The Argentine Primera returns
this next weekend (congratulations to the AFA on another balls-up) after what seems like an age since Lanús lifted the Torneo Transición trophy. A Copa América, Messi’s retirement (and subsequent return), more AFA turmoil and a failed Olympic campaign have all filled the break and now attention shifts back to the domestic league.
Jorge Almirón’s imperious Lanús look to defend their title and although the Primera remains a 30-team monstrosity, the format from the Transición is very different, after reverting back to the year-long championship of 2015 (with the difference being that it is running August to May).
So, once more the Primera will see each side play each other only once (with the exception being the clásicos that will still be played home and away) resulting in an even 30 matches for all but an uneven fixture list where some teams play fiercely contested local derbies twice while others play a meaningless, AFA appointed clásico.
The light at the end of this tunnel is that in May, four teams will go down to the Nacional B and only two will come up as the AFA seek to reduce the number of sides in the top flight. The only change from the Transición is Talleres de Córdoba replacing Argentinos Juniors but with the increase in relegation spots this season, there will be plenty of nervous sides looking at the descenso table each week.
This may of course all end up being completely scrapped as a month in Argentine football is a long time, let alone a year. With contined talks of a Super League and uncertainty over television rights, there is plenty of room for drama.
What we do know is these 30 teams will do battle and so here is a run-down of what to expect….
Club Atlético Aldosivi
Transición position: 11th in Zone B
A disappointing Transición for El Tiburón left supporters only celebrating victory four times and all of those were in Mar del Plata so it is clear that coach Fernando Quiroz must address their alarming away form. Such has been Aldosivi’s ability to cope with life in the top flight that it easy to forget that they only came up a short while ago and so remaining in the division is still the target. There are enough teams between them and the bottom four and that should still be the case come May so the safety of midtable is perhaps the height of expectation.
Transfers: As it was in the last window, the outgoings look more significant than the incomings for Aldosivi which is cause for concern. The talented Santiago Rosales was the standout player and it was little surprise to see Racing snap up the 21-year-old but his absence leaves a creative void. Hernán Lamberti and Guillermo Ortíz, regulars last season, also departed and so a lot rides on how well the likes of Gimnasia pair Antonio Medina and Roberto Brum, as well as former Boca youngster Joel Acosta adapt to life on the coast.
Key player: Pablo Lugüercio – his injury problems really affected the side last season but if the veteran striker can remain fit it will be a real boost.
Opening fixture: Colón (home)
Arsenal de Sarandí
Transición position: 4th in Zone A
While 2015 was an utter shambles, Sergio Rondina turned things around with remarkable effect in the Transición and simply with a degree of organisation, Arsenal became a really tough side to beat, particularly in Sarandí. As was the case in the previous window the turnover of players at the Estadio Julio Grondona has been enormous and so the task for Rondina is to instill the same discipline with a new bunch of players. A repeat of last season’s success looks highly doubtful but the eight league wins moved them well clear of the drop zone and another comfortable enough finish should be obtainable.
Transfers: Where to start? Key names to last year’s first team squad such as Fede Lértola, Mariano Barbieri, Ramiro Carrera and Miguel Caneo have all been moved on so there maybe a period of adjustment. Claudio Corvalán’s loan move from Racing became permanent after he impressed last year and amidst a huge number of new faces is former Boca youngster Franco Fragapane. The former Argentina under-23 international could be an interesting addition to the attack.
Key Player: Marcos Curado – the young defender was an ever-present figure in Arsenal’s excellent defence last season and will play an important role again this season.
Opening fixture: Sarmiento (away)
Atlético de Rafaela
Transición position: 15th in Zone B
It’s tough to look anywhere other than down for La Crema after a dreadful 2015 was followed by a woeful Transición that leaves the club precariously clinging onto their top flight status. Juan Manuel Llop came in as coach midway through the season and failed to make any real difference and even the most optimistic of Atleti fans would struggle to see much of an improvement this year. As the season starts the club find themselves in the bottom four of the descenso and if they can avoid this come May it will be a major success.
Transfers: Argentina Olympic goalkeeper Axel Werner was signed by Atlético Madrid and with Germán Montoya also leaving the club, the unenviable task of standing between the sticks behind the worst defence in the Primera goes to new signing, Lucas Hoyos. Aside from Werner the other departures are a worry for La Crema – Ignacio Pussetto, Leonardo Godoy, Gabriel Graciani, Bruno Urribarri, Joel Sacks, Matías Fissore and Esteban Orfano have all left the Nuevo Monumental. Striker Fernando Luna from Arsenal and Gastón Campi, the two highest profile additions face a massive task in turning the side around.
Key player: Fernando Luna – someone has to find the net and last season’s leading scorer Fede Anselmo was another of the players that left.
Opening fixture: Atlético Tucumán (away)
Clásico: Atlético Tucumán
Transición position: 3rd in Zone B
Absolutely outstanding last season, El Decano defied the odds and not only avoided a relegation fight but nearly qualified for the Copa Libertadores. Juan Manuel Azconzábal deserves enormous praise for his achievements and as a result the only reason Atletico are looking at the descenso table is for a reality check as they sit top. The success has been built on their incredible home form, where they dropped just two points during the Transición and are now unbeaten in 31 matches. A repeat of their lofty league position looks impossible but Azconzabal has keep almost the entire squad together and if they remain as difficult to beat on their own patch then El Decano will be absolutely fine.
Transfers: The one real loss is Nicolàs Romat, who signed for Huracán but otherwise it is pretty much as you were for Atletico. Attacking midfielder Javier Mendoza arrived from Gimnasia but there was no real reason to rock the boat.
Key Player: Cristian Menéndez – Club icon Cristian ‘La Pulga’ Rodríguez often steals the limelight but his strike partner Menéndez was vital last season and will need to reproduce his form.
Opening fixture: Atlético Rafaela (home)
Clásico: Atlético Rafaela
Club Atlético Banfield
Transición position: 13th in Zone A
Given who had left, the Transición was always likely to be difficult and so it proved with El Taledro winning just twice. Title winning coach Julio Falcioni returned midway through the season and failed to make much of a difference and so the hope will be after a full pre-season, his influence will be seen. Banfield actually ended up drawing well over half their matches such was their struggle in front of goal and certainly one area where they need drastic improvement is offensively.
Transfers: Whether that will happen remains to be seen but Falcioni’s side will not have been helped by Giovanni Simeone’s loan spell coming to an end placing most the scoring responsibility on Santiago Silva and new signing Mauricio Sperduti. The return of Nicolás Bertolo to the midfield is a boost but it did see youngster Iván Rossi go the other way to River Plate. Juan Manuel Cobo and Gonzalo Prósperi are useful additions but getting Walter Erviti to sign a new deal was perhaps the most important piece of business.
Key Player: Walter Erviti – the veteran midfielder will be vital in adding that creativity in the final third.
Opening fixture: River Plate (away)
Club Atlético Belgrano
Transición position: 12th in Zone A
A thoroughly disappointing Transición put an end to Ricardo Zielinski’s lengthy spell in charge and so this season brings a new era under former reserve coach, Esteban González. Having shipped far too many goals and mustering only one point away from home, surely there will be an improvement this season for Belgrano. With some useful looking additions, El Pirata should be back in the top half and looking upwards rather than down.
Transfers: The big one is the return of Matías Suárez, who has been plying his trade with Anderlecht since leaving the club in 2008 and will be eager to impress. Defender Lucas Aveldaño coming back from his loan with Mallorca is also a plus but the additions of Lértola and Barbieri from Arsenal could also prove useful. Pier Barrios and Sebastián Prediger are noticeable departures but should be fairly easily covered.
Key Player: Matías Suárez – Still only 28 and voted Belgian player of the year not too long ago, Suárez may prove to be one of the signings of the season. Following the terrorist attacks in Belgium, the forward wanted out and Belgrano have been the beneficiaries.
Opening fixture: Independiente (home)
Clásico: Talleres de Córdoba
Transición position: 10th in Zone B
Boca’s priority to the Copa Libertadores saw Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side limp in down in tenth in Zone B and had they gone onto lift a record-equalling eighth continental title, all would’ve been forgiven. However, Carlos Tevez’s poor form had the knock-on effect of the rest of the side playing badly and that resulted in elimination at the semi-final stage. With that behind them and something of a squad overhaul both pre and post that Libertadores failure, Barros Schelotto knows that there are no more excuses. In 2015, when the Primera was last a year-long competition, Boca emerged victorious and with Tevez still at the club and another post-season of investment, nothing less than a serious title challenge will be expected.
Transfers: The early moves for Dario Benedetto, Walter Bou and Fernando Zuqui didn’t help much when it came to the Copa Libertadores semi final but all three should significantly help the squad this season as Barros Schelotto has added to his attacking options that were lacking last season. High-profile departures of Cata Díaz, Agustín Orion and Nico Lodeiro along with youngsters Marcelo Meli and Andrés Chávez have seen Santiago Vergini, Jonathan Silva, Fernando Tobio, Axel Werner and Ricardo Centurión either arrive or extend their stays. One deal not yet 100% confirmed but which would be a significant coup is Colombian midfielder Sebastián Pérez. If Rodrigo Bentancur does complete a switch to AC Milan, the Atlético Nacional player would be an improvement at this stage of their careers.
Key Player: Cristian Pavón – Tevez is obviously going to remain the centre-point of the Boca side but he will need his supporting cast and Argentina Olympic squad forward, Cristian Pavón is likely to step-up from bit part player to important first teamer.
Opening fixture: Lanús (away)
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: River Plate
Club Atlético Colón
Transición position: 11th in Zone A
After a promising start to the Transición, Colón’s season took a nosedive and amid trouble in the stands and leading scorer Alan Ruiz quitting the club ahead of his move to Sporting CP, El Sabelero just wanted it to end. The club find themselves ahead of this campaign in the midst of a relegation battle and so the target is clear – survival. Conceding goals was a real problem and so a fiery, defensive task master was needed to drill in some discipline. Enter Colón’s new coach – Former Uruguay and Juventus tough-nut Paolo Montero. Shoring up the defence is the biggest task but if he manages that, the club can at least achieve their aim and stay in the top flight.
Transfers: Losing Ruiz’s goals midway through the season was a bitter blow but Colón will also be without Mauricio Sperdutti, Victor Figueroa and Pablo Vegetti meaning a complete overhaul of the attack. Walter Acuña arriving from Rosario Central will be tasked with replacing some of those goals and the signings of Lucas Ceballos and Guillermo Ortiz should bolster the squad.
Key Player: Germán Conti – Keeping hold of the lanky, 22-year-old central defender has been important and working under Montero should be beneficial. Colón will need him if they are to keep clean-sheets and stay up.
Opening fixture: Aldosivi (away)
Defensa y Justicia
Transición position: 4th in Zone B
Following on from the success of the Transición, Ariel Holan sees a fresh batch of youngsters arrive on loan in attempt to replicate what was achieved earlier in the year. Consistency was an issue, as is perhaps expected with inexperienced players, and there was a reliance on the goals of Fabian Bordagaray but El Halcón should have enough for a midtable position this time around.
Transfers: Plenty of movement in both directions but the end of the loans for youngsters Lisandro Magallán, Guido Rodríguez and Tomás Martínez along with the sale of Damián Martínez to Independiente will be most keenly felt. Loads of new faces but the arrival of Gastón Gil Romero is the most intriguing. The number five was tipped for great things but his move to Rosario Central did not work out. Former River youngster Juan Cruz Kaprof also could be one to watch.
Key Player: Gastón Gil Romero – still young and with plenty to prove. Given the platform, the former Estudiantes captain could shine.
Opening fixture: Rosario Central (away)
Club Estudiantes de La Plata
Transición position: 2nd in Zone B
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the title, Estudiantes did qualify for the Copa Libertadores by finishing as runner-up to Lanús in Zone B. Enjoying a similar level of success will prove difficult particularly over a year-long competition but Nelson Vivas has shown that he is a capable young coach. With the second best defence in the top flight last term and no major changes in personnel, El Pincha should still be tough to beat and be looking for at least a top eight finish.
Transfers: The only really big loss was the departure of Gastón Fernández, who scored some critical goals last season but opted to leave La Plata for Universidad de Chile. Full back Alvaro Pereira also left but that was always expected and so it is a similar looking squad except for the useful additions of Rodrigo Braña from Quilmes and Javier Toledo from San Martín. The best bit of business though was making Mariano Andujar’s switch from Napoli permanent.
Key Player: Santiago Ascacibar – the young defensive midfielder was outstanding in his debut campaign and if he maintains that level it will certainly be his last in Argentina.
Opening fixture: Tigre (away)
Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata
Transición position: 5th in Zone A
Unbeaten in La Plata but dreadful on the road, Gustavo Alfaro arrived as coach towards the end of the season and will be hoping to address this pattern. In order to do this El Lobo will need to start scoring more and it will not have helped having last season’s top scorer Walter Bou leave for Boca. Alfaro is a good coach, who will get the side organised but they look to still be a little light in attack and until that is addressed, mid-table looks the best that they can hope for.
Transfers: With Bou, Facundo Castillón, Alvaro Fernández and Enrique Bologna all leaving, the list of names exiting La Plata look more significant than those coming in. Fabian Rinaudo extending his loan is a plus and Ramiro Carrera from Arsenal is a talented youngster but it remains to be seen how much veterans Sebastián Romero and Lucas Lobo have got left in the tank.
Key player: Maxi Meza – three goals from midfield last season, El Lobo will need even more from the 23-year-old this season.
Opening fixture: Vélez Sarsfield (home)
Transición position: 2nd in Zone A
An outstanding Transición ultimately ended in disappointment with San Lorenzo nicking top spot in Zone A and the place in the final against Lanús. However, for a side that constantly peaks and troughs, it was a resounding success and the key for the impressive Sebastián Méndez will be to keep that form going into this season. The strike force of Santiago Garcia and Jaime Ayovi was one of the most prolific in the top flight and keeping hold of both players should see El Tomba score the goals to comfortably finish in the top half.
Transfers: The sale of Fernando Zuqui is without question a blow but the losses of Lucas Ceballos and Fernando Godoy should be accounted for. Retaining Pol Fernández and goalkeeper Rodrigo Rey were key pieces of business and the signing of young Uruguayan forward Maxi Sigales could be an interesting one.
Key Player: Santiago Garcíá – The Uruguayan scored nine goals last season and will be required to continue this form if El Tomba are to have any further success.
Opening fixture: Huracán (home)
Clásico: San Martín de San Juan
Club Atlético Huracán
Transición position: 5th in Zone B
A title challenge never quite materialised for El Globo in the Transición and their Copa Libertadores hopes were ended by champions, Atlético Nacional at the last 16 stage but despite the dramatic bus crash that injured Diego Mendoza and Patricio Toranzo, it was a positive campaign for Eduardo Domínguez’s side. Unfortunately, Huracán perhaps face a period of adjustment after losing a number of crucial first team players during this window. Their performance last season pulled them away from the bottom of the descenso and even with an increased number of relegated sides, El Globo should be comfortably mid-table. Anything more would be a surprise.
Transfers: Iconic centre-forward Ramón ‘Wanchope’ Ábila sealed a move to Cruzeiro immediately after the season ended and after scoring 11 of Huracán’s 21 league goals, his absence will be keenly felt. Add to that Cristian Espinoza’s transfer to Villarreal, José San Román going to Den Haag and Luciano Balbi heading for Valladolid and you can see Eduardo Domínguez has work to do. Ignacio Pusseto (Atlético Tucumán) and Julio Angulo, who impressed for Independiente del Valle in the Libertadores, will need to replace Wanchope’s goals while Nicolás Romat and Ezequiel Garré arrive to fill in those gaps at full-back.
Key Player: Alejandro Romero Gamarra – the youngster has shown flashes of his brilliance for the first team but with Espinoza gone, it is time for the 21-year-old to step up.
Opening fixture: Godoy Cruz (away)
Clásico: San Lorenzo
Club Atlético Independiente
Transición position: 3rd in Zone A
Independiente were supposed to challenge for the Transición title or at least qualify for the Copa Libertadores and after failing to do either Mauricio Pellegrino was shown the door. This season under club legend Gabi Milito, optimism is high once again. Pellegrino’s side were overly cautious and their failure to score enough goals cost them so the hope is that Milito, a disciple of Pep Guardiola, will bring a more attacking outlook to the Estadio Libertadores de América. For the most part, Milito has kept the same squad together with a large number of fringe players leaving the club in an effort to trim the wage bill but otherwise El Rojo are looking pretty strong. The wait for a title goes on but given the resources available, Milito will be expected to have Independiente in the mix come May.
Transfers: From the huge number of players out of the club only really Rodrigo Gómez and Claudio Aquino would be considered first team members so there has been nothing dramatic during this window in Avellaneda. Former Boca youngster Juan Sánchez Miño arrived from Torino to give an option on the left, talented central defender Nicolás Figal returned to the club from Olimpo and looks set to partner Víctor Cuesta and right-back Damián Martínez came in from Defensa y Justicia to compete with Gustavo Toledo. A deal for Boca’s Pablo Pérez looks likely and while the 31-year-old is a good addition, El Rojo are looking bloated in central midfield at this stage.
Key Player: Víctor Cuesta – the 27-year-old didn’t cover himself in glory for Argentina at the Olympics but El Rojo have had one of the best defences in the league in recent seasons and Cuesta is central to that.
Opening fixture: Belgrano (away)
Clásico: Racing Club
Club Atlético Lanús
Transción position: Champions
Jorge Almirón’s side were by far and away the best side in Argentina during the entire Torneo Transición and were deserved champions thanks to so many incredible individual performances. Some how Lanús have managed to keep hold of most of these players and so once the Primera season gets underway, El Granate will be the team to beat. Pepe Sand plundered 14 goals in 17 matches and if he and the likes of Lautaro Acosta and Miguel Almirón maintain that form, Lanús will be in with a real chance of defending their title. Few sides manage that in Argentina but Lanús should be in the top five or so battling it out.
Transfers: The key thing here is keeping the core of the squad together; Gustavo Gómez heading to AC Milan will be a miss but Junior Benítez, Pablo Mouche and Víctor Ayala had all become fringe players rather than crucial first teamers. Santiago Zurbriggen and Ciro Rius are useful additions and Paraguayan Brian Montenegro has already made an impact with the winning goal on his debut in the Copa Bicentenario.
Key Player: Miguel Almirón – the player of the Torneo Transición looked destined for Europe but remains with Lanús and judging by the performance against Racing in the Copa Bicentenario will be the one to watch this season too.
Opening fixture: Boca Juniors (home)
Newell’s Old Boys
Transición position: 12th in Zone B
Newell’s endured a woeful 2015 and followed it up with a pretty lousy Transición, winning just three games and scoring only 16 goals. Their new campaign has already begun with a defeat to lower league oppostion in the Copa Argentina and so there are no signs of immediate improvement. Diego Osella has had a full a pre-season after replacing Lucas Bernardi early in the Transición but now must start implementing change. Osella got La Lepra better organised but their blunt attack made life complicated. Safe from relegation, mid-table obscurity looks like the best that this Newell’s side can hope for.
Transfers: Mauro Matos will be the man tasked with snatching Newell’s more goal after arriving on loan with Facundo Quignón from San Lorenzo. The return of Víctor Figueroa and Eugenio Isnaldo along with the signings of Néstor Moiraghi and Germán Voboril will help the side but there is nothing there to transform La Lepra. Full back Emanuel Insua will be a loss, as well talented young striker Lucas Boyé.
Key Player: Maxi Rodríguez – the fact that veteran Maxi is still of such importance to Newell’s perhaps says more about the team that it does the former Argentina international.
Opening fixture: Quilmes (away)
Clásico: Rosario Central
Olimpo de Bahía Blanca
Transición position: 15th in Zone A
Despite a change in management, Olimpo remain a very dull side and after scoring just 11 goals last season and finishing bottom of Zone A, they find themselves in the relegation battle this year. Things would be a hell of a lot worse if they weren’t decent enough defensively but with Nicolás Figal and Néstor Moiraghi gone, Cristian Díaz must get a new back four prepped for the new season. Surely another depressing year lies ahead with the sole target being stay out of the bottom four of the descenso – manage that and it’s objective met.
Transfers: There has been an enormous amount of activity in Bahía Blanca but with those defensive losses and their two best attacking players in Joel Amoroso and Walter Acuña also departed, it is difficult to see an improvement. Erik Correa and Víctor López the pick of the sixteen new faces but even this scatter-gun approach to transfers looks unlikely to save Olimpo.
Key Player: Nereo Champagne – will be another busy season for the goalkeeper.
Opening fixture: Unión (away)
Club Atlético Patronato
Transición position: 8th in Zona A
Los Rojinegros punched above their weight in the Transición and on the foundations of an excellent home record were comfortably in mid-table. There is nothing to suggest that Rubén Forestello’s side can’t do the same again but simply avoiding the drop remains the priority. Goalkeeper Sebastián Bértoli being the second highest goal scorer indicates one of the problem areas that the side must address.
Transfers: Not a great deal of activity in Paraná but a couple of significant losses as Ezequiel Garré joined Huracán and Marcos Quiroga went to Instituto. Former Quilmes midfielder Arnaldo González came in with Renzo Vera and Damián Arce but Patronato should line up in much the same way they did in the Transición.
Key Player: Sebastián Bértoli – the veteran penalty taking goalkeeper remains a huge leader in Paraná and will be important again this year.
Opening fixture: Temperley (away)
Clásico: Sarmiento de Junín
Quilmes Atlético Club
Transición position: 14th in Zona A
Given the transfer activity in Quilmes, Alfredo Grelak will have almost entirely new side at his disposal come their opening fixture against Defensa y Justicia. Owning the worst defensive record in the league and finishing second from bottom in Zone A last season, perhaps that isn’t a bad thing but it is difficult to see how such wholesale changes can have a truly positive impact. El Cervecero remains in relegation danger and will most likely still be battling away down the bottom come May.
Transfers: Far too many to mention but Rodrigo Braña and Ezequiel Rescaldani leaving the club look damaging. A whole squad’s worth of players have arrived with Diego Colotto and Matías Sarulyte tasked with tightening the defence. River youngster Fede Andrade returned on loan and his progression will be interesting.
Key Player: Diego Colotto – defence is where Quilmes need drastic improvement and so new signing Diego Colotto will be crucial. Quite the change of scene from champions Lanús.
Opening fixture: Newell’s Old Boys (home)
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Defensa y Justicia
Transición position: 6th in Zone B
At the time of writing Racing have seemingly plunged themselves into crisis by deciding to dispense with Facundo Sava just as the season is about to begin. Reportedly the club have lost faith but one has to question why this was not done three months ago in that case, certainly defeat to Lanús in the Copa Bicentenario shouldn’t have been a factor. Who will take over is not clear at this point but after a season in which Diego Milito departed, it is a new era for Racing. There is still some really talent in the squad for whoever takes charge and in spite of this unstable start, La Academia should still be in the top six or so with eyes on the title. Anything less, even for the new coach, would be failure.
Transfers: With Diego Milito retired, Sebastián Saja leaving the club, Luciano Lollo sold to River and Roger Martínez headed to China there have been some major changes in Racing’s squad. A whole host of fringe squad players have also left but those that have arrived look quality. Diego González was finally signed from Santos Laguna and has been joined by the talented Santiago Rosales, full-back Emanuel Insua, Pablo Alvarez from Central and perhaps controversial goalkeeper Agustín Orion, a free agent after leaving Boca.
Key Player: Óscar Romero – the little Paraguayan rejected a lucrative move to the MLS and he and Lisandro López will be the key figures in Racing’s attack.
Opening fixture: Talleres de Córdoba (home)
Club Atlético River Plate
Transición position: 9th in Zone A
The Copa Libertadores taking priority led to another poor season for River, who only won four times during the entire Transición. Marcelo Gallardo’s grace period after lifting the Libertadores is over and with almost no one left from that side, it is time for a new-look River to put together a title challenge. There have been some big name departures but Los Millonarios have bought well and in Gallardo they have a good coach but can all the pieces come together for a successful season?
Transfers: The remnants of the Libertadores winning side left for new challenges and Marcelo Barovero, Gabriel Mercado, Leonel Vangioni and to a lesser extent Eder Alvarez Balanta and Emanuel Mammana left big shoes to fill. Luciano Lollo arrived from Racing and when fit is undoutedly one of the top defenders in the Primera and Arturo Mina provides depth having impressed for Independiente del Valle. Marcelo Larrondo and Iván Rossi are excellent acquisitions, Rodrigo Moreira will replace Mercado and Enrique Bologna will provide experienced competition for Agusto Batalla in goal.
Key Player: Ignacio Fernández – after signing from Gimnasia, Fernández didn’t make any great waves but the midfielder looks to have established himself more now and is set for an important year.
Opening fixture: Banfield (home)
Clásico: Boca Juniors
Transición position: 7th in Zone A
Another of the sides whose focus on the Copa Libertadores led to a poor Transición but have enough quality in the their ranks for a strong season. Franco Cervi is already impressing in Benfica and Gio Lo Celso has been snapped up by Paris St Germain but the latter remains in Rosario until at least the end of the year and with the talented playmaker in behind Marco Ruben, Central will always carry a goal threat. Eduardo Coudet has already proved himself to be another of the excellent young coaches in Argentina and without any major distractions, El Canalla should mount a serious challenge for honours having come so close in 2015.
Transfers: As already mentioned, two of Central’s major young talents have sealed European moves but there have also been some outstanding purchases. Controversial Colombian Teo Gutiérrez comes in and could form the best strike force in the Primera with Marco Ruben (in theory); his arrival lessens the disappointment of Marcelo Larrondo leaving for River. Outstanding young defensive midfielder Mauricio Martínez arrrives from Unión and Marco Torsiglieri and Washington Camacho will hopefully balance out the losses of Alejandro Donatti and Pablo Alvarez.
Key Player: Marco Ruben – the most lethal goal scorer in the Primera; if Central create the chances, Ruben will score goals and that will be critical for El Canalla to succeed.
Opening fixture: Defensa y Justicia (home)
Clásico: Newell’s Old Boys
San Lorenzo de Almagro
Transición position: Runners-up
Pablo Guede’s tenure as San Lorenzo coach had a rocky start after their early Copa Libertadores exit. His attractive, attacking brand of football then got things back on track and Los Cuervos reached the Transición final only to be completely out-gunned by a superior Lanús side and ultimately cost Guede his job. Eight months on and San Lorenzo are starting a championship with another new coach, this time, Uruguayan Diego Aguirre. With no major changes in personnel, Aguirre will try and find a balance between the footballing philosophies of Edgardo Bauza and Pablo Guede. Change may take time and certainly judging by their pre-season defeat to Boca, Aguirre still has much to do with the attack. Limited time or not, San Lorenzo won’t accept a period of transition so Aguirre will need results quickly.
Transfers: San Lorenzo’s pursuit of Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini finally came to fruition with the relegated Premier League side terminating his contract in order to allow him to return home and although it ranks as one of the most high-profile transfers it remains to be seen whether the former Argentina international still has what it takes. Tino Costa is another experienced arrival and Aguirre brought in Mathías Corujo, who he coached at Peñarol. The key outgoing was right-back Julio Buffarini, a favourite from the Libertadores winning side under Edgardo Bauza. Mauro Matos, Hector Villalba and Pablo Barrientos joined him out the exit door but shouldn’t be too badly missed.
Key Player: Nicolás Blandi – San Lorenzo’e leading scorer by some distance last season remains their main source of goals.
Opening fixture: San Martín (home)
San Martín de San Juan
Transición position: 7th in Zone B
Building on a solid 2015, San Martín continued to be dangerous at home and pretty feable on the road resulting in comfortable mediocrity. Pablo Lavallén has done exactly what was expected of him and with no major changes to his squad for the forthcoming season, there is nothing to suspect there will be any difference. Far enough away from relegation to be comfortable, Los Verdinegros should be in the pack of teams bobbing around mid-table.
Transfers: Last season’s leading scorer Javier Toledo has joined Estudiantes which is a set-back but former Boca youngster Nicolás Maná coming in from Peru will in theory fill the void, and if not Diego Chaves also arrived from Sarmiento.
Key Player: Emanuel Dening – with Toledo gone, San Martín will look to Dening for a spark in the final third.
Opening fixture: San Lorenzo (away)
Clásico: Godoy Cruz
Club Atlético Sarmiento
Transición position: 10th in Zone A
Caruso Lombardi managed to keep Sarmiento in the Primera on the final day and then promptly departed and so new coach Gabriel Schurrer faces the same task this season. Plenty of changes in playing staff too means he won’t quite know what to expect from El Verde until a few weeks in but if they are not embroiled in the relegation scrap it will come as a major surprise.
Transfers: Maxi Caire, Gustavo Canto and Diego Chaves among the most noticeable departures but former River midfielder Jonathan Santana comes in with several youngsters. Gonzalo Di Renzo from Lanús being the pick.
Key Player: Jonathan Santana – The former Paraguayan international may be 34 now but is a big signing for Sarmiento and they will be expecting a return.
Opening fixture: Arsenal de Sarandí (home)
Club Atlético Talleres
Transición position: Nacional B Champions
La T look well equipped for life back in the top flight after winning the Nacional B at a canter. Unbeaten in all 21 matches, Frank Kudelka’s side have a trip to Racing on the opening weekend and will be full of confidence that they have what it takes to compete in the Primera. Talleres haven’t lost a match in 39 and given they will hardly remember what losing is, will be a dangerous opponent in the early stages of the season. Patronato and Atlético Tucumán showed in the Transición that there is no reason for the newly promoted sides to roll over and although it will be tough, Talleres look to have enough to stay up.
Transfers: Keeping Nazareno Solis is perhaps the most important piece of business in what has otherwise been a very busy window. Sebastián Palacios arriving from Boca Juniors looks a shrewd buy as do Leonardo Gil, Fernando Godoy, Daniel Ludueña and Javier Gandolfi.
Key Player: Nazareno Solis – the youngster was actually named in Tata Martino’s lengthy Olympic shortlist and after being the club’s leading scorer will be looking to impress in the top flight.
Opening fixture: Racing Club (away)
Club Atlético Temperley
Transición position: 13th in Zone B
Carlos Mayor was relegated as Argentinos Juniors coach last season and now faces the huge task of keeping Temperley in the top flight. The Celeste start the Torneo 2016/17 in the bottom four after narrowly avoiding the drop and the goal will be simply to climb the few positions required to remain in the Primera for at least another year. Achieving that will be tough as they simply don’t score enough goals and are poor on the road – reversing that will be a test for Mayor and unless he succeeds, Temperley will be one of the four to slip down into the Nacional B come May.
Transfers: Goalkeeper Matías Ibáñez has arrived from Lanús following the sale of Federico Crivelli to Chiapas but other than Gabriel Esparza returning to San Lorenzo and Fernando Brandán moving to Melbourne City, there are not huge changes to the Temperley squad. A few further new faces but nothing that suggests Temperley will not be scratching around near the foot of the table.
Key Player: Gonzalo Ríos – leading scorer last season with THREE. Ríos and Marcos Figueroa need to find the back of the net to save the club from relegation.
Opening fixture: Patronato (home)
Clásico: Arsenal de Sarandí
Club Atlético Tigre
Transición position: 9th in Zone B
Woefully inconsistent last season, Pedro Troglio will be hopeful that with a full pre-season under his belt as coach, Tigre will be improved this year. The core of a decent squad remains and with a couple of interesting additions, El Matador should have their eyes on a top half finish. The serious knee injury to goalkeeper Javier García just before the season comes as a blow but the club look set to dip into the transfer market to resolve this with Independiente’s out of favour Diego Rodríguez looking like a good option. Still likely to be a tad bi-polar and stronger in Victoria than on their travels, Tigre should remain comfortable enough.
Transfers: Vitally Tigre kept their most important players at the club and by bringing Diego Morales back to the club from Liga de Quito in addition to Oliver Benítez (Gimnasia), Bruno Urribari (River) and Gaspar Iñíguez on loan from Udinese, the squad looks stronger.
Key Player: Lucas Janson – the 21-year-old was one of the Primera’s standout players last season and will be looking to his tally of six goals and four assists.
Opening fixture: Estudiantes (home)
Clásico: Vélez Sarsfield
Club Atlético Unión
Transición position: 8th in Zone B
After what was an excellent Transición that placed Unión comfortably mid-table and only tasting defeat on four occasions, this transfer window has been cruel. Four of their most important first team players have departed and that will leave a big hole for Leonardo Madelón to plug. El Tatengue are far enough clear not to be dragged into relegation trouble but it’s difficult to see them competing at the same level as in the Transición. Bottom half this term.
Transfers: So, the problem for Unión – replacing Mauricio Martínez, who was snapped up by Rosario Central, Santiago Zurbriggen, who left for Lanús and two main goal threats Ignacio Malcorra and Claudio Riaño, who both headed for México. Guido Vadalá coming in on loan from Juventus is one to watch, Federico Anselmo will have to score goals and central defenders Santiago Magallán and Leonardo Sánchez are decent players but the outgoings look damaging.
Key Player: Lucas Gamba – the remaining forward at the club will need to help incorporate the new signings and score goals.
Opening fixture: Olimpo (home)
Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield
Transición position: 6th in Zone A
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. The Transición was an improvement on their dismal 2015 but still wildly inconsistent and after being eliminated from the Copa Argentina this week by lower league opposition, nothing appears to have changed. Christian Bassedas remains in charge and having lost another couple of talented youngsters, Vélez have signed a couple of familiar faces to try and bolster a squad that has for too long been propped up by the academy. The club is right in the thick of the relegation fight now after having their most successful recent season wiped from the promedios and so there is no more room for error.
Transfers: Hernán Toledo and Agustín Doffo became the latest academy products to briskly depart for Europe and Vélez have responded by bringing in a touch more experience. Hernán Barcos comes in from Sporting CP, Héctor Canteros returns to the club from Flamengo, Maxi Caire arrives from Sarmiento and Gonzalo Díaz and Diego Zabala provide further able options to Bassedas. Not expecting much from Vélez but that should be enough to keep them up.
Key Player: Mariano Pavone – Last season’s leading scorer the experienced Pavone will still be the man tasked with finding the net on a regular basis.
Opening fixture: Gimnasia (away)
Clásico/Interzonal fixture: Tigre