisappointment - Olimpo overachieved last year, and will struggle.Whipping Boys - Newell's Old BoysRising Star - Silvio Romero (Lanús)
Ed Malyon rounds up the (half-)season action in Argentina... THE CHAMPIONS Boca Juniors broke all sorts
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