On Friday, Primera División football returns to Argentina after the usual summer of stifling heat, managerial chopping and changing, transfer gossip and, of course, lots of pointless, money-spinning friendlies. We still find ourselves lumbered with Julio Grondona’s 30-team monstrosity and this time it is even more complicated as the AFA need to cram the matches into just five months, rather than the year long championship of 2015.
As a result we now have the 30 split into two zones of 15 (see below) – essentially two seperate leagues, barring the clásicos or interzonal matches that will be held, and the winners of each will then play off in a grand final to decide the champion. Yes, the relegation average is still being used and at the end of the short season, one team will drop into the Nacional B and if you want any more on that structure you can read about it here.
Boca Juniors defend the title this year after a hugely successful 2015 but with their eyes now on a record-equalling seventh Copa Libertadores title, will they be able to balance both competitions? Rivals River Plate must now awake from their post-Libertadores slumber but all five of the traditional grandes in Argentine football should be back in the mix.
Two new faces join the rather bloated party in the top flight for 2016 after Crucero del Norte showed precisely why they should never have been there in the first place and Nueva Chicago left their fight a little too late. Atlético Tucumán were deserving winners of the Nacional B and they were eventually joined by Patronato after a penalty shootout victory over Santamarina in the playoff. Tucumán return after their relegation at the end of the 2009-10 season but for Patronato the wait has been far longer. Not since their involvement in the 1978 Campeonato Nacional have Los Rojinegros been in this lofty position. Both will be hoping their stay is longer than just a few months.
Anyway, with transfers and preseason drawing to an end and the curtain about to rise on the 2016 Primera let us run down all THIRTY clubs….
Club Atlético Aldosivi
Torneo 2015 position: 15th
Aldosivi gradually grew into the Primera after coming up among the ten promoted clubs at the start of 2015 and acheiving a midtable finish, El Tiburón will be hoping for more of the same. Scoring goals was not much of a problem for Fernando Quiroz’s boys but with a tendency to concede, it always left them vulnerable. A few key figures from last season’s attack have left but youngster Santiago Rosales looks a very good prospect and might be one of keep an eye on in 2016. Never going to challenge for honours but with enough teams between them and the drop zone, Aldosivi should be comfortable.
Transfers: The departures of Roger Martínez (returned to Racing) and Jose Sand (Lanús) are likely to be felt in Mar del Plata but there is perhaps still enough to be optimistic. Former Independiente striker, Sebastián Penco arrived from Once Caldas and with Rosales and Pablo Lugüercio still at the club, there should still be a goal threat. Juan Dinenno has also arrived on loan from Racing to provide backup in this department and the signings of Cristian Llama and Damián Ledesma should strengthen the midfield and defence respectively.
Preseason: The one half meaningful friendly was a thumping 3-0 win over Gimnasia which should have provided a real confidence boost ahead of the season. Prior to this, training ground matches saw El Tiburón beat Santamarina 1-0 and beat Newell’s 1-0 only to make changes in the second half and lose 4-1.
Opening fixture: Olimpo (home) Saturday Feb 6th 5pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Olimpo
Torneo 2015 position: 20th
The first of the clubs on this list under new management as Carlos Mayor took over from Pipo Gorosito for the new season. Given Los Bichos financial troubles and relatively inexperienced squad, it would be harsh to say Mayor couldn’t do much worse, but 2015 was poor and in truth it could indeed be worse. Argentinos avoided the drop last season but remain among the group of clubs in danger and must ensure that they pick up enough points to pull away from the bottom-dwellers.
Transfers: The big news for Los Bichos was the return of veteran playmaker Federico Insúa and although the 36-year-old doesn’t have the pace of Reinaldo Lenis, El Pocho will need to replace the Colombian’s creativity after he left for Sport Recife. Ezequiel Garré and Andrés Franzoia also left but there have been some decent acquisitions. Colombian international goalkeeper, Camilo Vargas appears to be a very good buy and the additions of Juan Manuel Cobo (Olimpo), Emilio Zelaya (O’Higgins), Matías Martínez (Sporting Cristal) and Braian Romero (Colón ) should all bring something to the first team.
Preseason: Nothing really can be read into the training ground stuff that has gone on but the only notable friendly appears to have been a 2-0 defeat in La Paternal to Brazilian side, Sport Recife.
Opening fixture: Tigre (home) Saturday Feb 6th 5pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Vélez Sarsfield
Arsenal de Sarandí
Torneo 2015 position: 28th
Arsenal were utterly atrocious in 2015 and deservedly found themselves just off the foot of the 30-team table. The uninspired appointment of Caruso Lombardi didn’t improve things but with the loud-mouthed, long ball merchant gone, Sergio Rondina brings in a new era. After doing the rounds in the lower leagues, it is a big chance for Rondina and a bit of risk for El Viaducto. With an enormous player turnover this summer, it will be an almost completely new side and so it is difficult to predict what could happen in 2016. A midtable finish in Zona A is probably the best possible finish.
Transfers: Where to start? There are far too many ins and out to mention but perhaps the signings of Yeimar Gómez Andrade from Rosario Central, Franco Bellocq from Independiente and former River midfielder Jonathan Botinelli stand out. The list is huge so if you are that interested, it’s here.
Preseason: Not the most awe-inspiring results for Arsenal; a 1-0 defeat to Flandria was followed up with a goalless draw against Racing and a 1-1 draw with Temperley.
Opening fixture: Colón (away) Sunday Feb 7th 7:15pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Defensa y Justicia
Atlético de Rafaela
Torneo 2015 position: 29th
Four league wins from the entire 2015 schedule, just one more than Crucero del Norte, tells you just how bad La Crema were. Another managerial change has former Argentina coach, Jorge Burruchaga back at the reins and improvement is a must. Atlético have also been busy in the transfer market but a bottom half finish in Zona B still seems likely.
Transfers: A large number of players were allowed to leave Santa Fe but the highest profile of those was the preposterously coiffured Adrián Bastía and Osmar Ferreyra. Arriving at the Nuevo Monumental were goalkeeper Germán Montoya, Norberto Paparatto, Nelson Benítez and Victor López among a host of others.
Preseason: Nothing here to suggest a remarkable improvement for La Crema after a goalless draw with Atlético Paraná and a 2-0 defeat to Unión.
Opening fixture: Huracán (away) Friday Feb 5th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Patronato
Torneo 2015 position: 1st in the Nacional B
Deserved winners of the Nacional B, Atlético Tucumán were the leading scorers in the division and appear to have the tools to survive in the top flight. A remarkable run of 16 wins from the final 22 fixtures saw them take the title and having been able to keep the core of the squad together, the Decano look in decent shape. Club captain and last season’s leading scorer, Luís Rodríguez has now over 200 appearances and is closing on 100 goals. The 31-year-old will play a vital role in any success that Atlético may have but with Racing first up, there is little time to ease in.
Transfers: With no major outgoings but a handful of useful looking loans, Atlético will probably be not too dissimilar to they were last season. Ignacio Canuto (León) and Lucas Villalba (Independiente) should bolster the options.
Preseason: One friendly of note was an impressive 4-1 win over Defensor Sporting. Rodríguez bagged a brace in that one, and his goals will be crucial.
Opening fixture: Racing (home) Sunday Feb 7th 9pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Belgrano
Club Atlético Banfield
Torneo 2015 position: 8th
Banfield enjoyed a pretty good 2015 and at times produced some wonderful football en route to an 8th placed finish under Claudio Vivas. However, the summer window has been cruel to El Taladro and with the spine of the side ripped out, it is difficult to see Banfield reproducing that form.
Transfers: One needs only to look at the list of players that have left the Estadio Florencio Sola to suspect that Banfield might have problems – Goalkeeper Enrique Bologna appeared to be staying, then ended up at Gimnasia, defender Sergio Vittor left for Racing, River bought back Nicolás Domingo and the pacy attacking duo of Mauricio Cuero and Juan Cazares ended up at Levante and Atlético Mineiro respectively. The experienced Hilario Navarro, Chiqui Pérez and Santiago Silva have been drafted in as replacements for some of those and although the latter two may help the defence, it is unclear where Banfield’s pace in attack will come from.
Preseason: A 2-0 loss to Cerro Porteño and a couple of draws against Belgrano and San Telmo provide little insight.
Opening fixture: Gimnasia (home) Friday Feb 5th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Lanús
Club Atlético Belgrano
Torneo 2015 position: 6th
Prior to the 2015 season, several key players had departed Córdoba and it was unclear how Ricardo Zielinski’s side would compete in the Primera. However, Los Celestes managed another excellent campaign and in finishing sixth, El Ruso organised the third best defence in the top flight. One year on and Belgrano are in a similar situation after seeing a few central components to their success leave. Some decent acquisitions have been made but once again they are likely to be just a little short.
Transfers: Central to the defensive success last year was the experienced Chiqui Pérez but the 30-year-old will be plying his trade at Banfield for 2016 and if this was the foundation for Belgrano then their pace on the break was their real weapon; the talented duo of Lucas Zelarayán and Emiliano Rigoni have both departed and will leave a hole in the attack but the club have attempted to address this. Picante Pereyra returns to the club after a brief spell in Peru and Claudio Bieler arrived from Quilmes after scoring 14 goals last season, only bettered by Marco Ruben. To replace Pérez, Belgrano have added Universidad de Chile icon, José Rojas so there is no lack of experience in Zielinski’s back four.
Preseason: After a rather heated 1-1 draw against Banfield, Mauro Óbolo rescued a second draw against Nacional de Uruguay – Óbolo and Bieler is not the most dynamic strikeforce but should get goals.
Opening fixture: Independiente (away) Sunday Feb 7th 5pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Atlético Tucumán
Torneo 2015 position: 1st / Champions
After bringing Carlos Tevez back to La Bombonera and winning a league and cup double it could be tough for Boca to top 2015 but without question the goal for this year will be a record-equalling seventh Copa Libertadores title. Watching rivals River Plate lift the trophy after they were disqualified stung perhaps almost as much as that infamous pepper-spray incident and only the joy of winning the Primera soothed that. In 2016, the Libertadores will be the priority and so it is feasible that the league performance will not be at the same level. However, after another window of activity, Rodolfo Arruabarrena should have the squad to challenge on both fronts. That being said, Los Xeneizes have endured a hugely underwhelming preseason that was punctuated with a couple of drawn out transfer sagas and El Vasco is right to be a little concerned. Now the serious stuff starts and Boca must wake up from their summer holidays if they are to match last term.
Transfers: The two major transfer stories coming out of La Bombonera this summer were the return of the controversial Dani Osvaldo, just months after he left for Porto and the eventual departure of Jonathan Calleri. Osvaldo’s move always looked likely after the struggling in Portugal and after agreeing to rescind his contract, the much travelled striker was free to return. This in turn pushed Calleri towards the exit and after much talk of a move to Inter Milan, the 22-year-old was sadly signed by an investment group and then loaned to São Paulo.
Boca strengthened the squad in other areas too with Jonathan Silva arriving on loan to give Arruabarrena a wonderful option at left back and Leo Jara coming in from Estudiantes to provide Gino Peruzzi with competition on the other side. Experienced centre-back Juan Manuel Insaurralde returned to the club and versatile Colombian international Frank Fabra added more depth.
Preseason: An initial victory over Emelec apart, preseason has been dreadful for Boca. Defeats in Mar del Plata to Racing and Estudiantes highlighted some real defensive deficiencies and this was capped by back-to-back superclásico losses.
Opening fixture: Temperley (away) Saturday Feb 6th 9pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: River Plate
Club Atlético Colón
Torneo 2015 position: 19th
A late run of results in 2015 just about pulled El Sabalero away from relegation but another scrap most likely awaits this season. Lucas Alario leaving for River midway through the Torneo 2015 was a blow but this summer has seen more important first team players leave the club and the target in Zona A will simply be to pick up wins against the rival relegation candidates.
Transfers: All four of Colón’s leading scorers in 2015 are now longer at the club after losing Alario in June, this window has seen Cristian Llama, Brian Romero and Cristian Guanca all follow out the exit. Midfielder David Ramírez returned to Godoy Cruz and so Darío Franco has had to shake things up. Víctor Figueroa has come in from Newell’s, in addition to Diego Lagos (Aldosivi), Santiago Villafañe (Creta), Santiago Biglieri (Portland Timbers), Franco Mazurek (All Boys), Cristian Palomeque (Jaguares de Córdoba) and the brother of Alan Ruíz, Federico.
Preseason: Results have not been good and if they are an indication of how Colón will do in 2016, then El Sabalero are in trouble. Most worryingly was a 4-2 defeat to Patronato given that they will be direct rivals for relegation but a goalless draw against Olimpo perhaps highlights a lack of goals in the side.
Opening fixture: Arsenal (home) Saturday Feb 6th 7:15pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Unión
Defensa y Justicia
Torneo 2015 position: 21st
A big year lies ahead for Defensa y Justicia as they find themselves in the midst of the relegation battle and having undergone an enormous change in personnel for 2016, El Halcón will be a bit of an unknown quantity. Scoring goals was a real problem in 2015 and having applied a bit of a scattergun approach to the transfer market, manager Ariel Holan will be hoping that something works.
Transfers: Too many outgoings to mention but in an effort to find the net more, El Halcón have brought in a few striking options – Colombian Humberto Osorio from Tijuana, Andrés Ríos also from Liga MX and Leones Negros and Eric Aparicio from San Martín. It is perhaps behind these attackers where DyJ have done the most interesting business. Youngsters Tomás Pochettino and Guido Rodríguez from Boca and River respectively are both full of promise and hopefully some playing time will see them blossom. Hernán Fredes from Independiente also arrived and Lisandro Magallán from Boca should help the defence.
Preseason: A rather mixed bag of results – a goalless draw with Deportivo Riestra, a 2-0 win over Los Andes before a defeat to Vélez and a draw with Arsenal. If I were to read anything into these it would be that Defensa will struggle near the bottom once again.
Opening fixture: Unión (home) Sunday Feb 7th 5pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Arsenal de Sarandí
Club Estudiantes de La Plata
Torneo 2015 position: 7th
Unfortunately what had been a very positive preseason under new boss Nelson Vivas has been overshadowed by the dreadful scenes which marred the end of the clásico Platense in Mar del Plata. The AFA’s sanctions are not yet known but with possible suspensions looming, El Pincha’s start to the league season could be seriously disrupted. Under Gabi Milito last term, Estudiantes were difficult to predict but if their new signings prove successful and they can find some consistency then they could enjoy a decent Torneo. Scoring enough goals may remain an issue though.
Transfers: While Nelson Vivas was named permanent manager by President Verón, there have been a huge number of high-profile departures from La Plata. Gastón Gil Romero’s exit for Rosario Central came as a shock but he was far from alone; Leo Jara, Hilario Navarro, Luciano Acosta, Sebastián Domínguez, Juan Sánchez Miño, Ezequiel Cerutti, Diego Mendoza and Alvaro Pereira all bid farewell to La Plata. They have been offset by the additions of Leandro González Pirez, who should prove to be a quality replacement for Domínguez, ex-Boca striker Lucas Viatri, Gonzalo Bueno, Facundo Sánchez, Augusto Solari and Juan Cavallaro.
Preseason: Prior to the Gimnasia brawl, it was all looking good for El Pincha. Victories over Boca and Racing in Mar del Plata with Gastón Fernández looking sharp in front of goal bode well but Vivas’ squad still looks a little light in the event of injuries and suspensions.
Opening fixture: Lanús (home) Monday Feb 8th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Gimnasia
Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata
Transición position: 12th
Much like rivals Estudiantes, preseason has ended on a sour note, which if the AFA punish correctly will negatively impact Pedro Troglio’s start to the season. The difference prior to the clásico skirmish was that Gimnasia did not have as good a 2015 as El Pincha and certainly didn’t have a better preseason. El Lobo were very streaky last season and much of what they did well came via Nacho Fernández. With the talented midfielder snapped up by River, Gimnasia may struggle a little this season.
Transfers: The loss of Nacho’s creativity and goals will be keenly felt but Troglio was also not best pleased with the club’s decision to allow goalkeeper Nicolás Navarro to leave. Enrique Bologna, from Banfield, arrived in his place and the hope is that tiny Franco Niell’s return from Central will give some spark in the final third. A couple of loan deals for Facundo Castillón and Ezequiel D’Angelo bolster the options, as do the returning Fede Rasic and Nicolás Benavídez,
Preseason: Aside from the embarrassing clásico display, a 3-0 defeat to Aldosivi in Mar del Plata suggest that it may not be the best 2016 for El Lobo.
Opening fixture: Banfield (away) Friday Feb 5th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Estudiantes
Torneo 2015 position: 22nd
It isn’t too difficult to predict another tricky year for Godoy Cruz after the AFA drew La Tomba in the arguably more testing Zona A and last season’s leading scorer, Leandro Fernández was sold to Independiente. The 24-year-old scored nearly half the side’s goal in a season of almost perpetual struggle and despite having the Primera’s third deadliest striker, they still only mustered a 22nd placed finish. Relegation is not really a danger but there is surely not much expectation in Mendoza.
Transfers: The sale of Fernández is the biggie unfortunately for La Tomba but after a turbulent year in terms of the coaching staff, the hope is that young Sebastián Méndez will bring a bit of stability after replacing Daniel Oldrá. David Ramírez returned to Mendoza from Colón and there were a few defensive purchases in an attempt to shore up what was a leaky backline but there is little there to think that Godoy Cruz will have a real change in fortune.
Preseason: A goalless draw with Lanús and a decent 2-0 win against Vélez suggest that the fragile defence may have improved but I really wouldn’t read too many conclusions into these friendlies.
Opening fixture: Rosario Central (away) Friday Feb 5th 9:15pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: San Martín de San Juan
Club Atlético Huracán
Torneo 2015 position: 23rd
2015 was a curious one for El Globo: On the one hand they participated in the Copa Libertadores again for the first time in 41 years, came within a penalty shootout of a first continental trophy in the Copa Sudamericana and in the process qualified again for the Libertadores. However, they were also pretty rank in the Primera and as such embroiled in a relegation fight. Having to juggle both commitments again this season, Huracán cannot afford to overlook their league form.
Transfers: Perhaps Huracán’s best business has been keeping hold of the likes of Ramón ‘Wanchope’ Ábila and Cristian Espinoza as those two in tune with Rolfi Montenegro and Patricio Toranzo, who both signed new deals, will be vital to El Globo’s success. Federico Vismara opting to leave for Racing was the one blot on the copy book but El Globo have recruited well. Matías Fritzler will take that number 5 role and aside from the experience of Carlos Araujo and Mariano Martínez, the signing of young number 9 Diego Mendoza from Estudiantes should lessen the burden on Wanchope.
Preseason: Huracán’s competitive season has already begun with their Copa Libertadores playoff against Caracas but prior to this there was a morale boosting 3-1 win in the clásico in Mar del Plata. A better Globo should be expected in the league this season.
Opening fixture: Atlético Rafaela (home) Friday Feb 5th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: San Lorenzo
Club Atlético Independiente
Torneo 2015 position: 5th
2015 ended on the downer of losing to rivals Racing in the pre-Libertadores playoff but El Rojo return with a renewed optimism and belief that they could be genuine title challengers this season. Mauricio Pellegrino has now had more time with the squad and despite a couple of high-profile departures, the club have invested heavily once more in the squad. Despite having the second best defence in the league last year, question marks remain, as do the side’s ability to get results under pressure. On paper at least, Pellegrino has been equipped with a strong squad to choose from but can El Rojo pull it together to clinch a first league title since 2002.
Transfers: To the casual onlooker the losses of Federico Mancuello and Matías Pisano to Brazil may appear hugely significant to Independiente but both were deals which it appears the club were prepared for. Captain Mancu missed much of 2015 through injury and was expected to leave and Pisano never really fit into Pellegrino’s system and so getting Jesús Méndez to remain at the club and rejecting advances for Martín Benítez have been far more valuable.
The club’s bold transfer policy has once again seen a rather top heavy approach with Germán ‘El Tanque’ Denis returning to the club from Italy, Leandro Fernández arriving from Godoy Cruz and the pacy Emiliano Rigoni from Belgrano. How Pellegrino fits this all together is another matter. Droopy Gómez also returned after his successful loan at Quilmes but could yet be included in a deal which brings Unión youngster, Mauricio Martínez to Avellaneda.
Preseason: A draw with San Lorenzo and victory over River Plate saw Independiente lift the Copa Ciudad de Mar del Plata but just as did against Racing in the pre-Libertadores match, ill-discipline cost El Rojo the clásico.
Opening fixture: Belgrano (home) Saturday Feb 6th 5pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Racing Club
Club Atlético Lanús
Torneo 2015 position: 13th
By the relatively high standard that Lanús had set themselves in recent years under Guillermo Barros Schelotto, 2015 was poor. A real lack of goals led to hugely inconsistent results and ultimately a pretty limp midtable finish. GBS and twin brother Gustavo (and their fiery tempers) have already taken on a new task in Seria A with Palermo and now El Granate begin again under new manager, Jorge Almirón. The former Independiente manager will feel he has something to prove after a tough time in Avellaneda and although challenging for honours is a tall order, closing the gap on Boca and Racing in Zona B is the target.
Transfers: In the knowledge that the club need to find a more regular goalscorer and lessen the load on Lautao Acosta, Lanús have opted for experience and brought José Sand back and added former Boca striker, Pablo Mouche. Agustín Pelletieri and Iván Marcone are useful additions in midfield particularly after the sale of Matías Fritzler to Huracán but the loan capture of José Luis Gómez from Racing looks very promising. The young right-back was excellent with San Martín last season and should push on in 2016.
Preseason: The early signs are good as Pepe Sand has been finding the net in preseason – a brace against Vélez helped El Granate to a 3-1 win. Additionally there were victories over Argentinos Juniors and Estudiantes de Buenos Aires.
Opening fixture: Estudiantes (away) Monday Feb 8th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Banfield
Newell’s Old Boys
Torneo 2015 position: 16th
All does not appear too well at Newell’s and following a sub-par 2015, successive clásico defeats and threats made by the supporters, club icon Maxi Rodríguez has only this week spoken out over the direction La Lepra are going in. It already feels a long time ago when under Gerardo Martino, Newell’s were perhaps the best side in the country and after a series of failed managerial appointments they have fallen down the pecking order and into midtable. Lucas Bernardi remains in charge after a difficult first season in management but must find a way to get the side playing. There have been some decent defensive acquisitions but scoring goals was a problem last season and so Ignacio Scocco must redisover his form.
Transfers: Scocco was for a long time linked with another move away from Rosario but River Plate were unable to meet the valuation and so the former Sunderland striker will once more spearhead the attack. Goalkeeper Oscar Ustari was signed by Liga MX club, Atlas and so Sebastián D’Angelo has come in to replace him and across the back four there have been some useful additions. The experienced Sebastián Domínguez will bring some presence centrally but at full-back, Peru international Luis Advíncula looks to be a great piece of business and on the left,Emanuel Insúa arrived on loan.
Preseason: Not the most impressive preseason results but at least Ignacio Scocco and youngster Lucas Boyé (who is off to Torino in June) were amongst the goals. A goalless draw with Olimpo was followed by a 2-0 win against San Martín and two losses against Sarmiento and Colón.
Opening fixture: San Martín (away) Saturday Feb 6th 7:15pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Rosario Central
Olimpo de Bahía Blanca
Torneo 2015 position: 18th
Dull – 2015 for Olimpo was just downright boring and despite having the sixth best defensive record, El Aurinegro languished down in 18th. The reason for that being only Temperley and Crucero del Norte scored less goals; a third of their league matches ended in goalless draws and so it is very clear where Diego Osella must improve. Since gaining promotion, Olimpo have never really been very good away from Bahía Blanca and this too is an area which needs to be worked on to avoid the possibility of being dragged into the relegation picture.
Transfers: Nothing leaps out as being the answer to Olimpo’s problems and although the signings of Francisco Pizzini and Nicolás Figal from Independiente and Brian Ferreira from Vélez are all decent, it is still unclear where the goals are going to come from. A few almost ever-present fixtures in last season’s side have left in Juan Manuel Cobo, Hernán Encina, Iván Furios and Joel Acosta but perhaps the shakeup will do them good.
Preseason: No change so far. Two matches and two goalless draws against Newell’s and Colón.
Opening fixture: Aldosivi (away) Saturday Feb 6th 5pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Aldosivi
Club Atlético Patronato
Torneo 2015 position: 2nd in Nacional B (promoted via playoff)
Patronato may have required penalties to overcome Santamarina and seal a historic place in the top flight but few could argue that they didn’t deserve it. Finishing second over the course of the Nacional B regular season, only three points behind champions, Atlético Tucumán but a comfortable 15 ahead of Ferro in third, El Rojinegro were forced to come up the hard way. The best defence in the Nacional B by some distance, Patronato will need all of that organisation and discipline if they are to survive in the Primera. Strangely even Patronato have had a change of management and Rubén Forestello, who enjoyed a superb but ultimately fruitless run with Nueva Chicago at the end of 2015, has taken over from Iván Delfino.
Transfers: Only two out, in the form of last season’s leading scorer Diego Jara and his strike partner, Esteban Orfano but Forestello has brought in a couple of players that he knows well and some more Primera experience. Mauricio Carrasco should be an upgrade on both of those who left and in addition Damián Lemos and Fernando de la Fuente came in from Chicago. Fernando Telechea, Iván Furios, Jonathan Ferrari and Ezequiel Garré all bring top flight experience.
Preseason: Two results of note – a 1-1 draw against Central Córdoba de Santiago del Estero and a decent 4-2 win over Colón.
Opening fixture: San Lorenzo (home) Saturday Feb 6th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Atlético de Rafaela
Quilmes Atlético Club
Torneo 2015 position: 11th
Quilmes have been perhaps the victims of their own success after a remarkable second half of 2015. Following the appointment of Facundo Sava, Los Cerveceros put together a staggering run of form which went from relegation candidates to title challengers. Their dreadful start obviously meant that a genuine tilt was impossible but Quilmes were certainly the form side. As a result Sava was snapped up by Racing, when they were looking for a new coach, and perhaps all of the best performers from that run have also moved on. Victories in 2016 are likely to be harder to comeby than they were under Sava.
Transfers: With Sava gone, the inexperienced Alfredo Grelek must also contend with being without top scorer, Claudio Bieler, Rodrigo ‘Droopy’ Gómez and Alexis Canelo – replacing the three of them will be tough. Thankfully Quilmes did manage to keep hold of Rodrigo Braña and talented young goalkeeper Walter Benítez (who appears to be moving to Nice but not until June). Arriving at the club are Ezequiel Rescaldani, whose move to Europe hasn’t quite gone as planned but is a talented striker, Fernando Elizari, Damián Arce and Brian Mansilla.
Preseason: Difficult to judge after only a 1-0 win over All Boys and a 2-1 defeat against Flandria.
Opening fixture: River Plate (away) Sunday Feb 7th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Temperley
Torneo 2015 position: 4th
Diego Cocca said farewell to Racing at the end of the season after successfully guiding La Academia back into the Copa Libertadores with a victory over Independiente. The 43-year-old coach will be remembered fondly in the Cilindro after lifting the Torneo Transición but now the baton has been handed to former player, Facundo Sava and the ex-Quilmes boss must set his expectations even higher. Given that Racing have managed to keep their squad together, notably Gustavo Bou and Luciano Lollo, and brought in well, La Academia will be among the favourites for the Libertadores, if they can find a way past Puebla in the playoff. Involvement in the continent’s greatest tournament may distract from the Primera but Racing should have the squad to cope with it.
Transfers: Aside from retaining the services of Bou and Lollo, Racing have bought well. Striker Lisandro Lóprez returns to Avellaneda and the supporters will be hoping that he can have a similar impact to the one Diego Milito provided but the additions of Federico Vismara, Sergio Vittor, Facundo Pereyra, Damián Schmidt and Roger Martínez all look useful. The club are hopeful in bringing Rodrigo de Paul back from Valencia on a six-month loan to aid their Libertadores campaign and if that is completed, it would be a real coup.
Preseason: Racing’s competitive season has already begun with their visit to México for the Copa Libertadores playoff against Puebla but prior to this there were Torneo de Verano victories over Independiente and Boca Juniors and a loss to Estudiantes.
Opening fixture: Atlético Tucumán (away) Sunday Feb 7th 9pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Independiente
Club Atlético River Plate
Torneo 2015 position: 9th
There is a sense that 2016 is the beginning of a new chapter for River Plate; after the defeat to Barcelona in Japan, two of the vital pieces of Marcelo Gallardo’s side departed and having coasted in the months after lifting the Copa Libertadores, it is time for River to wake from their slumber. Given the lull in form during the second half of 2015, Los Millonarios’ league position is a false one and the expectation is that Gallardo’s side will come roaring back in 2016. Defending their Libertadores crown will take priority but River should have the personnel to be able to mount a challenge on both fronts.
Transfers: The expected losses of recent Argentina international, Matías Kranevitter and South American footballer of the year, Carlos Sánchez have been pretty well offset with prudent purchases within the Argentine Primera. However, River’s business lacked that one deal that truly excited until it was announced that veteran playmaker Andrés D’Alessandro was making his return from Internacional. The 34-year-old is still more than capable of performing at this level and should give Gallardo’s side a real offensive edge.
Nacho Fernández was Gimnasia’s standout player in 2015 and looks to be an excellent acquisition and Nicolás Domingo and Joaquín Arzura can both operate in front of the defence, where Kranevitter excelled. Experienced Uruguayan striker Iván Alonso gives another option and takes some weight off young Lucas Alario.
Preseason: The two summer superclásicos were pretty awful spectacles but importantly River won them both thanks to a single penalty in each; earlier in Mar del Plata, Seba Driussi scored twice in a 3-2 win over San Lorenzo and River lost to Independiente.
Opening fixture: Quilmes (home) Sunday Feb 7th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Boca Juniors
Torneo 2015 position: 3rd
It was a season of what-might-been’s for Rosario Central in 2015 after taking the league title to almost the wire and feeling rightfully aggrieved after defeat in the Copa Argentina final. No team in the top flight was beaten less than Central and had it not been for a spell mid-season that resulted in nine draws from fifteen, Coudet’s underdogs would have been champions. Desperate that the success wasn’t a flash in the pan, Eduardo Coudet has managed to keep his side together and added a couple of excellent signings resulting in the belief that Los Canallas could end a wait for a title that stretches back to 1987. Now they also juggle the Copa Libertadores but Central are putting together a very decent squad.
Transfers: The absolute key for Central was retaining those players that came so close to glory in 2015 – Marco Ruben was undoubtedly the Primera’s best striker with 21 goals in 30 appearances and after lengthy negotiations with Dynamo Kyiv, the 29-year-old’s transfer was made permanent. However, his goals were not the sole reason for success as the defensive unit of Javier Pinola, Alejandro Donatti and Cristian Villagra were equally important and all three renewed their ties. Talented youngster, Franco Cervi agreed a deal to Benfica but remains in Rosario for another six months. Nery Domínguez, Franco Niell and goalkeeper Mauricio Caranta exited but Sebastián Sosa is a superb replacement between the sticks and the signing of defensive midfielder, Gastón Gil Romero from Estudiantes represents a real coup. The additions of Mauro Cetto, Rodrigo Battaglia and Germán Herrera all bolster the squad.
Preseason: A couple of 1-0 wins against Douglas Haig and Cerro de Montevideo don’t provide much insight but Central should be there or thereabouts.
Opening fixture: Godoy Cruz (home) Friday Feb 5th 9:15pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Newell’s Old Boys
San Lorenzo de Almagro
Torneo 2015 position: 2nd
Edgardo Bauza leaving his post as manager represents an end of an era in Bajo Flores and although El Patón may have been accused of being a tad defensive at times, the current São Paulo boss guided the club to their only Copa Libertadores. Los Cuervos weren’t spectacular during 2015 but pushed Boca Juniors until the end in the title race and were owners of the best defensive record in the league. Palestino coach, Pablo Guede has stepped into those rather big shoes and although he impressed in Chile, the 41-year-old will be all too aware that this job comes with much greater expectations. Attempting to recapture the Libertadores will take priority but Guede will be eager to make a good start domestically and supporters will not accept a drop in the high standards already set.
Transfers: Despite having the best defensive record, it is here that San Lorenzo have made most changes with Mario Yepes deciding to retire, after San Lorenzo made it clear he wouldn’t be getting a new deal, and Mauro Cetto switching to Central. Arriving to the Nueva Gasómetro are Sunderland’s forgotten man, Marcos Angeleri and Colombian defender, Pedro Franco. Goalkeeper Nicolás Navarro came in to provide quality backup for the reliable Sebastián Torrico and Fernando Belluschi (Cruz Azul) and Ezequiel Cerutti (Estudiantes) give some new options going forward. With a relatively similar squad, it will be interesting to see if a more attacking San Lorenzo will yield better results.
Preseason: Results in preseason have been poor and aside from an opening draw in Mar del Plata against Independiente, Los Cuervos suffered defeats to Huracán and River Plate. On both of these occasions conceding three goals – Guede needs improvements and cannot completely abandon Bauza’s solid defensive foundation.
Opening fixture: Patronato (away) Saturday Feb 6th 7pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Huracán
San Martín de San Juan
Torneo 2015 position: 17th
San Martín enjoyed a fairly solid 2015 and as one of the better promoted sides ended the year in midtable and with some distance between themselves and the relegation zone. Manager Carlos Mayor left for Argentinos Juniors and so in his place is former River youth coach, Pablo Lavallén – his first senior managerial role. The objective for El Verdinegro remains staying in the top flight and despite a large turnover of players they should manage this comfortably.
Transfers: Last season’s leading scorer, Marcos Figueroa leaving for Temperley is a slight surprise. Carlos Bueno followed out the exit after just recovering from his broken leg suffered at the hands of Agustín Orión but there is a long list of ins and outs in San Juan. Tasked with finding the net will be well-travelled Ecuadorian striker, Narciso Mina and at the other end Matías Sarulyte and Matías Escudero may prove to be improvements.
Preseason: If these training ground friendlies provide any info then maybe San Martín will struggle to score goals – a goalless draw with Tigre was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Temperley and a 2-0 defeat to Newell’s (who visit San Juan for the opening fixture).
Opening fixture: Newell’s (home) Saturday Feb 6th 7:15pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Godoy Cruz
Club Atlético Sarmiento
Torneo 2015 position: 24th
Sarmiento are the side most under threat from the two newcomers in the descenso, as the Verde hover just above both and could easily slip into the one and only relegation spot. 2015 proved to a long year for the club and as results seemed to get progressively worse, they rightfully find themselves in danger. With transfer business primarily from other struggling sides, it is difficult to see much of an improvement this season.
Transfers: There were not a great deal of bright sparks during the 2015 Primera season but Gervasio Núñez was one and so his switch to Botafogo is a blow. Sergio Lippi must hope that Carlos Bueno is fully fit again after missing most of last season with a broken leg and arriving from San Martín or that Andrés Franzoia finds the goals that on the most part eluded him with Argentinos. Central defender Matías Lequi is a good buy and former Boca keeper, Emanuel Tripodi brings some experience.
Preseason: Not a bad pair of preseason results with a 2-1 win over Newell’s and a 1-1 draw against Defensor Sporting but Monday’s home match against Vélez already has a ‘must-win’ feel to it.
Opening fixture: Vélez (home) Monday Feb 8th 9:15pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Tigre
Club Atlético Temperley
Torneo 2015 position: 25th
Survival remains the name of the game for Temperley but 2016 looks certain to be every bit as difficult as last year. Ricardo Rezza, who historically led the Celeste back to the top flight has stepped down and in his place, Iván Delfino, himself only just overseeing a promotion with Patronato. The lowest goal scorers in the Primera, with only 19 from 30 matches, just illustrates Temperley’s problem and it is diffcult to foresee a remarkable upturn in form. The hope is that someone even worse will at least keep them in the Primera for a little while longer.
Transfers: Two players that Temperley would perhaps not have wanted to see leave would be Fabián Sambueza and Javier Grbec – El Celeste’s attack wasn’t good but they were about as good as it got. However, both are out and now Delfino must look to Marcos Figueroa and Rubén Ramírez to fire the club to safety. Neither are likely to be prolific and when other struggling sides are selling players to rivals, there is usually a reason.
Preseason: A 1-0 win over San Martín, a goalless draw with Ferro and a 1-1 draw with Arsenal do not suggest the goals will flow but Temperley must do enough to stay above their rivals.
Opening fixture: Boca Juniors (home) Saturday Feb 6th 9pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Quilmes
Club Atlético Tigre
Torneo 2015 position: 10th
Under Gustavo Alfaro, Tigre were very good – defensively solid and dangerous on the break, and despite being a tad inconsistent, Victoria wasn’t an easy place to visit (only Quilmes won there during the regular season). With Alfaro gone and World Cup winner Mauro Camoranesi taking over, there could be a period of adjustment. Virtually untested as a coach and robbed of a couple of crucial first-team players in the summer, expect Tigre to drop a little during this Transición.
Transfers: Alfaro’s departure coinciding with River signing Joaquín Arzura and Estudiantes poaching Leandro González Pirez has significantly weakened El Matador. Club icon Diego Castaño has returned at the ripe age of 36 and to offset his experience in midfield, River youngster Ezequiel Cirigliano has also arrived. Keeping Lucas Wilchez, Kevin Itabel and Sebastián Rincon perhaps more important than any signing.
Preseason: A couple of draws – one with Independiente de Tandil and another with San Lorenzo.
Opening fixture: Argentinos Juniors (away) Saturday Feb 6th 5pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Sarmiento
Club Atlético Unión
Torneo 2015 position: 14th
The best performers of the ten promoted clubs in 2015, Unión already had to deal with the loss of main striker Enrique Triverio when Toluca pounced in June and although goals were harder to come by in the second half of the season, El Tatengue remained competitive. Keeping hold of Ignacio Malcorra, Lucas Gamba and Mauricio Martínez (despite strong interest from Independiente) so far has kept the side in good shape and having already put distance between themselves and the relegation threatened sides, Unión are in a relatively comfortable position.
Transfers: Not a great deal of business in Santa Fe but the midfield pair of Nelson Acevedo and Santiago Nagüel from Racing should provide good cover.
Preseason: Two of last season’s best performers were on the scoresheet in a 2-0 win over Atlético Rafaela in Malcorra and Emmanuel Britez and with a similar looking line-up, not much change should be expected from Unión.
Opening fixture: Defensa y Justicia (away) Sunday 7th 5pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Colón
Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield
Torneo 2015 position: 27th
What has become of Vélez Sarsfield? Once regular title challengers and an example for other Argentine clubs, El Fortín have slipped so far down the pecking order that they are already unrecognisable. Last season’s ragtag bunch of academy products, forced prematurely into regular action after the sale of nearly all half-decent senior players, struggled badly and for a club like Vélez to finish 27th in a 30-team Primera is inexcusable. Miguel Angel Russo couldn’t take the entire blame but either way, the experienced coach has left and his replacement is former Newcastle midfielder, Christian Bassedas. The 42-year-old was Sporting director at the club and takes up his first managerial role, at a club he knows inside out, but that would benefit from investment.
Transfers: The departures have dominated Vélez’s business in recent windows and although this summer has not been as fatal as others, there is a lack of quality reinforcements. The excellent Lucas Romero, appears to be on his way to Brazil with his current deal running down, and it comes as a blow not least to the starting eleven but because the 21-year-old was always expected to leave for Europe and bring in decent money. Milton Caraglio also left Liniers but Mariano Pavone has been resigned in what is probably an upgrade. Whether Bassedas’ young side can supply Pavone with enough chances remains to be seen.
Preseason: A couple of excellent 1-0 wins against Independiente and Defensa y Justicia showed signs of promise but were undone by an awful 2-0 defeat to Godoy Cruz.
Opening fixture: Sarmiento (away) Monday Feb 8th 9:15pm
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Argentinos Juniors