After more than a month delay due to financial issues between the AFA and the players’ union, the Primera 2016/17 season is set to restart. It’s been a long time since the last match on December 19th and after the chaos of strikes, postponed matches, friendly fixtures and transfers, it’s easy to forget the season is only at the halfway mark.
So, to catch up, here is the Primera table, what has been going on and what are the expectations at each club.
1st – Boca Juniors
First fixture: Banfield (away) Saturday 7:10pm
Boca’s season gradually gathered momentum after suffering defeat on the opening weekend but after finding their groove, going unbeaten for the remainder of the year and celebrating a famous victory in the Monumental, the talismanic Carlos Tevez departed for China. Guillermo Barros Schelotto is all too aware that with no Copa Libertadores distraction, lifting the Primera title is paramount even without Tevez driving Boca forward.
Transfers: Carlos Tevez’s big money move to Shanghai Shenhua was the big news of the window and the only outgoing to really impact Barros Schelotto’s first eleven. Andrés Cubas joined Pescara, Fede Carrizo left for Central and a couple of youngsters left on-loan but none should really be felt. Former Lanús forward Junior Benítez arrived from Benfica to provide further attacking options and young goalkeeper Agustín Rossi joined from Defensa y Justicia to rival Axel Werner while Guillermo Sara is injured.
Friendlies: Estudiantes 2-0 win; San Lorenzo 2-2; River Plate 0-2 defeat; Chivas 1-1 (5-3 defeat on pens); 1-3 Aldosivi defeat; Tigre 1-1; Colón 2-1 win; Argentinos Juniors 1-0 win
Key Player: Ricardo Centurión – someone needs to step into Tevez’s boots to provide the creativity and it looks likely to be the former Racing youngster.
2nd – Newell’s Old Boys
First fixture: Defensa y Justicia (away) Saturday 5pm
No one would have expected Newell’s to be in this position after such a dreadful Transición previously but Diego Osella has worked wonders on the side defensively and having conceded the third least amount of goals in the Primera, La Lepra have proved very tough to beat. Two defeats so far this season, the question is whether Newell’s can maintain this and mount a serious challenge.
Transfers: Peruvian full-back Luis Advincula left the club after an excellent first half of the season to join Liga MX club Tigres but Newell’s moved swiftly to replace him with former Huracán defender José San Román, who had been playing in Holland with ADO den Haag. Veteran striker Mauro Matos the other noticeable name out the door but given the amount of time spent on the treatment table, he won’t be missed. Diego Osella signed midfielder Jacobo Mansilla, who he worked with at Olimpo.
Friendlies: Atlético Paraná 2-0 win; Instituto 1-0 win; Sarmiento 1-1; Colón 0-0; Colón 1-1
Key Player: Facundo Quignon – the River academy product was superb in the first half of the season and will need to continue this in central midfield.
3rd – San Lorenzo
First fixture: Belgrano (home) Saturday 5pm
Capable of some outstanding football, San Lorenzo’s defensive fragility makes them exciting to watch as Los Cuervos’ matches usually guarantee goals. Only Boca Juniors have a better attack than Diego Aguirre’s side but you need to go down to 20th in the table for a side that has conceded more. If this can be addressed and the loss of certain players is balanced, San Lorenzo remain a threat.
Transfers: The outgoings are far more noticeable as Emmanuel Mas, Martín Cauteruccio and Sebastián Blanco all left the Nuevo Gasómetro and will be missed. The talented Rubén Botta arrived from Pachuca to bolster the attack and Paraguayan midfielder Robert Pires da Motta came in from Rubio Ñu but otherwise academy graduates will fill in.
Friendlies: Boca Juniors 2-2; Estudiantes 1-0 win; Independiente 1-0 win; FC Dallas 1-2 defeat; Talleres 1-2 defeat; Argentinos Juniors 2-2; Gimnasia 0-1 defeat
Key player: Fernando Belluschi – probably the best player in the Primera over the past year and now shouldering even greater responsibility.
First fixture: Vélez Sarsfield (away) Thursday 9pm
For ten rounds while Estudiantes were barely conceding a goal and hadn’t lost a match, Nelson Vivas’ side looked the team to beat but three defeats in the last four saw their grip on top spot loosen. Boosted by the return of president Juan Sebastián Verón to the playing squad, El Pincha will look to return to winning ways and fight for the title.
Transfers: Not strictly a transfer but Verón dusting off the boots is the big one. Brujita is joined by Sebastian Dubarbier, Javier Iritier and Colombian Juan Ferney Otero but Carlos Auzqui departing for River Plate is a blow. Gastón Gil Romero, Gabriel Graciani and Leandro González Pirez also left but none had much of a place in Vivas’ plans.
Friendlies: Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 (2-4 defeat on pens); Chivas 1-0 win; Bahia 1-0 win; Boca Juniors 0-2 defeat; San Lorenzo 0-1 defeat; Huracán 0-2 defeat; FC Dallas 1-1; Quilmes 1-0 win; Aldosivi 5-2 win; Defensa y Justicia 0-0
Key player: Santiago Ascacibar – after a disappointing Sudameriano captaining Argentina under-20s, the midfield general returns.
5th – Banfield
First fixture: Boca Juniors (home) Saturday 7:10pm
Perhaps the biggest surprise package of the first half of the season, Julio Cesar Falcioni transformed Banfield into a highly functional and effective underdog. The side to end Estudiantes’ unbeaten run, El Taladro closed the year with five-straight wins and are still unbeaten at home. A couple of key departures may make maintaining this form difficult.
Transfers: Veterans Walter Erviti and Santiago Silva (and Claudio Pérez to a lesser extent) were central to Banfield side but amid the financial troubles, all opted out of the club and leave a sizeable hole. However, two familiar faces returned to the Florencio Sola with centre forward Dario Cvitanich and defender Renato Civelli coming home.
Friendlies: Gimnasia 4-1 win; Boca Unidos 4-1 win; Temperley 0-1 defeat; Huracán 2-2; Ferro Carril Oeste 2-2; Vélez Sarsfield 2-2; San Martín 1-0 win; Tristán Suárez 5-1 win; Defensores de Belgrano 4-0 win
Key player: Emanuel Cecchini – the 20-year-old has been something of a revelation in midfield and without Erviti ahead to pull the strings will now have even greater responsibility.
6th – Lanus
First fixture: Racing (away) Sunday 5pm
The Transición champions began their title defence with a bit of a hangover but ended the year with five straight wins and a draw against San Lorenzo. Jorge Almirón’s never quite reached the levels that saw them lift the title but were outstanding defensively and will resume the season right back in the title mix.
Transfers: Miguel Almirón’s transfer to Atlanta was already well known and so El Granate have been able to deal with that as best they can and added a couple of useful additions. Youngster Hernán Toledo arriving on loan from Fiorentina is an interesting one and could prove to be an inspired signing. Midfielder Matías Rojas refills Lanús’ Paraguayan quota, Rolando Garcia Guerreño is a good defensive reinforcement and Germán Denis came in on a free after his release from Independiente to potentially create the oldest strikeforce going with Pepe Sand.
Friendlies: Huracán 1-1; Colo Colo 0-1 defeat; Everton 2-0 win; Defensa y Justicia 0-1 defeat; FC Dallas 1-1; Deportivo Español 3-0 win; Vélez Sarsfield 0-2 defeat
Key player: Lautaro Acosta – remains the main threat and so often Lanús ‘get out of jail free’ card
7th – River Plate
First fixture: Unión (home) Sunday 7:10pm
Nine points behind Boca Juniors after that thrilling defeat in the Monumental before the end of the year, River Plate are not exactly out of the title race but will clearly prioritise the Copa Libertadores. Hugely inconsistent in the league so far, Marcelo Gallardo had prioritised the cups in 2016 and ultimately lifted the Copa Argentina but will hope for an improvement in 2017.
Transfers: Andrés D’Alessandro was the only major outgoing so keeping hold of Lucas Alario and Sebastián Driussi should be seen as a big plus. Ariel Rojas returning to the club and Carlos Auzqui arriving from Estudiantes give Gallardo some excellent options but main summer target Walter Montoya slipped through the net and joined Sevilla.
Friendlies: Millonarios 1-0 win; Sao Paulo 0-0 (7-8 defeat on pens); Vasco da Gama 0-1 defeat; Aldosivi 1-3 defeat; Boca Juniors 2-0 win; FC Dallas 1-1; San Martín 1-1; Independiente Rivadavia 1-1 (5-3 win on pens); Talleres 2-1 win
Key player: Luciano Lollo – after a year out injured if River could get the former Racing defender fit again regularly his partnership with Jonathan Maidana could be formidable.
8th – Unión
First fixture: River Plate (away) Sunday 7:10pm
Not the most exciting side to watch but Unión won’t be complaining after a first half of the season that saw them beat Racing and Central and finish the year up in eighth. Juan Pumpido’s side are particularly difficult to beat in the Estadio 15 de Abril and without any fear of relegation if El Tatengue can maintain this position it should be considered a success.
Transfers: Rolando Garcia Guerreño was a central component of the defence and so his transfer to Lanús is significant but El Tatengue will be hopeful that Rodrigo Erramuspe, who came the other way in the deal can do a job. Martín Rolle was the other notable exit but Mauro Cejas came in after a spell in Mexico.
Friendlies: Aldosivi 2-0 win; Quilmes 1-0 win; Atletico Rafaela 1-1; Rosario Central 0-1 defeat; Patronato 1-2 defeat; Sportivo las Parejas 4-1 win; Sarmiento 0-0; Patronato 1-0 win
Key Player: Franco Soldano – the 22-year-old has four goals already this season and will be aiming to add to that tally.
9th – Independiente
First fixture: Talleres (away) postponed
Independiente have undergone big changes over the summer after failing to meet expectations under Gabi Milito. Ariel Holan has come in as manager and with his own clear view of how to play, the team will be very different in the second half of the season. Huge question marks remain over the squad, the club and the mentality but the talk from within is optimistic and whether it be via the Copa Sudamericana or the league, Libertadores qualification is the target.
Transfers: With Cebolla Rodriguez, Hernán Pellerano, Jorge Ortiz, Diego Vera, Germán Denis and captain Victor Cuesta all gone, Ariel Holan has been bold in his reconstruction. Walter Erviti, Nery Domínguez and Emmanuel Gigliotti are three experienced and useful looking acquisitions but El Rojo will also have to pin hopes on a number of academy products coming through – Fabricio Bustos, Alan Franco and Gastón Togni are all set for central roles.
Friendlies: Talleres de RE 1-1; Riestra 4-1 win; Atlético Tucumán 0-0; Racing 0-3 defeat; Racing 0-0 (7-8 defeat on pens); San Lorenzo 0-1 defeat; Chacarita 1-0 win; Morón 1-0 win; Temperley 2-1 win; All Boys 0-0; Quilmes 2-1 win; Nueva Chicago 0-1 defeat; Chacarita 4-0 win
Key Player: Walter Erviti – El Rojo need more goals and the creativity of the wily, old Erviti will be critical.
10th – Racing Club
First fixture: Lanús (home) Sunday 5pm
Racing also reacted to a disappointing first half of the season and opted to turn back to 2014 title winning coach Diego Cocca after it was clear that Ricardo Zielinski wasn’t the man for the job. La Academia defended poorly and struggled away from Avellaneda but Cocca knows the team, can handle the expectation and will be aiming to push onwards and upwards.
Transfers: A couple of useful additions for Racing in the form of former Boca midfielder Marcelo Meli and centre back Marco Torsiglieri. Oscar Romero leaving will be a loss to the attack but talented Argentina under-20 pair Lautaro Martinez and Brian Mansilla taking a more active role could off-set that. Defenders Nicolás Sánchez and Danilo Ortiz also left the club.
Friendlies: River Plate 1-0 win; Gimnasia 1-1; Independiente 3-0 win; Atlético Tucumán 1-1; Independiente 0-0 (8-7 win on pens); Nueva Chicago 2-0 win; FC Dallas 1-1; Huracán 4-3 win; Excursionistas 3-0 win
Key Player: Gustavo Bou – injury in the friendlies to Lisandro López puts even more pressure on the Pantera to deliver the goals.
11th – Talleres
First fixture: Independiente (home) Postponed
Their pitch might not be ready but Frank Kudelka will be hoping his Talleres side can pick up where they left off after a hugely successful return to the Primera. After a difficult start, La T swiftly put the opening five matches without a win behind them to rattle off an eight-match unbeaten run. With a talented, young side Talleres may well continue to cause upsets and will certainly look to push on.
Transfers: No need to rock the boat in Córdoba so the only players out are those that had failed to make much of an impression on the first team. Okiki Ofolabi, Eial Strahman and Matias Vuoso all left but the signing of centre forward Ezequiel Rescaldani is a boost. The 24-year-old couldn’t get into the Atlético Nacional side but has always scored goals in Argentina with Vélez and Quilmes previously.
Friendlies: Instituto 1-1; Rosario Central 1-1 (4-3 win on pens); Vélez Sarsfield 0-0; Colón 4-1 win; San Lorenzo 2-1 win; Boca Unidos 4-0 win; River Plate 1-2 defeat
Key Player: Emanuel Reynoso – The diminutive playmaker has been outstanding so far and could be set to shine.
12th – Colón
First fixture: Olimpo (home) Monday 9:15pm
A good points return in the first half of the season was built on Colón not conceding many goals meaning that El Sabalero were not the most attractive side to watch. The big question now is how much of that defensive solidity was down to manager Paolo Montero? The Uruguayan quit and has been replaced by Eduardo Domínguez.
Transfers: Montero’s resignation the only loss as Colón hung onto their players but striker Diego Vera arriving from Independiente looks to be a solid signing and while he isn’t prolific, his workrate and ability to link up is excellent. Facundo Pereyra was signed on loan from PAOK and will also look to add more of a goal threat.
Friendlies: Atlético Paraná 1-1; Patronato 1-1; Instituto 3-0 win; Talleres 1-4 defeat; Newell’s 1-1; Boca Juniors 1-2 defeat
Key Player: Germán Conti – the lanky lynchpin of the defence will be crucial to more clean sheets.
13th – Atlético Tucumán
First fixture: Sarmiento (home) Sunday 9:20pm
Atlético Tucumán’s competitive season is already off to a success with two Copa Libertadores qualification rounds navigated and a historic place in the group stages secured. That will be the focus for El Decano but with the tournament no longer crammed into the first half of the year there is less pressure on the squad. Pablo Lavellán isn’t long in the job but will be looking to instill some consistency.
Transfers: No new faces for El Decano but keeping the likes of Fernando Zampedri was more important. Uruguayan defender Pablo Cáceres and young full-back Lucas Villalba did leave but early indications in the Copa Libertadores is that the squad can cope.
Friendlies: Gimnasia y Tiro 2-1 win; Independiente 0-0; Racing 1-1
Copa Libertadores: El Nacional 3-2 win on agg; Junior 3-2 win on agg
Key Player: Fernando Zampedri – tempted by an offer from China, the powerful centre forward stuck around for a Libertadores run.
14th – Quilmes
First fixture: Gimnasia (away) Sunday 5pm
Despite being respectably placed in 14th, Quilmes are in the thick of the relegation battle and still have plenty to do to ensure their safety. Only their home currently props them up and outside the bottom four but having not won away in ten, Alfredo Grelak needs to change that. The objective is simple – stay up.
Transfers: Grelak opted to trim the squad and allow a number of players not in his plans to leave the club – Juan Manuel Trejo and Fernando de la Fuente included. The only incoming was talented young forward Rodrigo Contreras, on loan from San Lorenzo.
Friendlies: Huracán 0-0; Aldosivi 1-0 win; Unión 0-1 defeat; All Boys 0-2 defeat; San Carlos 2-1 win; Independiente 1-2 defeat
Key Player: Hernán Da Campo – Quilmes need more goals to ensure their survival and usually when they look good, the 22-year-old midfielder is involved.
15th – Tigre
First fixture: Temperley (away) Sunday 5pm
Decent enough in Victoria, pretty dreadful away but far enough away from relegation to be concerned. There is little pressure on Pedro Troglio so just topping up the average to keep away from the drop zone next season is really in order.
Transfers: A deal for Carlos Carbonero fell apart when the Colombian failed his medical so Uruguayan midfielder Diego Gurri is the only addition to Troglio’s squad. Leaving the club were Federico González, Jorge Rodriguez and Lucas Wilchez but none should affect the first team selection.
Friendlies: Godoy Cruz 1-2 defeat; Morón 2-1 win; Barracas Central 0-1 defeat; Argentinos Juniors 0-0; Defensa y Justicia 1-1; Villa Dalmine 2-1 win; Boca Juniors 1-1; All Boys 0-0
Key Player: Alexis Castro – the 22-year-old showed a little bit of everything in the first half of the season but with three goals he is much more than a defensive midfielder.
16th – Gimnasia
First fixture: Quilmes (home) Sunday 5pm
Gustavo Alfaro at least got Gimnasia difficult to break down but El Lobo’s lack of goals led to far too many draws. If they can start finding the net, Gimnasia should climb the table and with no chance of relegation, they can play without any real pressure.
Transfers: The two incoming transfers should help with the lack of goals with Brahian Alemán arriving from Liga de Quito and Mauro Matos coming in from San Lorenzo. The jury is out on Matos and his injury record at this stage of his career but Alemán was excellent in his previous spell in Argentina with Arsenal. Federico Rasic and Christian Ramos left but neither should massively impact Troglio’s plans.
Friendlies: Banfield 1-4 defeat; Racing 1-1; Independiente de Tandil 4-0 win; Defensa y Justicia 0-1 defeat; Arsenal 2-0 win; Temperley 2-1 win; Los Andes 1-1; San Lorenzo 1-0 win
Key Player: Brahian Alemán – If the 27-year-old can produce his Arsenal form, he is exactly what El Lobo need.
17th – Patronato
First fixture: Arsenal (home) Friday 9pm
Paraná remains a difficult place to go and as a result of Patronato’s decent home record they haven’t looked out of place in the Primera since promotion. It is only this that keeps them away from the relegation battle so it is something for Rubén Forestello to work on but expect much of the same from El Patrón.
Transfers: Not much action to report with Gabriel Graciani the only fresh face and aside from some other contracts expiring, Gonzalo Espinoza the only outgoing.
Friendlies: Rosario Central 2-1 win; Colón 1-1; Unión 2-1 win; Atlético Rafaela 3-1 win; Crucero del Norte 0-1 defeat; Boca Unidos 0-1 defeat; Unión 0-1 defeat
Key Player: Damián Lemos – with Espinoza gone, the 28-year-old needs to hold that central midfield together.
18th – Atlético de Rafaela
First fixture: Aldosivi (away) Monday 7pm
The truth is that Atlético de Rafaela haven’t been utterly awful this season but having left themselves a mountain to climb it still looks to be in vain. Bottom of the descenso table, La Crema need something of a miracle to survive and there is little to suggest that one is around the corner.
Transfers: Walter Serrano jumping ship to Godoy Cruz is a blow in the circumstances and while two new strikers in the form of Leandro Diaz and Manuel Bustos will hopefully add goals, it will surely be too little too late.
Friendlies: Sportivo Belgrano 0-1 defeat; Sportivo Belgrano 3-1 win; Unión 1-1; Patronato 1-3 defeat; Boca Unidos 4-0 win; Crucero del Norte 3-1 win
Key Player: Kevin Itabel – arrived just before the end of the year from Tigre and scored two in four games; a continuation of this will be vital.
19th – Defensa y Justicia
First fixture: Newell’s (home) Saturday 5pm
Sebastián Becaccese took over from Ariel Holan shortly before the end of the year and had an almost immediate impact with Defensa y Justicia. The sale of Fabián Bordagaray had hurt Holan’s side and struggling for goals they had won only once before Becaccese took over and finished the year with three straight wins. Any relegation fears have been eased and now El Halcón will look to build on that momentum.
Transfers: Boca’s goalkeeping concerns led them to Defensa y Justicia’s talented Agustín Rossi and hopeful of developing another good young keeper, El Halcón signed Ezequiel Unsain from Newell’s as a replacement. Other than that there was little movement, other than defender Pablo Alvarado arriving from Godoy Cruz, so it is as you were for Becaccese.
Friendlies: All Boys 3-0 win; River Plate (Ecuador) 1-0 win; Vélez Sarsfield 1-0 win; Gimnasia 1-0 win; Tigre 1-1; Lanús 1-0 win; 1-3 Ferro Carril Oeste defeat; Arsenal 2-2; Estudiantes 0-0
Key Player: Alexander Barboza – there is good reason Ariel Holan was so keen to take the young centre back to Independiente.
20th – Godoy Cruz
First fixture: Rosario Central (away) Sunday 7:10pm
After what had been an outstanding Transición, Godoy Cruz really failed to build on that in the first half of the season and currently have the worst away record in the top flight. Despite qualifying for the Copa Libertadores, Sebastián Méndez walked away and now Lucas Bernardi is the man in charge. The season delay means El Tomba’s competitive football has already begun but a challenge for Bernardi lies ahead.
Transfers: The reason for that challenge being his side’s main source of goals was sold to China, Jaime Ayovi swapped Mendoza for Beijing and will be sorely missed. Strike partner Santiago Garcia was almost off too but failed a medical with Talleres and for now appears out of Bernardi’s plans. Arriving were midfielder Walter Serrano, Racing defender Danilo Ortiz and former West Ham youngster Diego Poyet.
Friendlies: Tigre 2-1 win; Olimpo 1-2 defeat; Villa Dálmine 1-1; Gimnasia de Mendoza 2-2; Belgrano 3-1 win; Gimnasia de Mendoza 0-0; Sportivo Estudiantes 3-0
Key Player: Javier Correa – looks likely to be the side’s main striker now and so his goals will be vital
21st – Sarmiento
First fixture: Atlético Tucumán (away) Sunday 9:20pm
After a late revival of three wins in five matches before the end of the year, there appeared some hope that Sarmiento could once more avoid the drop but financial difficulties saw Jorge Burruchaga quit as manager, several players follow suit and now survival looks tricky. In the bottom four as it stands, if El Verde can get themselves out and remain in the top flight it would be a massive achievement.
Transfers: Following Burruchaga out the door were Kevin Mercado, Jonathan Santana, Leandro Diaz, Maxi Fornari and Bruno Vides. The two that have come in to aid the fight are Adrián Scifo and Gervasio Núñez.
Friendlies: Agropecuario 0-0; Vélez Sarsfield 0-1 defeat; Platense 1-0 win; Argentinos Juniors 0-2 defeat; Defensores de Belgrano 0-1 defeat; Unión 0-0
Key Player: Walter Busse – someone has to hold things together in central midfield.
22nd – Rosario Central
First fixture: Godoy Cruz (home) Sunday 7:10pm
Eduardo Coudet went all out for the Copa Argentina and ultimately ended up on the end of yet another final defeat but while Central focused on the cup, their league form suffered horribly. Only three wins in the first half of the season, a new manager in Paolo Montero and a couple of significant departures, it feels like a new (and uncertain) start at the Gigante de Arroyito.
Transfers: Giovani Lo Celso’s exit for Paris Saint-Germain was already known but Sevilla snapping up Walter Montoya and Jonas Aguirre moving to Necaxa has only further weakened the midfield. Sebastián Sosa and Marcos Torsiglieri also left the club and with only Paraguayan José Leguizamón and Federico Carrizo coming in, Central look a little light.
Friendlies: Patronato 1-2 defeat; Talleres 1-1 (3-4 defeat on pens); Unión 1-0 win; Belgrano 1-1; Atlético Paraná 1-1; Vélez Sarsfield 1-2 defeat
Key player: Marco Ruben – Central’s leader has only scored three times this season and needs to rediscover his prolific form.
23rd – Olimpo
First fixture: Colón (away) Monday 9:15pm
Trouble off the pitch and barra involvement at the training ground led to Cristian Diaz leaving as manager before the end of the year and while Mario Sciaqua has now taken the reins matters still look bleak. Olimpo don’t score enough goals, have been poor away from Bahía Blanca for a long time now and resume the season in the drop zone. Whether they have enough to get out is uncertain and it will likely be a struggle until the bitter end.
Transfers: Goalkeeper Nereo Champagne and Jacobo Mansilla leaving for Leganés and Newell’s respectively are significant blows to the first eleven and could have severe repercussions. Adrián Gabbarini came in from Tigre to replace Champagne and the only other addition was striker Eial Strahman from Talleres.
Friendlies: Independiente de Neuquén 1-1; Huracán de Ingeniero White 4-0 win; Godoy Cruz 2-1 win; Santamarina 1-2 defeat; Belgrano 1-4 defeat; Sporting de Necochea 4-0 win
Key Player: Carlos Rodriguez – the Uruguayan is vital to the Olimpo back four.
24th – Vélez Sarsfield
First fixture: Estudiantes (home) Thursday 9pm
Outside the drop zone for the moment, relegation remains a very real danger for Vélez Sarsfield, which would have seemed outrageous only a few years ago. El Fortín’s form in Liniers the only saving grace because on their travels, Omar de Felippe’s side are still yet to win. Desperate for points, Vélez still look as though they have enough to survive but there can be no complacency.
Transfers: Juan Manuel Martínez’s return to the club was the only addition to the squad and while he may not be the forward he was when he left in 2012, Burrito provides another option for a side that has struggled for goals. Veteran Hernán Barcos’ stay was short as he left for Liga de Quito, Leandro Somoza wasn’t given a new deal and Tata Martino took young Yamil Asad to Atlanta United.
Friendlies: Tristán Suárez 0-1 defeat; Boca Unidos 1-1; Sarmiento 1-0 win; Defensa y Justicia 0-1 defeat; Talleres 0-0; Temperley 1-0 win; Banfield 2-2; Rosario Central 2-1 win; Lanús 2-0 win
Key Player: Lautaro Gianetti – the defence always seems better with the Argentina under-23 international.
25th – San Martín
First fixture: Huracán (home) Saturday 8pm
You only need to see the goals conceded column to spot San Martín’s major problem – 26 shipped in 14 is the worst record in the top flight and something that new boss Néstor Gorosito must immediately addresss. Safe from relegation El Verdinegro are able to work on this in a relatively pressure free environment.
Transfers: With defence the concern, Gorosito’s only signing is a player he knows well from Argentinos Juniors, centre back Patricio Matricardi. On their way out were Jorge Luna, Juan Galeano and Sebastián Navarro so the first eleven should remain familiar.
Friendlies: Ferro Carril Sud 3-0 win; Santamarina 1-0 win; Unión 1-1; Independiente Rivadavia 2-1 win; Estudiantes de San Luis 0-2 defeat; River Plate 1-1 (1-4 defeat on pens); Gimnasia de Mendoza 2-1 win
Key Player: Emanuel Dening – the club’s leading scorer only has three and with a leaky defence he needs more.
26th – Aldosivi
First fixture: Atlético de Rafaela (home) Monday 7pm
With only two league wins Aldosivi run the risk of getting drawn further into the relegation battle. However, such a toothless attack has led to half their games ending in draws and single points do little to help their current predicament. If Darío Franco can get his side finding the net more regularly El Tiburón will be fine.
Transfers: Two unused strikers in the form of Juan Dinenno and Claudio Correa departed Mar del Plata but the only incoming was the return of midfielder Sebastián Navarro.
Friendlies: Unión 0-2 defeat; Quilmes 0-1 defeat; River Plate 3-1 win; Boca Juniors 3-1 win; Estudiantes 2-5 defeat
Key Player: Jonathan Galván – the cornerstone of the defence and a threat from set-pieces at the other end.
27th – Temperley
First fixture: Tigre (home) Sunday 5pm
Temperley face an enormous task to avoid relegation given that they average only one goal every two matches. Unless this, and their form away from home, improves dramatically, El Gasolero stand almost no chance of staying up.
Transfers: When you’re in the thick of a relegation battle, you need your best players but unfortunately for Temperley, Adrián Arregui left to join Montreal Impact. The likes of Gonzalo Rios, Cristian Palacios and Lucas Parodi will not really be missed but Arregui is a blow. Coming in to try and pull off the escape are Mauro Guevgeozian and Emiliano Ozuna.
Friendlies: Independiente de San Cayetano 0-0; Sportivo San Cayetano 3-0 win; Banfield 1-0 win; Arsenal 2-2; Vélez Sarsfield 0-1 defeat; Juventud Unida 0-1 defeat; Gimnasia 1-2 defeat; Independiente 1-2 defeat; Dock Sud 3-0 win; Quilmes 0-0
Key Player: Marcos Figueroa – simply must start scoring more often.
28th – Huracán
First fixture: San Martín (away) Saturday 8pm
Huracán are in serious danger and judging by their defeat in last week’s Copa Sudamericana first leg there will be no quick fix. El Globo hover perilously above the drop zone having won just two matches so far this season and the prime reason being that Wanchope Abila goals were never replaced. They still haven’t been really but new manager Juan Manuel Azconzábal must get more from this current squad.
Transfers: Young Lucas Villalba is a good addition at left back but Cameroonian forward Arounde Bissene is something of an unknown quantity. Presumably he will replace the largely ineffectual Jeronimo Barrales as an attacking option. Javier Iritier also left the club, joining Estudiantes.
Friendlies: Quilmes 0-0; Lanús 1-1; Nueva Chicago 1-1; Banfield 2-2; Estudiantes 2-0 win; Racing 3-4 defeat; Ferro Carril Oesta 0-0
Key Player: Ignacio Pussetto – the youngster scored a couple of goals before the end of the year and must continue that to ease the pressure.
29th – Belgrano
First fixture: San Lorenzo (away) Saturday 5pm
The only way is up surely for Belgrano after a first half of the season that saw them score a Primera low six goals and only win once. There is no risk of relegation this season but Leonardo Madelón must address this utterly dreadful scoring record. Claudio Bieler has been the only player that looks likely to stick the ball in the net and that has to change.
Transfers: Madelón trimmed the squad and let a number of players leave the club but among them there was also the retirements of Juan Carlos Olave and Mauro Obolo. Lucas Melano returning to the club from Portland Timbers is a real boost to the attack and Claudio Aquino may yet prove his worth. Hugely frustrating at Independiente, the 25-year-old does have some talent but needs to demonstrate this regularly.
Friendlies: Deportes La Serena 1-1; Universidad de Chile 1-1; Instituto 1-0 win; Sportivo Belgrano 2-0 win; Estudiantes de Rio Cuarto 2-0 win; Rosario Central 1-1; Godoy Cruz 1-3 defeat; Olimpo 4-1 win; Instituto 0-0
Key Player: Matías Suárez – yet to see anywhere near what the former Belgian league player of the year is capable of but if he can turn it on, goals should follow.
30th – Arsenal
First fixture: Patronato (away) Friday 9pm
It took until the last match of 2016 for Arsenal to claim their first win of the season and the worrying combination of a blunt attack and a porous defence leaves the club on the cusp of the relegation zone. Humberto Grondona has been appointed manager at the club his father formed in 1957 and after his spell in charge of the Argentina under-20s question marks hang over his coaching abilities. A dogfight looks inevitable at the bottom.
Transfers: Few changes in Sarandí but Lucas Wilchez and Leonardo Rolón are decent if unspectacular reinforcements. Neither are likely to cause a sudden upturn in form.
Friendlies: Yupanqui 1-0 win; Temperley 2-2; Flandria 1-0; Gimnasia 0-2 defeat; Victoriano Arenas 2-1 win; Acassuso 4-2 win; All Boys 2-1 win; Almirante Brown 0-1 defeat; Defensa y Justicia 2-2
Key Player: Lucas Wilchez – judging by the friendlies under Grondona, Wilchez will play behind Sotelo and Boghossian and will be vital in increasing their goal threat.