The Superliga is back and as the AFA continue to try and trim Julio Grondona’s 30-team monstrosity, Argentina’s top flight is now down to 26 clubs.
The heart might be in the right place with that but the execution is still lacking and so Boca Juniors defend their Superliga title over a shambolically short league season. Running until March 2019, the 26 sides will play each other once and after those 25 rounds a new champion will be crowned.
But isn’t 25 games and a March finish a little short for an entire league season? Yes. Yes, it is.
However, never let it be said that the AFA don’t think things through because just when the Superliga finishes, a new Copa de la Liga will begin – essentially a knockout tournmaent based on league position (click that link above to read more about that).
So, with kick off imminent get a quick round-up of all the runners and riders, what each club has been up to over the break and what to expect from the season ahead.
Club Atlético Aldosivi
2017/18 league position: B Nacional champions
A swift return to the top flight for El Tiburón after their relegation a year ago is just as well given the Superliga’s ever diminishing size. Aldosivi will be more than aware that a relegation battle awaits and with four teams to go down once more, survival will be tough. Gustavo Alvarez’s side didn’t particularly stand out in an incredibly tight B Nacional campaign and required a playoff to edge Almagro and claim top spot. A huge number of players have come in and the hope will be that among those, some will shine but the scattergun approach to the market rarely seems to pay off.
Transfers: Veterans Maxi Velazquez (returned to Ferro) and Leandro Somoza (retired) were among a few departures but there has been a whole host of additions. Denis Stracqualursi, Leonardo Sánchez, Fernando Godoy, Dardo Miloc, Matías Pisano, Juan Galeano, Facundo Castillón, Emiliano Ozuna, Luciano Pocnrijc, Leonel Galeano, Lucas Villalba and Javier Iritier all arrived with plenty of top flight experience but can an entire new-look team gel?
Preseason: Aside from a couple of friendlies – a 3-0 win over Berazategui and a 2-1 defeat to Almirante Brown – Aldosivi have already been in competitive action. The Copa Argentina pitted El Tiburón against recently relegated Olimpo and after a 1-1 draw, Aldosivi lost on penalties.
Key player: Fernando Telechea – Aldosivi’s top scorer last season must bring some of those goals to the Superliga.
Opening fixture: Unión (away)
Prediction: Tough to see Aldosivi avoiding the drop – relegated.
2017/18 league position: 12th
For a first season back in the top flight, Argentinos Juniors excelled and played some excellent football along the way. Alfredo Berti’s young side attacked with real pace and in La Paternal were formidable. Relegation never looked in any danger and so they start this season with a nice cushion. However, player sales have hit Los Bichos, particularly in attack, and reproducing that form could be difficult. After missing out on the Copa Sudamericana on the final day, last season left a bitter taste despite the overachievement and it’s hard to imagine Argentinos finishing quite so high this time round.
Transfers: Lucas Barrios opting to leave, Nicolás González being snapped up by VfB Stuttgart and Javier Cabrera’s contract expiring means a new look attack will line-up this season and while they have shown quality in the past, there are question marks over what they can produce now. Raúl Bobadilla came in from his time in Europe, Junior Benitez arrived after his spell at Boca and Hernán Toledo should arrive after bouncing around on loan but all have something to prove. Defender Mauro Maidana and youngsters Franco López and Julián Illanes bolster the squad.
Preseason: Kicking off with a goalless draw against Godoy Cruz, a victory over B Metropolitana club Flandria followed. Defeat to Ferro was sandwiched between two friendlies that got washed out in the rain before Los Bichos closed preseason with a 3-0 win over Los Andes – Bobadilla getting on the scoresheet.
Key player: Raúl Bobadilla – an obvious replacement for Lucas Barrios, the Paraguay international will be the focal point of the attack.
Opening fixture: Gimnasia (away)
Prediction: A more testing second season but the Bichos should avoid relegation.
2017/18 league position: 15th
When the Superliga kicks off, Atlético’s immediate focus will still be on the Copa Libertadores after El Decano historically reached the knockout stages. Ricardo Zielinski’s side are obvious underdogs against Atlético Nacional but they have been throughout and are still there. While battling their way to the latter stages, league form understandably suffered last season but as ever in front of their noisy home support, El Decano proved tough to beat at the Monumental – losing only once in the Superliga. This will be the blueprint once more and few sides will fancy the away trip.
Transfers: Some real experience has come on board with Juan Mercier, Mauro Matos and the returning Bruno Bianchi all through the door. Jose San Roman, Mathias Abero and Ricardo Noir all provide decent options and River graduate Juan Kaprof is an interesting forward still looking to really breakout.
From the many departures only really goalkeeper Augusto Batalla (although Luchetti is fit again), Nicolás Romat, Dardo Miloc and Rafael Garcia are likely to be missed in any way.
Preseason: A friendly win over Gimnasia de Jujuy, a draw at home and a defeat away to San Martín de Tucumán perhaps didn’t provide much information but the Copa Argentina is a decent yardstick as Atlético hope of going one better than last year. A 1-0 win over Tristan Suarez and a subsquent win over Huracán has El Decano into the last 16 already.
Key player: Luis Rodriguez – it had to be. The Flea is the heartbeat of the side.
Opening fixture: Racing Club (home)
Prediction: Another midtable finish looks on the cards.
Club Atlético Banfield
2017/18 league position: 17th
There was very little to get excited about for Banfield last season as there foray into the Copa Libertadores ended in qualifying and their Superliga campaign never really got going. A threadbare squad and health problems for manager Julio Cesar Falcioni didn’t help but El Taladro couldn’t string a run of results together. There still appears a dependence on Dario Cvitanich for goals that must be resolved and it remains to be seen during the rest of 2018 if their Copa Sudamericana commitments can be balanced.
Transfers: As ever it seems with Banfield there have been some high-profile departures and the losses of Eric Remedi, Pablo Mouche, Mauricio Sperduti, Gonzalo Bettini and Claudio Villagra will be felt. However, several other key players were retained and El Taladro have made some useful additions. Emmanuel Cecchini was outstanding prior to his move to Malaga and while it didn’t work out in Europe, the youngster’s return is a boost; Marcelo Torres is a talented striker and Falcioni will hope that the Boca loanee could have a similar impact that Gio Simeone had some years ago; Adrian Calello brings much-needed experience and Rodrigo Arciero adds another defensive option.
Preseason: A busy preseason that has included several competitive fixtures should see Banfield hit the ground running in the Superliga. Friendly wins over UAI Urquiza and Nueva Chicago perhaps provide little and while the Copa Argentina loss to General Lamadrid, the victory over Boston River to reach the Copa Sudamericana last 16 showed signs of promise.
Key player: Emmanuel Cecchini – back at the club after his short spell in Europe, the 21-year-old is vital to the midfield.
Opening fixture: Rosario Central (away)
Prediction: Another midtable finish looks the best that Banfield can hope for.
Club Atlético Belgrano
2017/18 league position: 13th
Despite finishing in midtable last season, the promedios dictate that Belgrano begin the new campaign in the thick of the relegation zone. An opening day fixture against San Martín is already a ‘six-pointer’ and El Pirata will feel the pressure immediately if they suffer defeat. Pablo Lavallén walked away at the end of the saeson and so Lucas Bernardi assumes control at the Alberdi. There is little to suggest from his short managerial career he is the best man for the job but Belgrano have to put faith in his abilities. Solid defensively last term, the Celeste must remain so but also need to add more goals if they are to avoid a nerve-racking year.
Transfers: If Bernardi was something of a gamble, Belgrano have rolled the dice in the transfer market too. Cristian Lema was one of the best defenders in the league last season and was snapped up by Benfica on a free, Erik Godoy went to Colón and Cristian Romero’s transfer to Genoa further weaken that defence. Jorge Ortiz was a decent midfield partner to Federico Lertora and in attack Belgrano have seen Mauro Guevgeozián, Jonathan Ramis and Joel Amoroso all leave. So, there is a great deal of pressure on the new signings working out – Adrián Balboa from Patronato is a decent striking option, Denis Rodríguez is hoping to prove himself after injury, Gastón Gil Romero could be useful and in defence Hernan Menosse, Matías Nani and Sebastián Olivarez need to hit the ground running.
Preseason: Already out of the Copa Argentina back in May has meant Belgrano haven’t played any competitive football in preseaon but it hasn’t prevented Lucas Bernardi getting some positive results. Victory over Talleres in the clásico, a 2-1 win over Newell’s Old Boys and most recently a win over lower league Mitre de Santiago del Estero suggest El Pirata are ready for the fight.
Key player: Matias Suárez – keeping the forward at the club was vital and his quality in the final third will be critical to any success.
Opening fixture: San Martín de San Juan (home)
Prediction: Disappointing but enough to fight off relegation.
2017/18 league position: Champions
Back-to-back titles and now chasing a historic third while trying to lift a seventh Copa Libertadores to draw level with Independiente’s record. Guillermo Barros Schelotto is on the verge of the history books and Daniel Angelici has certainly armed his manager with the best squad and most expensive squad in Argentina. Boca were far from their best in stumbling over the line last season and qualifying for the Libertadores knockout stages but with players back from injury and some strong additions, Los Xeneizes will be expected to be firing on all cylinders for the rest of 2018. Despite winning the league title, it was almost the mimimum expected for Barros Schelotto and so the Libertadores will be the real test over the next five months.
Transfers: It’s been another productive window for Boca and Guillermo Barros Schelotto has looked to address any areas of potential weakness. Mauro Zárate was the surprise addition but is an upgrade on Carlos Tevez behind the number nine, Colombian Sebastian Villa looks a real handful, Carlos Izquierdoz adds further strength defensively as does Lucas Olaza after the injury to Frank Fabra and if Agustin Rossi was a concern in goal, Boca signing Esteban Andrada should cover that. Add in Dario Benedetto and Fernando Gago returning from long term injuries and the club being able to hold onto the likes of Cristian Pavón and Wilmar Barrios and Boca’s squad is loaded.
Preseason: Aside from sticking six past Alvarado in the Copa Argentina, Boca’s preseason has largely been spent in the United States. However, wins over Miami FC, Independiente de Medellin and a penalty defeat to Colorado Rapids provided little information – other than what was already known.
Key player: Darío Benedetto – back from injury and if the striker recovers his form, Boca will be (even more) formidable.
Opening fixture: Talleres (home)
Prediction: Still the team to beat and with the squad available another less than champions would be a failure.
Club Atlético Colón
2017/18 league position: 11th
Eduardo Dominguez always has Colón well drilled and defensively organised as evident by their historic victory over São Paulo in Brazil last week. El Sabalero had to ride their luck but the doggedness was there and it looks as though despite key departures, there will be little change. That was enough for Colón to sneak the final Copa Sudamericana qualifying spot last season but a similar result might be tough this time round. Goals have been a problem for a while and there still isn’t anyone who could be seen as a reliable and consistent source.
Transfers: While goalkeeper Leonardo Burian from Godoy Cruz, defender Erik Godoy and midfielder Franco Zuculini could all prove decent acquistions, Colón have lost a number of important players. None more so than captain German Conti, whose low release clause was eventually activated by Benfica. His absence will be keenly felt and while the likes of Alexander Domínguez, Diego Vera, Cristian Guanca and Pablo Ledesma were not at anywhere near the same level, they all played a central role in Eduardo Dominguez’s starting eleven last season.
Preseason: A penalty shootout was needed to squeeze past Deportivo Morón in the Copa Argentina and in the annual Copa Santa Fe, Colón are still going after defeating Rosario Central over two legs. That aside there was a victory over Atlético de Rafaela and a defeat to Newell’s in friendlies and most importantly that win over São Paulo.
Key player: Guillermo Ortiz – no longer partnered with Conti, Colón need a new defensive lynchpin.
Opening fixture: Patronato (away)
Prediction: Still tough to beat but a slight drop down the league table.
Defensa y Justicia
2017/18 league position: 9th
By and large Defensa y Justicia get their managerial appointments right and so after Juan Pablo Vojvoda’s impressive season saw El Halcón finish ninth, he was plucked by Talleres allowing DyJ to swiftly move for former manager Sebastián Beccacece. Disastrous time with Argentina or not, the young coach was doing a tremendous job before Jorge Sampaoli came knocking and will look to pick that back up this time round.
Transfers: As ever at Defensa y Justicia the turnover, what with short-term deals and loans, has been huge. Andrés Cubas, Tomás Pochettino and Fernando Márquez will be the biggest losses but Sebastián Beccacece has brought in a number of potentially strong additions. Eugenio Isnaldo and Jonás Gutiérrez return to the club, Francisco Cerro and Marcelo Larrondo will have points to prove and youngsters Gastón Togni, Domingo Blanco (both Independiente) and Nicolás Tripichio could all benefit from time at the club as so many have previously.
Preseason: Out of the Copa Argentina on penalties against Argentinos Juniors, it was better news in the Copa Sudamericana, where victory over El Nacional booked a spot in the last 16. A friendly victory over Argentino de Quilmes at the start of July was followed by defeats to San Martín and Platense.
Key player: Alexander Barboza – the big defender never proved his worth at River but is a big player in Florencio Varela.
Opening fixture: Lanús (away)
Prediction: Another comfortable top half finish for El Halcón.
Club Estudiantes de La Plata
2017/18 league position: 16th
Estudiantes might be in the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores but they certainly haven’t been playing like one and have done little in this window to suggest that is about to change. Interim coach Leandro Benítez was made permanent manager but yet another change under president Verón would probably not come as a surprise a little way down the road.
Transfers: What was already a pretty thin squad has been stripped further and when you take out Juan Otero (Amiens), Gastón Giménez (Vélez),Leandro Désabato (retired) and even the likes of Sebastián Dubarbier, Lucas Melano and Lucas Diarte there isn’t a huge amount left. Full back Fernando Evangelista and striker Lucas Albertengo have arrived but how much they add to the starting eleven isn’t clear.
Preseason: A resounding victory over lower league Central Córdoba in the Copa Argentina and friendly victories over Sacachispas, Quilmes and San Martín de San Juan either suggest Estudiantes will be improved or that friendly fixtures tell us very little.
Key player: Jonathan Schunke – the best defender at the club and could well be kept busy.
Opening fixture: Godoy Cruz (away)
Prediction: Safe from relegation but a really poor Superliga season
Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata
2017/18 league position: 23rd
Utterly woeful last season under three different managers, Gimnasia have turned back to a familiar face for this campaign as Pedro Troglio takes the reins for the third time. One of the worst defences in the Superliga, the new coach should at least have them better organised but El Lobo also lack a genuine goalscorer and have now lost their chief creator Brahian Alemán.
Transfers: Alemán’s transfer to Saudi club Al Etiffaq is a real blow but the Uruguayan wasn’t the only departure. Omar Alderete, Nicolás Colazo and wee Franco Niell are among those to have left and El Lobo need those to have come in to have a real impact. Midfielder Víctor Ayala could do that but all the incomings share that ‘good on their day’ tag – Santiago Silva, Mauro Guevgeozián and Santiago Rosales have the potential to go either way.
Preseason: A 1-0 win over Olimpo has kept Gimnasia in the Copa Argentina but aside from that preseason was a mixe bag – there was a 1-1 draw with Cerro Porteño, a victory against Godoy Cruz and defeat to Quilmes.
Key player: Víctor Ayala – the former Lanús man is back in Argentina and will be looking to bring some energy to the midfield.
Opening fixture: Argentinos Juniors (home)
Prediction: Another poor campaign that could flirt with relegation.
2017/18 league position: 2nd
A historic second placed finish was an outstanding achievement for Godoy Cruz and manager Diego Dabove deserved all the praise. Always formidable in Mendoza, the change of manager saw El Tomba take that form on the road and it almost resulted in a title. However, it also attracted many to the stars of that side and Godoy Cruz begin the new campaign with a number of departures. Expect home games to remain strong but understandably a drop back down the table looks inevitable.
Transfers: Juan Garro headed for Huracán and Pol Fernández looks all set for Racing Club but those two key parts to the side that finished runners-up are not the only departures. Leonardo Burián, Leonel Galeano, Walter Serrano and Diego Riolfo all left and so once more Godoy Cruz must hope that some of their little known signings pay off. Young goalkeeper Roberto Ramírez looks set to be number one but Andrés Mehring also came in for competition; Gabriel Avalos, Diego Sosa and young Paraguayan midfielder Iván Ramírez will be hoping to make a positive impact.
Preseason: Knocked out of the Copa Argentina on penalties by lower league Defensores Unidos and a preseason consisting of two goalless draws with Argentinos Juniors and Ituzaingó respectively plus a 1-0 defeat to Gimnasia don’t fill you with confidence.
Key player: Santiago Garcia – Superliga top scorer last season and the man Godoy Cruz will still be looking to.
Opening fixture: Estudiantes (home)
Prediction: No way El Tomba can repeat last season so a drop back into midtable.
Club Atlético Huracán
2017/18 league position: 4th
Finishing last season unbeaten in twelve, Huracan firmly deserved their top four finish and Copa Libertadores qualification but there were still times when it wasn’t exactly clear how they were doing it. Gustavo Alfaro has his side’s well prepared and El Globo defended well on the whole allowing the likes of Ignacio Pussetto to nick them wins. Without the now Udinese forward, Alfaro needs to reinvent his attack but with some decent buys, El Globo will hope they remain competitive.
Transfers: The big news was the $10 million sale of Pussetto and although it’s great money for El Globo the forward is a tough act to follow. However, the club have bought well – Juan Garro was excellent for Godoy Cruz last term as was Lucas Gamba at Unión and if Carlos Auzqui finds his Estudiantes form rather than what he showed at River, Huracán still pose an attacking threat. Hugo Nervo, Carlos Matheu, Lucas Villalba and Adrián Calello also left but bringing in Omar Alderete and Iván Rossi looks like decent business.
Preseason: A defeat to Atlético Tucuman ended El Globo’s Copa Argentina run after they had defeated Victoriano Arenas in the previous round while a 1-1 draw with San Telmo the only other notable friendly result.
Key player: Israel Damonte – the veteran midfielder reinvented himself as a goalscorer at remains a key player in the engine room.
Opening fixture: River Plate (home)
Prediction: Another top four finish looks doubtful but having pulled away from relegation, a safe top half finish is surely on the cards.
Club Atlético Independiente
2017/18 league position: 6th
Ariel Holan ended Independiente’s wait for a trophy with the 2017 Copa Sudamericana and now the talented coach and the club want more. A difficult Copa Libertadores last 16 tie awaits but the expectation is to challenge for every possible piece of silverware. The squad has certainly improved to be able to do that but it is another thing actually proving it. El Rojo let things slip to miss out on the Libertadores spots last season and Holan will demand his side improve this time round. Defensively Independiente have been solid but for all of their attractive attacking play they at times struggle to make it count. If an in-shape Silvio Romero can be the number nine that has been lacking then Independiente could be very strong.
Transfers: Perhaps getting the likes of Maxi Meza, Martín Benítez, Fabricio Bustos and Alan Franco to follow manager Ariel Holan’s lead and sign new deals was the best business but Independiente have also strengthened well. Midfielder Diego Rodriguez was the only notable departure but that has been well balanced by the arrivals of Pablo Hernández, Francisco Silva and Carlos Benavídez. Guillermo Burdisso brings experience to the defence and Ezequiel Cerutti is an outstanding addition to the attack.
Preseason: Lifting the Suruga Bank trophy in Japan for an 18th international trophy and a record breaking 8-0 win over Central Ballester to progress in the Copa Argentina have been confidence boosters ahead of an important few months. Earlier in preseason there was a draw with San Martín de Burzaco and comfortable wins over Talleres de Remedios de Escalada, UAI Urquiza and Riestra.
Key player: Maxi Meza – keeping the Argentina international at the club (for now) is a real boost.
Opening fixture: Postponed due to Suruga Bank Trophy
Prediction: The clubs goal is to challenge on all fronts; they may fall short but running close in the top group is a must.
Club Atlético Lanús
2017/18 league position: 21st
The speed of Lanús’ decline from Primera champions and Libertadores finalists to where they are now has been hard to take for supporters but inevitable given the level of stripping out the first team. Ezequiel Carboni remains in charge having taken over from Jorge Almirón and while no one can doubt his commitment to the club, it feels a little like a thankless task. El Granate were way down the table last season and were among the lowest scorers – will those who have been brought in to finally replace the goals that Pepe Sand once provided fill that gap? We will see but it looks likely to be another very underwhelming campaign.
Transfers: Iván Marcone, Esteban Andrada, Román Martínez and Alejandro Silva all leaving has been the latest step towards the complete dismantling of the side that reached the Copa Libertadores final. The loss of José Sand in the window prior left Lanús without a number and they have at least tried to rectify that this time with the arrival of Sebastián Ribas from Patronato. Fernando Coniglio and Jorge Pereyra Díaz provide further attacking options while Facundo Quignón and Lucas Mugni bolster the midfield. Guillermo Sara arrived from Boca after the sale of Andrada but it’s safe to say that in every position it’s a downgrade to where Lanús were a year or so ago.
Preseason: The Copa Sudamericana campaign came to an end early after a penalty defeat against Junior but a shootout win over Douglas Haig at least has the Granate still going in the Copa Argentina. A 3-0 win over Sacachispas and a 2-1 win against Nueva Chicago were a couple of friendly results against lower league opposition.
Key player: Lautaro Acosta – one of the few remaining stars so there is a lot of pressure on Laucha.
Opening fixture: Defensa y Justicia (home)
Prediction: Another bitterly disappointing season
Newell’s Old Boys
2017/18 league position: 22nd
Coming in late last season gave Omar de Felippe little chance to make much change but after a full preseason, the experienced coach will be hoping to see improvements now. The squad still looks short of quality but Newell’s actually weren’t bad defensively last term and it was on the road where they really struggled last term – winning only once. Goals were hard to come by and if Luis Leal, who the club managed to secure to a permanent deal, can find some consistency La Lepra should be better.
Transfers: None of the Lepra’s new signings jump off the page but they could all make a difference this season. Former Racing full-back Leandro Grimi brings a wealth of experience, Ze Turbo has an impact purely on his name, Mariano Bittolo already has a goal in the Copa Argentina and the Paraguayan trio of Iván Piris, Teo Paredes and Alfio Oviedo look interesting. Luciano Pocrnjic, José San Román, Bruno Bianchi and Denis Rodríguez all left but shouldn’t be too badly missed.
Preseason: Omar de Felippe wasn’t pleased by his side’s defeat to Unión in the Copa Santa Fe but in the more important Copa Argentina, Newell’s have already booked a spot in the last 16 with a convincing win over Defensores Unidos. Preseason friendlies produced two goalless draws with Liverpool (Uruguay) and Unión respectively, a 1-0 win over Patronato and another against Colón before a defeat to Belgrano.
Key player: Luis Leal – the powerful centre forward remains at the club and on his day is a nightmare for defenders.
Opening fixture: Vélez Sarsfield (away)
Prediction: Midtable mediocrity looks about as good as it gets
Club Atlético Patronato
2017/18 league position: 19th
Even with Sebastián Ribas being one of the Superliga’s leading scorers, Patronato were bottom half and start the season just above the relegation zone. With the Uruguayan striker gone, El Patrón are right in the thick of the dog fight and seeing them back down in the Nacional B wouldn’t come as a shock. Juan Pumpido remains in charge but how much can he get from this squad?
Transfers: Amid a huge number of outgoings the loss of Sebastián Ribas and Adrián Balboa up front will take some replacing. Ezequiel Rescaldani arriving on loan will hopefully take that load but there is a lot of pressure on that and the team has to still create the chances. Mauricio Sperduti should also help and midfielders Federico Bravo and Pablo Ledesma could provide a boost but such a high turnover looks a bit of a gamble.
Preseason: A friendly defeat to Newell’s and a draw with Talleres were nothing to cause concern but defeat to San Martín de Tucumán in the Copa Argentina suggests Patronato will be right in the relegation mix.
Key player: Ezequiel Rescaldani – someone has to replace Ribas and Balboa up front.
Opening fixture: Colón (home)
Prediction: Real trouble – Patronato start the season just outside the drop zone but could be easily be sucked in.
2017/18 league position: 7th
Going on a terrific run only to blow their Copa Libertadores qualification on the final day last season was what some would say typical Racing. Others would point to the serious knee injury to Mauricio Martínez immediately after signing in this window as ‘classic Racing’ but the truth is that the club are going in the right direction. With Diego Milito as director of football and Eduardo Coudet as manager, La Academia have a strong team and the results on the field since have been largely positive. The Copa Libertadores tie against River will be tough but there is no doubting the quality in Racing’s side – Ricardo Centurión remains one of the brightest talents in the league, Bou one of the best forwards and the defence has improved greatly. Coudet is an astute coach who has harnessed Racing’s attacking potential and La Academia will be a match for anyone on their day.
#ListaCopaLibertadores – ¡CONFIRMADO! 🏆
— Data Racing 👑 (@DataRacingOK) August 7, 2018
Transfers: The sale of Lautaro Martínez to Inter dominates Racing’s transfer business but despite leaving it later than others and sparking speculation of arguments between Coudet and Diego Milito, La Academia have made some useful additions. Gustavo Bou needs no introduction and will spearhead the attack this season; Juan Musso was sold to Udinese but in Gabriel Arias an excellent replacement has been found and Diego Pulpo González is the only other notable departure. While this week, the club look to have wrapped up deals for Pol Fernández, Marcelo Díaz and Eugenio Mena – all three adding to the first team pool.
Preseason: Aside from a defeat to Arsenal, preseason for Racing has produced victories over Monteverde Academy, Miami United and Ferro but going into a huge Copa Libertadores last 16 without any competitive action is a real handicap for Coudet’s side.
Key player: Gustavo Bou – not many players could replace Lautaro Martínez but the Pantera is one of them.
Opening fixture: Atlético Tucumán (away)
Prediction: Copa Libertadores is the immediate focus but Racing could be in the mix provided they don’t suffer misfortune with injuries.
Club Atlético River Plate
2017/18 league position: 8th
While many River supporters will be slightly nervous over the club’s decision not to bring in any players (to date) there is no doubting that the form the club has shown over the past few months suggests a challenge for the Copa Libertadores and the Superliga is within reach. Back in February, River were in such a rut that some were beginning to question Marcelo Gallardo’s status at the club but a couple of astute signings and a gradual return of confidence has seen River go 19 games without defeat. An outstanding goalkeeper in Armani, a solid defence, a dependable captain in Ponzio, two class creators in Pity Martínez and Juan Fernando Quintero and an ever-improving strike force of Lucas Pratto and Ignacio Scocco is just about as good a starting eleven as anyone in South America can boast. Is there as much depth as big spending Boca? No, but Gallardo has a strong group to select from and at a club like River there can be no excuses.
Transfers: River might still dip into the market but for the time being it looks like Marcelo Gallardo is happy to stick with what he’s got. The sale of Marcelo Saracchi to RB Leipzig looked like it would prompt the signing of at least a left-back but that now doesn’t look to be the case and aside from that all River have done is get rid of the deadwood from the squad – Marcelo Larrondo, Iván Rossi and Carlos Auzqui clearly had no future at the club.
Preseason: Two Copa Argentina wins (Central Norte 7-0) and Villa Dálmine (3-1) have River in the last 16 already but Gallardo’s settled squad has maintained their momentum during their friendlies too. A trip to the USA produced victories over Deportivo Saprissa, Millonarios and Independiente Medellín (on penalties) and back in Buenos Aires, River drew with Nueva Chicago before thrashing Deportivo Morón 8-1.
Key player: Franco Armani – just look at the upturn in form since his arrival.
Opening fixture: Huracán (away)
Prediction: For all his trophies, Marcelo Gallardo’s league record isn’t great and River have to challenge Boca.
2017/18 league position: 20th
Only three clubs conceded more goals than Central in last year’s Superliga and after three different managers, the club turned to Edgardo Bauza. The former Argentina manager is an icon in Rosario and for all of his detractors he’s usually good at setting up a team to, at the very least, be difficult to beat. After last season that seems like a good foundation. There are plenty of examples in the top flight that perform pretty well on that principle and so if Patón can achieve a solid defence, then expect El Canalla to climb up the table. Away form must improve and there are doubts as to how effective offensively Central will be but if Bauza can at least provide stability then there should be improvements.
Transfers: Marco Ruben looks on his way out which will leave a lot of responsibility on Fernando Zampedri for goals but the pragmatic Edgardo Bauza would always have been looking to tighten up Central first and foremost. With that in mind, Matías Caruzzo came in from San Lorenzo, full-back Gonzalo Bettini from Banfield and Miguel Barbieri from Racing along with goalkeeper Josúe Ayala. Mauricio Martínez was the other notable departure but it was his versatility that was the real asset rather than his ability in one specific role. Fernando Tobio and Paulo Ferrari will likely not be missed.
Preseason: A 6-0 win over lower league sideJuventud Antoniana in the Copa Argentina provided a real confidence boost before the start of the season as results otherwise in preseason have been iffy. Colón knocked Central out of the Copa Santa Fe and that aside there were 1-1 draws with Tiro Federal and Platense and a narrow 1-0 win over Argentino de Rosario.
Key player: Matías Caruzzo – the defence needed strengthening and Bauza turned to a proven Superliga performer.
Opening fixture: Banfield (home)
Prediction: Central should be far better defensively and so a top half finish should be possible.
San Lorenzo de Almagro
2017/18 league position: 3rd
Claudio Biaggio came in as interim boss after Diego Aguirre left early last season and earned his chance to be permanent manager. In fairness San Lorenzo finishing third was a good outcome but looking back it’s still difficult to see how they managed it. An excellent defensive record is the simple answer but it made for some really poor viewing and it’s difficult to see them managing it again. Dependent on Nicolás Blandi for goals, when the captain has one of those games where he wastes chances (quite often), San Lorenzo don’t look like scoring and so getting Fernando Belluschi back fit to pull the strings is vital.
Transfers: With money tight in Bajo Flores there has been little activity but with Matías Caruzzo leaving there is a lot riding on the fitness of Fabricio Coloccini and there have been other departures too. Paraguayan Robert Piris da Motta was one of the few impressive performers in 2018 but he left for Flamengo, Facundo Quignón went to Lanús and veterans Leandro Romagnoli and Juan Mercier are also gone. Pablo Mouche and Ariel Rojas coming in bring plenty of experience but both coming in as free agents perhaps hints at their level now.
Preseason: Little should be read into preseason but there is cause for concern in the case of San Lorenzo. In their two competitive games, the Copa Argentina produced a narrow 1-0 win over Racing de Córdoba and in the Copa Sudamericana, Los Cuervos were shocked at home by Chilean club Temuco. Aside from that there was a 1-1 friendly draw with Talleres de Remedios de Escalada, a goalless draw with Platense and a defeat to Chapecoense.
Key player: Fernando Belluschi – the midfielder missing long periods through injury hurt and there aren’t many other players that can do what the veteran does.
Opening fixture: Tigre (away)
Prediction: Unconvincing in finishing third last season and even more so now – a drop down the table looks inevitable.
San Martín de San Juan
2017/18 league position: 18th
The proverbial six pointer to kick off the season away to Belgrano will provide an insight into this season’s relegation battle. Walter Coyette has remained in charge in San Juan as the club have seen wholesale changes to the squad since last season. On their own turf, San Martín haven’t been terrible but on the road they won only three times and they desperately need improvements. A roll of the dice sees 15 players come in but whether there is the quality to see off the threat of relegation is uncertain.
Transfers: A huge amount of changes (far too many to list here) but no longer having loanee Claudio Spinelli for goals will be keenly felt. Martín Bravo returning to the club from Mexico will be tasked with filling that void but that looks a long shot, Nazareno Solís and Franco Cristaldo were at one point players of great promise but there is little to suggest that San Martín are going to suddenly turn things around.
Preseason: Defeat to Brown de Adrogué on penalties in the Copa Argentina probably tells us more than friendly wins over Defensa y Justicia and Independiente Rivadavia or defeat to Estudiantes.
Key player: Marcos Gelabert – at the heart of the midfield. Surrounded by new players, the veteran needs to hold it all together.
Opening fixture: Belgrano (away)
Prediction: Deep trouble – defeat in the opening round will see San Martín in the drop zone and it’s a question as to whether they have the quality to get out.