The new Superliga season kicks off in only some days and while the AFA do the right thing in continuing to cut the number of top flight teams, Argentina’s top flight remains something of a chaotic mess.
After four relegations last season, the return of Arsenal de Sarandí and the surprise promotion of Central Córdoba de Santiago del Estero leaves the Superliga contested between 24 teams and means the regular season, which will run until February, features a measly 23 rounds of fixtures.
Racing Club lifted the title last time round and will be expecting to challenge once more before the second edition of the Copa de Superliga kicks off.
Relegated Tigre were the shock winners of the cup but a change in format this season makes a repeat impossible. The 24 teams will be divided into two zones of 12 with this running until May where a final will be played to crown the champions. Given it is no longer a straight knockout tournament, the chances of an upset are slimmer and importantly results will count towards the promedios so an already relegated side won’t be able to win it.
Relegation has however proved contentious and with the threat of several clubs not agreeing to the start of the season, the planned four relegations has been cut to three. Good news for those sides battling at the foot of the promedio.
Clear? Thought not, so let’s just get on with the runners and riders in this year’s Superliga and what they have been up to over the break…
Club Atlético Aldosivi
2018/19 league position: 13th
Copa de Superliga: Last 16 lost to River Plate
Tipped by many for the drop last term, Aldosivi defied their critics with relative ease to finish in 13th. A decent record in Mar del Plata provided the foundation and it was there on home soil where El Tiburón were able to carry much more of an attacking threat – scoring more than three times as many goals than they did on their travels. Gustavo Álvarez remains in charge but has had to contend with major changes to the squad putting Aldosivi in line for the relegation battle they perhaps avoided last season.
Transfers: Amid a host of outgoings there are two that stand-out and will leave a void in the Aldosivi attack – last season’s top scorer Cristian Chávez has joined Independiente and the tricky Matías Pisano left for Colombian side América de Cali. The likes of Fernando Godoy, Iván Colman, Juan Galeano, Emiliano Amor and Dardo Miloc will perhaps be easier replaced but a new look team must gel pretty quickly. Arriving to try and find the goals are former Tigre forward Sebastián Rincón and one-time River Plate academy promise Federico Andrada but there is little to suggest either has that in their locker. Hernán Burbano and Nazareno Solís add some pace to the attack, Román Martínez, Gastón Gil Romero and Leandro Maciel bolster the midfield and Marcos Miers, Fernando Evangelista and Caín Fara help shore up the defence.
Preseason: A win over Temperley for the first team was followed up by a defeat to Ferro Carril Oeste and a heavy 4-0 loss to Independiente.
Key player: Nazareno Solís – it’s a long time since Boca signed the exciting prospect but Aldosivi need Solís to show why that was if they are to make up for the absences of Chávez and Pisano.
Opening fixture: Estudiantes (away)
Prediction: Safely avoided relegation last season but repeating the trick will be harder.
2018/19 league position: 26th
Copa de Superliga: Semi-final lost to Boca Juniors
Argentinos Juniors’ bottom of the table finish last season doesn’t quite tell the entire picture as Los Bichos made significant improvements under Diego Dabove and ended the season well. A run to the Copa de Superliga semis and the Copa Sudamericana last 16 suggested the faithful in La Paternal could expect a little more from their team (then they went and get knocked out by Colón before the season even started so who knows). The lowest scorers in the Superliga last season, Dabove must address this problem in front of goal but the 46-year-old has now had plenty more time with the group and will remain confident of doing so.
— Argentinos Juniors (@AAAJoficial) July 1, 2019
Transfers: Alexis Mac Allister opting for Boca Juniors to spend his next loan away from Brighton is a blow to Argentinos Juniors but the midfielder is the only really damaging departure. Dabove kept hold of Damián Batallini and the rest of the club’s talented youngsters and added some useful new signings. Santiago Silva chalks up another club on his lengthy CV and provides some presence up front, Victorio Ramis backs him up and Dabove also went to former club Godoy Cruz for midfielder Diego Sosa. Nicolás Silva from Banfield is a decent signing and veteran Marcos Angeleri brings experience to the defence.
Preseason: While a run of friendlies that produced a 3-0 defeat to Huracán, draws with Estudiantes de Caseros and Gimnasia and a 1-0 win over Arsenal may not leap off the page, Argentinos Juniors have already been in competitive action and while it may have ended in a penalty defeat to Colón in the Sudamericana, Los Bichos should have benefitted from the two matches.
Key player: Damián Batallini – a target for many in the window, the 23-year-old remains in La Paternal. Batallini may lack consistency but his pace and trickery out wide are keys to unlocking defences.
Opening fixture: River Plate (home)
Prediction: Survival remains the main target and if the good end to the 2018/19 season is any indication then Los Bichos should manage that comfortably.
Arsenal de Sarandí
2018/19 league position: Primera B Nacional champions
The decline of Arsenal after the death of Julio Grondona was swift and unsurprising but El Viaducto are back in the top flight after a year away. Finishing level on points with Sarmiento at the top of the Nacional B, their inferior goal difference didn’t matter and in the subsequent playoff it was Arsenal who triumphed, sealing the title and a place in the Superliga. The Nacional B’s top scorers will be hoping that is enough to fire them to safety but it is going to be a lot tougher to find the net this year. Sergio Rondina remains in charge and brings plenty of experience to the role but will be under no illusion that his side face a battle to stave off relegation.
Transfers: Not wanting to disrupt the squad too much Sergio Rondina has brought in a few experienced faces to help boost his options. Ezequiel Rescaldani and Juan Kaprof are two strikers’ whose careers have never quite lived up to expectation but can potentially bring goals, Franco Sbuttoni and Ezequiel Piovi provide experience, goalkeeper Daniel Sappa was unable to get playing time at Estudiantes but is talented and Lautaro Parisi scored seven goals for Brown de Puerto Madryn last season. One notable departure was youngster Sebastián Lomonaco leaving for Godoy Cruz but the club retained most their other talents.
Preseason: A 3-0 defeat to Banfield and a 1-0 loss away to Banfield may not have filled the squad with confidence but Fernando Torrent scored the only goal against Independiente to give Arsenal at least one preseason win.
Key player: Lucas Necul will be one to keep an eye on. The 19-year-old has already been attracting attention from some of the big boys.
Opening fixture: Banfield (home)
Prediction: If Arsenal can stay up it will be a job well done but that could prove very difficult.
2018/19 league position: 5th
Copa de Superliga: Semi final lost to Tigre
The optimist will look at Atlético Tucumán’s fifth placed finish last season and spot in the Copa de Superliga semi final with the sense there is a solid foundation to build on. After all manager Ricardo Zielinski eventually agreed to staying on so why not? Well, there are reasons for caution. The second half of the Superliga season saw El Decano win only four of their last 12 fixtures and the cup run ended in a 6-0 aggregate defeat to Tigre. El Ruso also contending with major changes to his squad could make this season a lot tougher for Atlético.
Transfers: If seeing Pulga Rodríguez leave for Colón in January weren’t bad enough, El Decano have had to watch a number of Zielinski’s first eleven depart in this window. Rodrigo Aliendro has joined the flea in Santa Fe, David Barbona to Racing and Favio Álvarez to Los Angeles amid a number of regulars to leave. And so it will be a new-look Atlético – former Argentina international Fabián Monzón has come in, defenders Dylan Gissi and Gustavo Toledo too plus midfielder reinforcements in the form of Ariel Rojas, Cristian Erbes, José Luis Fernández and Leonardo Heredia plus striker Augusto Lotti. Yet none create a great deal of excitement.
Preseason: Youngster Ramiro Ruiz Rodríguez led Atlético to a 2-0 friendly win over Nacional B side Gimnasia de Jujuy before defeats to Vélez and Boca Juniors.
Key player: Javier Toledo – slim pickings for a key player in this new-look Atlético but Toledo is going to have to take what chances come his way.
Opening fixture: Rosario Central (home)
Prediction: Difficult to envisage such another high finish up the table and so a slip down into mid table looks more likely.
Club Atlético Banfield
2018/19 league position: 16th
Copa de Superliga: 1st Round lost to Estudiantes
Hernán Crespo’s appointment last season came as something of a surprise after the iconic Julio Falcioni finally stepped down following his ill-health. Performances were on the whole encouraging and the squad appeared reinvigorated but only one win in ten left Banfield with far fewer points than perhaps they deserved. Lacking a regular goalscorer after Darío Cvitanich left for Racing and defensively shaky, Crespo now must ensure that when his side are on top they punish opposition teams. The former Argentina striker has spoken of his desire to play good football and his role in developing Banfield’s talented young players can’t be overlooked but results must follow.
Transfers: Experience has been the key in the transfer market and while that should assist the younger players more than one of these comes with a significant risk. Luciano Lollo hasn’t looked like a useful defender since his Racing days and Jonás Gutiérrez is coming off a serious knee injury so it’s a roll of the dice that both can rediscover their best. Midfielder Israel Damonte, Sebastián Dubarbier, defender Sergio Vittor and goalkeeper Esteban Conde bolster the squad while Hernán Toledo (the only youthful new addition) is eager to impress following a series of failed moves. That group will be replacing Emanuel Cecchini and Marcelo Torres, whose loans expired, Adrian Calello, who returned to Huracan, Nicolás Silva and Adrian Sporle, who bizarelly ended up in Dundee. The question from all this remains – where are the goals? A lot rides on Julián Carranza (and he looks to be leaving for Miami in January) and Agustín Fontana.
Preseason: Other than a 1-0 defeat to Vélez it’s been a positive preseason for Banfield. Wins over Victoriano Arenas, Chacarita Juniors and Arsenal with Agustín Fontana among the goals bode well. And while there was a draw with Argentino de Merlo and Patronato, the training ground nature of the games and the second switch of teams saw El Taladro put that right and get valuable practise.
Key player: Agustín Urzi – it’s with good reason there is a buzz around Urzi. The 19-year-old is quick, tricky and could be on the verge of a breakout season.
Opening fixture: Arsenal (away)
Prediction: Continued inconsistent results but enough to stay afloat and remain in the top flight.
2018/19 league position: 3rd
Copa de Superliga: Final lost to Tigre
It has ultimately been a six months or so of disappointment for Boca after suffering defeat to River Plate in that Copa Libertadores final, the league form suffering as a result and leaving only a third-place finish and then defeat to Tigre in the Copa de Superliga final to cap it all off. Other than that loss to relegated Tigre however, Gustavo Alfaro has made a decent start as Boca manager and while his style of football might not be the most scintillating, it does usually produce results. The Libertadores is once again the priority at present and Alfaro has been trying to build a squad prepared to challenge on all fronts.
Transfers: Linked with hundreds of players throughout the window, Boca supporters might feel a little disappointed not to have seen more action. The players that the club have signed are excellent – Alexis Mac Allister on loan and Jan Hurtado from Gimnasia, two of the best young players in the league, along with Argentina international Eduardo Salvio and the impending arrival of World Cup winner Daniele de Rossi. However, that has to be balanced with the probable sales of Nahitan Nández to Cagliari and Darío Benedetto to Marseille. Both bring in huge money to the club but leave significant holes in Alfaro’s squad. De Rossi may be seen as a short-term replacement for Nández but Benedetto’s departure will surely force the club into the market at late notice for a big-name number nine.
Preseason: A preseason tour in the United States saw Boca defeat Mexican giants Club América and Chivas but slip up against Solos. However on return to Buenos Aires, Alfaro’s side thrashed Atlético Tucumán on the training ground with a number of the new signings impressing.
Key player: Mauro Zárate – a player of such quality needs to be given centre stage by Alfaro and if so the 32-year-old is a match winner.
Opening fixture: Huracán (home)
Prediction: With the resources available to Boca only a title challenge will do – the Libertadores distraction before the end of the year may see them come up short again though.
Central Córdoba De Santiago del Estero
2018/19 league position: Primera B Nacional playoff winners
It’s been 48 years since Central Córdoba de Santiago del Estero hosted top flight football but a penalty shootout victory over Sarmiento earned the Ferroviario promotion via the playoffs despite finishing the B Nacional season in sixth. Such is the surprise to see the Santiagueños back there is a sense that it’s a no-lose situation for the club – no one would have expected it and even though they will be relegation favourites, the visits of Boca and Racing will be great occasions to savour. Who knows, the stifling hot conditions up north coupled with that surprise factor might make Central Córdoba a tricky opponent who may yet shock a few teams.
Transfers: While much of the Central Córdoba may be unknown to the top flight the club has sought to rectify that in the market with a host of familiar faces. Goalkeeper Diego ‘Ruso’ Rodríguez, Juan Galeano, Marcelo Melo, Franco Cristaldo, José ‘Trencito’ Valencia, Ismael Quilez among a list of new arrivals.
Preseason: A 1-0 defeat to relegated Belgrano and a draw with Instituto may suggest that Central Córdoba remain at the level of the B Nacional. It would be harsh to make that judgement though based on an Argentine preseason which for the vast majority are little more than training ground practice matches.
Key player: José Valencia – the little train was at one time at a great prospect but can the 27-year-old roll back the years?
Opening fixture: Godoy Cruz (home)
Prediction: Surely a swift return to the Nacional B? However with such a short season a good run could be enough.
Club Atlético Colón
2018/19 league position: 24th
Copa de Superliga: 1st Round lost to Tigre
Pablo Lavallén remains in charge but will need a good start to the campaign after a truly atrocious second half of the season. One win in the last 16 fixtures saw El Sabalero slide down to a finishing position of 24th and it was followed by a swift first round cup exit to eventual champions Tigre. Fragile defensively since the sale of Germán Conti, Colón were no longer able to rely on the solidity that made them so tough to beat for results and Lavallén must rectify that immediately. Scoring was also a problem, particularly on the road, where they failed to win all season, and given the club sit only a few places above the relegation zone a repeat cannot be afforded. Progression past Argentinos Juniors in the Copa Sudamericana before the Superliga season begins suggests there might be a bit more fight from El Sabalero this time round.
Transfers: Having snapped up Pulga Rodríguez from Atlético Tucumán last season, Colón went back to pick up Rodrigo Aliendro in this window and although it saw full-back Gustavo Toledo go the other way as part of the deal, the midfielder is a very good addition. Atlético may feel they too dealt a blow to Colón by signing last season’s leading scorer Leonardo Heredia but regardless Colón need a fresh source of goals. Gastón Díaz arrived from Vélez to replace Toledo and Lucas Acevedo was the other new signing in a relatively quiet market.
Preseason: Straight into competitive action, Colón beat Argentinos Juniors on penalties to reach the Copa Argentina quarter-final after cancelling out a first leg defeat in La Paternal. There is certainly more to read into that result than there is from friendly defeats to Gimnasia de Jujuy and Patronato and a draw with Newell’s.
Key player: Luis Rodríguez – the Pulga arrived in January and although Colón haven’t seen his best, the veteran forward is their best source of goals.
Opening fixture: Patronato (home)
Prediction: Midtable finish and enough to stave off any relegation worries.
Defensa y Justicia
2018/19 league position: 2nd
Copa de Superliga: Last 16 lost to Gimnasia
No one associated with Defensa y Justicia will forget last season and regardless of what happened it was always going to be difficult to match the high of running Racing close in the title race. Ultimately El Halcón had to settle for second and a place in the 2020 Copa Libertadores but getting anywhere near there again looks virtually impossible. Sebastián Beccacece, aware that the club had peaked, stepped down and most of the team that shone so brightly has also gone leaving new manager Mariano Soso with a new-look and substantially weaker squad. Soso is another ambitious young coach who fits the profile of the club but is relatively untested himself after spells in Peru and a short stint with Gimnasia.
El nuevo entrenador de Defensa y Justicia Mariano Soso será presentado en conferencia de prensa el próximo lunes a las 12.30hs en el predio de Bosques pic.twitter.com/AdaOnBFjS8
— Defensa y Justicia (@ClubDefensayJus) June 6, 2019
Transfers: If losing Beccacece weren’t bad enough, most of the key parts of the starting eleven have also departed. Lisandro Martínez snapped up by Ajax, Alexander Barboza went back to River Plate and was subsequently signed by Independiente, where Gastón Togni and Domingo Blanco returned after their loans, Matías Rojas ended up at Racing and Leonel Miranda headed for Mexico to name the most damaging. So, what will Soso had to work with? A new central defensive partnership of Marcelo Herrera and Gonzalo Piovi, midfielders Guido Mainero and Juan Rodríguez, forward Nicolás Maná and a couple of potential young talents, who the club will be praying are as successful as some of the previous signings. Paraguayan Brian Ojeda Rodríguez, on loan from Olimpia, midfielder Enzo Coacci and River Plate academy defender David Martínez.
Preseason: Already in Copa Argentina action, Defensa y Justicia sneaked past Gimnasia on penalties which served as a useful return to competitive football before the Superliga restart. In friendlies, El Halcón defeated Defensores de Belgrano thanks to goals by Alexis Castro and Nicolás Fernández, drew against Huracán with Uvita again on the scoresheet, and chalked up two goalless stalemates with Chacarita and Newell’s – which could point to a potential issue in front of goal.
Key player: Nicolás Fernández – the forward remained in Florencio Varela and is the main source of goals.
Opening fixture: Independiente (home)
Prediction: A drop back down into mid table likely the best that El Halcón can expect.
Club Estudiantes de La Plata
2018/19 league position: 17th
Copa de Superliga: Last 16 lost to Racing Club
After an unbeaten last four games of the season and then a last 16 cup exit to Racing under Gabi Milito there is reason for a little more optimism this time round in La Plata. The new stadium will open its doors in November and after a decent transfer window, El Pincha will be looking upwards. Goals were a real problem for Estudiantes last season as they hovered in the bottom half of the table but the club have sought to rectify that in the market.
Transfers: Federico González finished last season with Tigre as one of the Superliga’s in-form strikers and should prove to be an upgrade on Mariano Pavone, who left for Uruguayan club Defensor Sporting and Lucas Albertengo, who returned to Independiente. Ángel González will bring pace out wide after eventually joining from Godoy Cruz following a messy on-off deal that almost saw Independiente nick the player from under Estudiantes’ nose. Uruguayan youngster Diego García was the other addition and with veterans Rodrigo Braña and Pablo Lugüercio leaving, it’s brought the average age of the squad down nicely.
Preseason: Progress in the Copa Argentina against lower league opposition has seen Estudiantes already up and running with success but preseason has also looked good. Matías Pellegrini, bound for Inter Miami in the new year, scored in a 3-1 win over Uruguayan club Fenix, new boys Angel and Fede González were both on target in a 2-0 win over Cambaceres and a goalless draw with San Lorenzo provided a good run out.
Key player: Federico González – in need of a regular goalscorer, Estudiantes now have a number nine to provide the focal point to the attack.
Opening fixture: Aldosivi (home)
Prediction: Breaking the top ten should be the minimum that Estudiantes expect.
Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata
2018/19 league position: 18th
Copa de Superliga: Quarter-final lost to Argentinos Juniors
Three wins in the final five Superliga fixtures last season were enough to stave off relegation for another year but Gimnasia will begin this campaign in the drop zone. Manager Hernán Ortíz continues but faces a difficult season that will be a battle until the end to ensure El Lobo remain in the top flight. Among the lowest scorers last time, Gimnasia must do more offensively and while their record in La Plata wasn’t too bad, one away win last term is a worrying statistic that needs to be resolved.
Transfers: Jan Hurtado leaving for Boca was the main transfer story out of Gimnasia unfortunately for El Lobo during this window and with Santiago Silva heading to Argentinos Juniors it has left an already goal-shy team with a new attack. Claudio Spinelli comes in on loan and 32-year-old Pablo Velazquez comes in from Nacional but there are serious question marks over their ability to turn things round. The experience of Maxi Caire, Marco Torsiglieri and Leonardo Morales from Santamarina bolster the defence but there has been little business done to ease concern.
Preseason: A 1-0 win over Everton de La Plata, 1-1 draws with Temperley and Argentinos Juniors, a 2-0 win over Fenix and then a 1-0 defeat to Lanús don’t reveal a great deal. However, Gimnasia’s inability to see off ten-man Defensa y Justicia in the Copa Argentina and subsequently crash out on penalties suggests scoring remains an issue.
Key player: Matías Melluso – the talented 21-year-old defender is having to grow up fast in this poor Gimnasia side.
Opening fixture: Lanús (away)
Prediction: Relegation a very real possibility.
2018/19 league position: 14th
Copa de Superliga: Last 16 lost to Boca Juniors
A surprising run to the Copa Libertadores last 16 somewhat masks over what was a poor 2018-19 season which saw Godoy Cruz rapidly decline from the campaign that saw them qualify for the Libertadores in the first place. Lucas Bernardi, a coach who has done little during his short managerial career to suggest he can take the club forward, remains in charge and the squad only seems to get weaker with each transfer window.
Transfers: Having lost Pol Fernández to Racing and Fabricio Angeleri to River Plate over the past year, Godoy Cruz lost a couple more regulars during this window as forward Ángel González left for Estudiantes, Diego Vieri returned to Paraguay, Luciano Abecasis joined Lanús, Diego Sosa and Victorio Ramis to Argentinos Juniors and Jalil Elias to Unión. Sebastián Lomonaco from Arsenal and Juan Brunetta from Belgrano are two talented young players but are haven’t shown the consistency at this level to lift El Tomba.
Preseason: A penalty win over Huracán ensured progression in the Copa Argentina and Godoy Cruz will play their Libertadores last 16 first leg against Palmeiras before the Superliga restart. Getting beyond the Brazilians looks like a stretch for Bernardi’s side and the friendly results certainly don’t suggest otherwise. Draws with Patronato and Gimnasia de Mendoza along with defeats to Unión and Newell’s and few goals scored point to another tricky season.
Key player: Santiago García – El Morro remains the main source of goals and will be vital.
Opening fixture: San Lorenzo (away)
Prediction: Already virtually safe from relegation but a struggle in the bottom half nonetheless.
Club Atlético Huracán
2018/19 league position: 10th
Copa de Superliga: 1st Round lost to San Lorenzo
Only the ruling that didn’t allow Tigre to qualify for the Sudamericana via their league position saw Huracán nick a spot in the 2020 tournament in tenth but that shouldn’t draw away from the fact that El Globo have been woeful in 2019. Antonio Mohamed came in when Gustavo Alfaro left for Boca in January and only won once during the back end of the season as Huracán slipped from top four to mid-table. Juan Pablo Vojvoda is now in charge and that looks a decent appointment but there has been little activity in the transfer market that will help the new manager.
Transfers: Omar Alderete heading to Basel, Andrés Roa’s loan coming to an end, Israel Damonte joining Banfield, Carlos Auzqui and Iván Rossi departing and a number of the veteran members of the squad being cut loose leaves Huracán looking a little short on the ground. Adrian Calello, Gonzalo Bettini, Droopy Gómez and Lorenzo Faravelli replace some of that experience while Mariano Bareiro and Martín Ojeda are decent short-term additions from Racing. Nicolás Romat, Mauro Bogado, Diego Mendoza and Fernando Coniglio all return from loans but there was a reason all left the club in the first place.
Preseason: A penalty exit to Godoy Cruz in the Copa Argentina has dealt an early blow to Vojvoda’s reign with Huracán but there have otherwise been signs of promise on the training field. A 3-0 win over Argentinos Juniors and a 1-0 victory against Ferro, two draws with Defensa y Justicia and Atlanta and only one defeat coming against Vélez.
Key player: Juan Garro – still the most likely player to make things happen for El Globo.
Opening fixture: Boca Juniors (away)
Prediction: Another mid table finish looks the best that El Globo can hope for.
Club Atlético Independiente
2018/19 league position: 7th
Copa de Superliga: 1st Round lost to Argentinos Juniors
All change at Independiente after what had been a settled and largely successful period under Ariel Holan. A disappointing campaign last season that fell short of all targets felt like the team were going backwards ever since lifting the Sudamericana at the end of 2017. Unsuccessfully replacing players was the issue and now new manager Sebastián Beccacece must put things back on track. The young coach should fit stylistically with what Holan left and comes in off the back of a terrific spell with Defensa y Justicia so El Rojo will hope Beccacece brings with him another title challenge. That said, the priority in 2019 will be the Sudamericana and the Copa Argentina as both present El Rojo their last opportunities to book a place in the 2020 Libertadores.
Transfers: Slower in the market than Beccacece would probably have liked, Independiente looked to miss out on a few of the new manager’s first choice targets but have picked up since. Alexander Barboza was a key part to his Defensa y Justicia backline and boosts El Rojo, Colombian Andrés Roa is a useful pacy midfield addition, Cristian Chávez adds another option up front, Sebastián Palacios quality out wide and potentially Lucas Romero to come from Cruzeiro. Moving on Fernando Gaibor, Emanuel Britez, Ezequiel Cerutti and Guillermo Burdisso were necessary to free up space and a couple more may still move.
Preseason: A mixed bag of results as clearly the players and Beccacece become accustomed to one another and Independiente figure out their best eleven for the Sudamericana and the league. 1-0 defeats against Arsenal and Newell’s, a draw with Platense but wins over Temperley and a 4-0 win over Aldosivi are difficult to read much from. However, the new players have added minutes, Chavez has found the net and Silvio Romero coming back from injury with a preseason hat-trick are positives as are the performances of Alan Soñora and Alan Velasco, two academy youngsters who could see action.
Key player: Martín Benitez – handed the iconic number 10 shirt, El Rojo need to see far more consistency from the often criticised forward.
Opening fixture: Defensa y Justicia (away)
Prediction: El Rojo still look short of a title challenge but Beccacece will want to see progress.
Club Atlético Lanús
2018/19 league position: 11th
Copa de Superliga: Last 16 lost to Vélez
Hovering just above the drop zone it is a huge season for Lanús. The decline since winning the title and reaching the Libertadores final has been sharp and El Granate need a good campaign to ensure they remain in the top flight. The positive in that is since Luis Zubeldia returned as manager Lanús have been greatly improved and won seven of their last eleven games last season. Working tirelessly as a unit Zubeldia’s side were tough to beat and with José Sand and Lautaro Acosta up front, they carry a goal threat. It might not be the prettiest football but it got results at a time when that was what was needed so Lanús have reason to be more confident than the others knocking about near the foot of the promedio table.
Transfers: It’s difficult to suggest Lanús will miss any of those players that left in the window with Guillermo Sara, Sebastian Ribas, Marcos Torsiglieri and Rolando Garcia Guerreno among those to leave. Youngster Pedro de la Vega would have been a different matter but the under-20 international’s transfer to Genoa appears to have stalled and so Lanús should still be able to count on the talented forward. Goalkeeper Agustín Rossi, full-back Luciano Abecasis, defender Ezequiel Muñoz and midfielder Carlos Auzqui should all add something and if the loan deal to bring Uruguayan Leo Fernandez in from Tigres comes off, it could be a huge boost to the attack.
Preseason: A last-second goal gave Lanús victory over lndependiente Rivadavia in the Copa Argentina so El Granate continue in that competition ahead of the Superliga restart. During preseason, Lanús picked up wins over Gimnasia and Arsenal and drew with Atlético Nacional and Patronato.
Key player: José Sand – He might be knocking on 40 but the Sandman still knows where the goal is and has been on target in preseason.
Opening fixture: Gimnasia (home)
Prediction: A top half finish that will see El Granate steer well clear of relegation.
Newell’s Old Boys
2018/19 league position: 15th
Copa de Superliga: 1st Round lost to Gimnasia
Frank Kudelka knows full well the task on his hands this season. Newell’s Old Boys begin the season in the relegation zone or at least in what would be a playoff place with rivals Central (pending any potential last-minute changes to relegation) and after a long period of uncertainty and friction on and off the pitch, there is no more room for error. Kudelka needs to hit and ground running and get things right to avoid disaster and one area La Lepra will certainly need to improve is away from Rosario – one win on the road last season is prime relegation form.
Transfers: There haven’t been major changes but bringing in veteran Santiago Gentiletti after his lengthy spell in Europe and Cristian Lema on loan from Benfica are two excellent defensive reinforcements. Lucas Albertengo has never really looked the same player since serious knee injuries but the forward comes in from Independiente to provide competition. Long serving Victor Figueroa the only really noticeable departure and although a popular figure at the club, at 35 years of age, just how much more could he offer.
Preseason: Elimination from the Copa Santa Fe against Sportivo Las Parejas and a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Lionel Messi and co. in preparation for the Copa América happened back in June. Since then Kudelka has had time with the squad and friendly results have been good. Wins over Godoy Cruz and Independiente and draws with Colón, Defensa y Justicia and Atlético de Rafaela.
Key player: Maxi Rodríguez – still the man in the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa.
Opening fixture: Central Córdoba (home)
Prediction: A relegation battle that could go to the wire but should see La Lepra safe.
Club Atlético Patronato
2018/19 league position: 19th
Copa de Superliga: 1st Round lost to Godoy Cruz
Over three years now in the top flight it’s already a run that few would have predicted but Patronato have clung on to their top flight status and once again did just enough to stay up last season. However, a woeful away record that produced one win and the second worst defensive record behind relegated San Martín de Tucumán, it is clear that unless there are significant improvements, the run ends this time round. Mario Sciacqua renewed his deal to stay in charge for another year and it would be a tremendous achievement to keep this team up.
Transfers: Another risky transfer strategy of making huge changes to the squad and hoping that something works. Germán Berterame leaving after his loan, Gabriel Carabajal going to Union, Dylan Gissi and Renzo Vera departing and Gastón Gil Romero going back to Estudiantes among the notable outgoings. Former Boca full-back Leandro Marin, Racing reject Santiago Rosales and Boca academy product Julian Chicco in a long list of additions, who may add something to the starting eleven.
Preseason: New signing Cristian Tarragona scored in a 1-0 win over Colon in what has been a positive preseason. Draws with Godoy Cruz, Banfield, Lanus and Talleres potentially show a resiliance that could stand them in good stead.
Key player: Gabriel Avalos – the Paraguayan’s short hot-streak in front of goal was a key factor in keeping Patronato up and Avalos will need to reproduce that.
Opening fixture: Colón (away)
Prediction: Relegation once again looms on the horizon and Patronato won’t escape this time.
2018/19 league position: Champions
Copa de Superliga: Quarter-final lost to Tigre
The best defensive record, the most goals scored and only two defeats all season it was impossible to argue that Racing weren’t deserved Superliga champions last time out. Eduardo Coudet has kept the core of that side together and will be eager to make it back-to-back titles, particularly as the club has no other distraction until 2020 when the Libertadores starts up. That could prove important with rivals balancing Libertadores or Sudamericana commitments until the end of the year and so La Academia will look to build up a lead.
Transfers: It’s been a relatively quiet window for Racing and that’s probably a good thing as Coudet’s title winning side remains pretty much unchanged. Argentina international full-back Renzo Saravia going to Porto the only real blow to the starting eleven as from the other departures, Pol Fernández had provided squad depth, Andres Rios very little of anything and Ricardo Centurión nothing more than trouble. Arriving at the Cilindro has been Matias Rojas, who excelled at Defensa y Justicia last season, David Barbona, excellent at Atletico Tucuman and Walter Montoya, whose career has gone off track since moving to Sevilla but who Coudet knows well from Central.
Preseason: Racing headed to the United States for preseason and picked up a couple of wins against admittedly poor opposition but other than fitness, La Academia don’t need to learn anything new under Coudet. However, going out of the Copa Argentina on penalties to third-tier Boca Unidos was an early blow.
Key player: Leonardo Sigali – the best defence in the league gives Racing the platform to win games and with captain Licha López still up front they have the goals at the other end to do just that.
Opening fixture: Unión (home)
Prediction: Another title challenge is on the cards for Coudet’s side as La Academia remain the team to beat.
Club Atlético River Plate
2018/19 league position: 4th
Copa de Superliga: Quarter-final lost to Atlético Tucumán
A run of poor results as River Plate were rightly focused on the latter stages of the Copa Libertadores last season and subsequently after lifting the title with victory over bitter rivals Boca Juniors in Madrid, saw Marcelo Gallardo’s side too far off the pace to challenge Racing for the title. Balancing competitions will again prove tricky for River, particularly with such an inactive transfer window, and so until the end of the year expect the Libertadores defence to take priority. What may make this easier is that a number of River’s academy players look better prepared to help out – Julián Álvarez, Cristian Ferreira and Benjamín Rollheiser a few good examples.
Transfers: River supporters are asking the same thing – transfers? Following the sale of useful utility man Camilo Mayada, there was one name on Gallardo’s list – Paulo Díaz. Weeks of negotiating later and Los Millonarios still haven’t matched Al-Ahli’s asking price for the Chilean so there have been no reinforcements.
Preseason: A preseason in the United States saw River put five past Chivas and also beat Mexican side Club América. Since returning, Gallardo’s side have progressed in the Copa Argentina but required a penalty shootout to see off Gimnasia de Mendoza thanks to unlikely hero Germán Lux.
Key player: Juan Fernando Quintero – the little Colombian wizard isn’t back to fitness yet after his long term absence and has been missed.
Opening fixture: Argentinos Juniors (away)
Prediction: For all his trophies, Marcelo Gallardo’s league record isn’t great. River would love to change that but might come up just short again.
2018/19 league position: 20th
Copa de Superliga: 1st Round lost to Aldosivi
It’s difficult to believe that Rosario Central began last season with three consecutive wins under Edgardo Bauza. They managed another three over the rest of the entire season and begin this campaign in deep relegation trouble with Diego Cocca, who came in at the tail-end of the season, in dire need of a change of fortune. The second worst attack in the league it had looked as though the misfiring strikers were at fault until Marco Ruben left the club in January to immediately start banging them in for Athletico Paranaense in the Libertadores. The next best number nine at the club Fernando Zampedri faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines and after a string of failed move in the market, Cocca needs those new faces to have come in to come off.
Transfers: Off-loading a couple of those that didn’t work out, namely Duvan Vergara and Jarlan Barrera was one of the priorities it seemed for Central and so Cocca could concentrate on bringing in his own players. Sebastián Ribas will take up number nine duties with the club desperate the Uruguayan finds his Patronato form rather than more recently at Lanús. Emanuel Brítez from Independiente and Diego Novaretti strengthen the defence while Ciro Rius and Diego Zabala improve options in the attacking support roles.
Preseason: A preseason against largely lower league opposition has brought with it wins and hopefully a bit of confidence with the desired fitness. Victories over Argentino de Rosario, Sportive Las Parejas, Central Córdoba and Fenix along with draws with Paraguay’s Olimpia and Arsenal de Sarandí have Central in a decent place going in to their league opener.
Key player: Maxi Lovera – the youngster has impressed in preseason and could be set to break into the first team on a more consistent basis.
Opening fixture: Atlético Tucumán (away)
Prediction: A tight relegation battle could go either way for Central.
San Lorenzo de Almagro
2018/19 league position: 23rd
Copa de Superliga: Quarter-final lost to San Lorenzo
Recent headlines of cheques bouncing aside, San Lorenzo are in a much better position than they were a few months ago. The appointment of Jorge Almirón last season proved an utter disaster and aside from somehow progressing in the Copa Libertadores, Los Cuervos played some of the worst football in the league. A number of transfer flops, a lack of creativity, no goals, one win in the last seventeen fixtures of the season and resulting tension in the stands. However, the return to Boedo in motion and now 2013 title winning coach Juan Antonio Pizzi back in charge, San Lorenzo are looking up. An active transfer window has seen almost all of Almirón’s signings immediately moved on and a fresh batch of players appear to give El Ciclón a far more balanced eleven.
— San Lorenzo (@SanLorenzo) July 22, 2019
Transfers: The waste of time and money on the likes of Andrés Rentería and Gustavo Torres among others that Almirón hastily brought with him has been rectified and in their place have arrived some reinforcements of real quality. Lucas Menossi was outstanding last season for Tigre and immediately upgrades the San Lorenzo midfield, the Pittón brothers from Unión are reliable Superliga players with Bruno likely to go straight in at left-back, Paraguayan striker Adam Bareiro comes in on loan from Monterrey with plenty of expectation to score the goals that were so sorely lacking last season, Ezequiel Cerutti returns to the club eager to get his career back on track and Santiago Vergini provides another useful defensive option.
Preseason: Wins over Nacional B sides Deportivo Morón and Ferro along with a draw with Estudiantes have helped get Pizzi’s side ready for the real test – their Copa Libertadores last 16 clash with Cerro Porteño, the first leg coming just a few days before the Superliga opener and the priority for San Lorenzo.
Key player: Lucas Menossi – one of the standout players during Tigre’s fine run of form, it was with good reason that Menossi was so in demand.
Opening fixture: Godoy Cruz (home)
Prediction: Anything would be an improvement on last season so expect San Lorenzo higher up the table this time round.
Club Atlético Talleres
2018/19 league position: 12th
Copa de Superliga: Last 16 lost to Atlético Tucumán
Adapting to life after Frank Kudelka and the meteoric rise all the way to the Copa Libertadores was always going to be tough. Juan Pablo Vojvoda never quite settled and while La T now look a comfortable top flight club, new manager Alexander Medina has the task of trying to take the club even further. The 40-year-old who was previously in charge of Nacional in his native Uruguay is another progressive, young coach in the Argentine Superliga and with Talleres has a good club with which to build.
Transfers: It’s been a pretty quiet window for Talleres with Gonzalo Maroni’s loan spell coming to an end and Sebastián Palacios leaving for Independiente being the only significant departure. So Medina has largely the same squad that Vojvoda had last season with the new additions of Franco Fragapane and Jonathan Menéndez. Fragapane has excelled over the past couple of years at Unión while Menéndez returns to the club looking to recapture the form he showed during his last spell.
Preseason: A 1-1 draw and subsequent penalty defeat to Superliga newcomers Central Córdoba ended Talleres’ preseason but otherwise Medina has got plenty of playing time out of his squad. Wins over lower league sides General Paz Junior, Instituto and Estudiantes de Rio Cuarto plus a goalless draw with Patronato should see La T ready for kickoff.
Key player: Juan Komar – the 22-year-old has grown into a real leader at Talleres and will be a key figure in the defence.
Opening fixture: Vélez Sarsfield (home)
Prediction: Another mediocre mid table finish looks likely.
Club Atlético Unión
2018/19 league position: 8th
Copa de Superliga: Last 16 lost to Tigre
Finishing in eighth and qualifying for the Copa Sudamericana was a real accomplishment last season for Unión but the sales of key players once again will make it even more difficult to repeat that. Leonardo Madelón remains in charge but with what appears to be a significantly weaker squad. An inconsistent side that are equally capable of upsetting the top sides than losing to the relegation strugglers, Unión have lost a major source of their goals and could find things tough this time round.
Transfers: The sale of Franco Soldano was coped with pretty well but that was due in large part to the contributions from wide areas by both Franco Fragapane and Diego Zabala. Both have now gone and so the two leading scorers from last season need to be replaced. They weren’t the only two with goalkeeper Nereo Fernández and the Pittón brothers both leaving so there are plenty of areas in Madelón’s starting eleven that are open. Sebastián Moyano comes in as a goalkeeping option, Ezequiel Bonifacio and Federico Milo provide full-back depth while Gabriel Carabajal and Jalil Elias strengthen midfield but where are the goals coming from? Unión have bought from clubs in the relegation battle and that looks the level of the team that Madelón is now working with.
Preseason: Exit in the Copa Santa Fe, wins over Godoy Cruz and local Santa Fe club Cosmos and a goalless draw with Rosario Central give away very little.
Key player: Yeimar Gómez Andrade – the Colombian is likely to have a lot of defending to do this season.
Opening fixture: Racing Club (away)
Prediction: A significant drop off from their 8th placed finish last season.
Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield
2018/19 league position: 6th
Copa de Superliga: Quarter-final lost to Boca Juniors
The threat of relegation now seems a long time ago and with Gabriel Heinze agreeing to stay on anther year there is cause for real optimism at Vélez. A squad packed with exciting, young talent has impressed over the past 18 months and an excellent sixth-placed finish last season was reward for that. Heinze has managed to keep the core of that side together and added a couple of useful players in positions where they were perhaps lacking so there is no reason that El Fortín can’t push on.