Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
It feels like just yesterday that last season finished with defeat for Boca in the Copa Libertadores final, but Argieball is back and it’s better than ever (if you believe the AFA).
The league has been COMPETELY REMODELLED, in fact it’s been so thoroughly redesigned that to the untrained eye it may well seem to be exactly like it was before but with an extra trophy.
Instead of the season being split into two halves – the Apertura and Clausura – we supposedly have one ‘long tournament’ which will be temporally divided into the ‘torneo incial’ and ‘torneo final’. The winners of each play a one-off super-final to declare an overall ‘superchampion’.
No relegation until June, but the ‘promedio’ system remains. If you’re one of the bottom three teams based on average points won over last three years then you’re outta here.
But anyway, that’s the admin out of the way, so here’s the real stuff:
That All Boys were even in the title race last season brings a bit of vomit to the mouth. A filthy little side full of hatchet-men over the last couple of years, they should be slightly better having got rid of the likes of Hugo Barrientos (who tested positive for a banned substance in the off-season) but they’re still the Stoke of the Argie league and that’s no compliment.
Where will they finish? Bottom half, hopefullyKey Player: Mauro Matos – their only goalscorerOdds 43/1 – 5th last year and only five points off the title makes this price look big, but factoring in Libertadores and Albo’s own Sudamericana campaign there’s nothing to see here, least of all any sort of value
Argentinos are renown for bringing players through. The latest to follow in the footsteps of Maradona and Riquelme is likely to be Juani Ramirez or Sebastian Nagüel, but they have bought experience this winter to give them a bit of protection. Diego Placente and Ariel Garcé are both former Argentina defenders, while Leonel Nuñez and Leandro Caruso provide experience up front.
Where will they finish? Mid-tablishKey Player: Leandro Caruso – if they are to do anything of note this year, it will be because the former Udinese forward hits some formOdds 32/1 – A touch of value as they could challenge if Nuñez and Caruso click
Arsenal de Sarandí
Everyone will try to forget as quickly as possible that Arsenal were somehow champions last year. Their big losses are Luciano Leguizamón, who has a habit of turning up with a goal, and Guillermo Burdisso, who formed the best defensive partnership in the league with Lisandro Lopez. Renewing Carlos Carbonero’s loan is a great move but their dealings have resulted in a net weakening of their squad.
Where will they finish? Hopefully back down with the plankton in mid-tableKey Player: Lisandro Lopez – until he gets his big European move he will be the bedrock of this teamOdds 12/1 – not interested in the slightest. Big departures in attack and defence render this price far too short
Started last year like a steam train but ended it narrowly avoiding the drop. The sale of Castro to Godoy Cruz will hit them hard, and with such strong teams coming up this season, The Cream will certainly not be rising to the top, in fact, I fear they will be getting that sinking feeling and dropping out the division.
Where will they finish? Towards the bottom, only saved by a poor season on the promedios by San Lorenzo or IndependienteKey Player: Dario Gandín – the chubby little frontman scores goals whatever happens. If he can net 15+, they are far less likely to go downOdds 88/1 – I wouldn’t take any price south of 300s
The Cordobeses did so well last season that it would take a truly abysmal effort from them to get relegated, although their squad looks very much like a club that could do so. They’ve gambled on players from lower leagues and abroad to improve their roster and one of them is going to need to bloom in a team that will probably finish low down, maybe even bottom three, but should just about survive the promedios.
Where will they finish? 18th-20th but last season’s points tally saves them from the drop.Key Player: Victor Aquino – only two sides scored fewer than Belgrano last season, so the Paraguayan has been brought in to attempt to remedy this. The bad news is that he hasn’t scored double figures in a season since ’08Odds 43/1 – like MC Hammer, I can’t touch this
Won the Apertura, nearly won the Libertadores, would have won the Clausura if they hadn’t been asked not to by Grondona (warning: conspiracy alert) but the Boca of 2011/12 is gone. Riquelme is on his way out and his departure can’t be underestimated. A bad start could see the end of JC Falcioni’s reign as manager and then we could see Boca return to the locura of days gone by. To balance the books they have lost a lot of talent, and while this could lead to the emergence of youth talents like Paredes and Benavidez, they won’t win the title.
Where will they finish? Between 3rd and 7th. Good, but not good enough, and if they go far in the Sudamericana it could be even lower down as they give up domestically.Key Player: Santiago Silva – I don’t expect Pochi Chavez to be able to fill Riquelme’s boots, so I can see Silva evolving into a nuevganche and being the attacking focus of Falcioni’s new Boca. On his day, the best striker in the league. Odds 4/1 favourites – no thanks
Colón de Santa Fe
Club legend Bichi Fuertes has retired, but they have replaced his goals with those of Emmanuel Gigliotti - a reliable performer at this level - and Godoy Cruz hitman Ruben Ramirez. Javier Chevanton’s injury problems see him depart the club before ever showing his abundant class but their recruitment this off-season means they probably have the best strike partnership in the league and they could shock some people.
Where will they finish? Anonymous in mid-table if they go far in the Sudamericana, otherwise they could be a dark horseKey Player: Sebastian Prediger will hold together the midfield alongside Bernardello, and with them playing two up front, their shielding of the defence will be keyOdds 23/1 – Dark horses with a juicy price. Worth backing with the hope they get knocked out of continental competition
Estudiantes de La Plata
Without Juan Sebastian Verón, it was always going to be a tough season, but they have replaced him very well with Román Martinez. Angeleri’s return from his English abyss will strengthen the defence but there seem to be too many key departures, including the baffling decision to let Carlos Carbonero back out on loan after dazzling at Arsenal. New boss Cagna will have to work some magic.
Where will they finish? In the mix, but they look a tad short up front to win it outrightKey Player: Roman Martinez has to replace Verón but if they’re to compete for honours, it will need to be Gastón Fernandez up front who shinesOdds 9/1 – A price based more on reputation than anything, buy a striker and I’ll reconsider
Previously the example for all provincial clubs, Godoy Cruz disintegrated into an uncompetitive mush last season and have mad changes in the off-season to correct this. While there have been key departures in Caruso, Rojas and Villar, their replacements are very good and a freshening up of this squad is just what was needed. They should improve on last year’s showing.
Where will they finish? Back up in mid-table after an awful yearKey Player: The returning David Ramirez guarantees goals from midfield and will be the central figure of this teamOdds 65/1 – seems a tad short if anything, little chance of challenging
The promedio haunts them like the ghost of a murdered ex-wife and relegation is a distinct possibility after years of underachievement. They’ve bought so well though, that it seems impossible to see them face the drop, with too many valuable arrivals to mention while crucially they got good money for inconsistent players like Patricio Rodriguez. They also will play in the Sudamericana and this could be a big season for youngsters Montserrat and Villafañez.
Where will they finish? Again, dependent on continental progress but potentially 5th-8thKey Player: Cristian Tula will need to be the experienced head at the centre of defence. He could be partnered by young hope Leonel Galeano in a back line that is undoubtedly the weak point of their squadOdds 18/1 – The sort of price that is tempting given how much they have strengthened
All change at Lanús. Out goes the successful manager, in come a pair of twins in joint charge who have never managed at this level before. You may see that I don’t consider this an entirely positive thing. They have also lost top scorer Pavone and Mauro Camoranesi, but if they hold on to Regueiro and Valeri then they should be ok. Castillejos needs to translate his form from the second tier last season into top flight goals.
Where will they finish? The Barros Schelotto double-team is a complete unknown, but they have the squad for a top 6 finish.Key Player: Mario Regueiro provides creativity and goals from midfield, they need to sort out his contract issues and keep hold of himOdds 7/1 – You’d have to have a lot of faith in the management team to back them. A stronger squad than this one didn’t challenge last year
Newell’s Old Boys
Gerardo ‘Tato’ Martino single-handedly transformed Newells from whipping boys into title-contenders. They are now a well-drilled and effective unit that are further bolstered by the return of Maxi Rodriguez from Liverpool, and the exciting addition of Ignacio Scocco. If Maxi Urruti continues to develop then they are real dark horses whose only major loss has been Pellerano’s return to Almería.
Where will they finish? Potential to be going for gold this year. Strong.Key Player: Lucas Bernardi holds together that midfield and is the experienced head among a talented bunchOdds 14/1 – the best value of any team in the league
Omar de Felippe did remarkably to get the Brewers promoted last year. It helped that Instituto and Rosario Central monumentally bottled it but the Falklands veteran does an amazing job with small sides, as he did with Olimpo. Rescaldani will be a big loss, but if they maintain their solid back line they could stay up.
Where will they finish? Bottom sixKey Player: Roberto Nanni. If he scores goals then they could feature in the sweet sanctuary of mid-tableOdds 150/1 – Say no more
ALL CHANGE PLEASE, ALL CHANGE. Zubeldía has got rid of eleven first-team players and re-sculpted this side in his own image. He has brought in proven players at this level rather than stars, and the front pairing of Sand and Campora looks intriguing. Watch for the emergence of youngsters Centurión and Fariña.
Where will they finish? Always much lower than everyone expects them to. 5th-10thKey Player: Sebastian Saja; captain and arguably the best keeper in the leagueOdds 6/1 – No thanks. Big club whose reputation tends to smother their odds
Guess who’s back? Even in success River have found turmoil, with the horrendously-managed departures of Chori Dominguez and Fernando Cavenaghi. This team will focus on feeding David Trezeguet, and they have bought well in the off-season to propel them to a top 5-8 finish. Potential title-challengers if it clicks.
Where will they finish? I kind of just said thatKey Player: Ezequiel Cirigliano will continue his growth into a superstar at the base of midfieldOdds 8/1 – Reputation forces their price down, but it’s not terrible value
Having narrowly survived relegation via a playoff, they have massacred the playing squad and bought roughly 437 new first-team players. Among them are some great acquisitions, though; Aguiar, Rolle, Mercier, Jara and Stracqualursi should all be top performers in the Argie Primera. If only they had a manager to match…
Where will they finish? Squad good enough to be top three, but quite simply they always find a way to screw things upKey Player: Buffarini is a class act on the right wing, and his supply to Stracqualursi and Jara will be dreamyOdds 12/1 – Narrowly avoided relegation but have a stupendous squad. I don’t know what to think
San Martín de San Juan
They just about survived last year as Caprari suddenly started scoring during the Clausura. Without him they definitely would have dropped, yet if he continues this form then someone will take him off their hands in January. Either way, it will be difficult for them to stay up and home form will be key out in the provinces.
Where will they finish? Bottom threeKey Player: Gaston Caprari for reasons mentioned, but also the experienced Grabinski at the heart of defenceOdds 88/1 – what are their odds to go down?
The miracle boys survived relegation by mounting a title challenge from nowhere, and this season Rodolfo Arruabarrena – a talented young coach – should be content with mid-table. The sales of Martinez and Morales have potentially fatally weakened them. Federico Santander is an interesting addition up front with plenty of raw talent.
Where will they finish? Bottom halfKey Player: Diego Castaño is now without two sublime midfield colleagues and will have to hold it together himself. Good luck with thatOdds 44/1 – Times it by ten and we’ll talk. If Arruabarrena goes then they’re bottom three fodder
Unión Santa Fe
They have bought a host of unknowns in the hope that they turn out good. A side that can’t compete financially, they were forced to sell their star Paulo Rosales to capital moneyboys Independiente and the outlook for them is bleak.
Where will they finish? Bottom five for sure, maybe even bottom threeKey Player: Pablo Magnín is only 22 but they need him to grow into a goalscorer if they’re to surviveOdds Irrelevant – don’t back them
I have watched on in horror as one of the best-run clubs in Argentina has had it’s squad dismantled this summer. First-choice players like Martinez, Ramirez, Ortiz, Obolo, Barovero, Zapata and Fernandez have all gone – and they’re all great players. Only Barovero has been adequately replaced, with Ricardo Gareca seemingly banking on youth to replace many of the departed. It’s gamble, which is most unlike Velez. The kids to watch are Gino Peruzzi (who still has Neymar in his pocket from the Libertadores), Agustin Allione and Brian Ferreira.
Where will they finish? Between 6th and 10thKey Player Federico Insúa needs to stay fit and be their main source of goals and assists if they are to rise from mid-tableOdds 7/1 A price befitting the Velez we have seen in years gone by, but not the current edition
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