La Nueva Temporada
August is almost upon us and with it fútbol, and the start of the Primera División in Argentina. The first round of fixtures kicks off on the 5th, a date eagerly anticipated by millions of Argentines. What’s more, the new season brings with it the perfect distraction from the less-than-brilliant Copa America performance of the national team (who were knocked out by eventual winners – and neighbours – Uruguay).
The Primera División, which will last until May 2012, apocalypse permitting, is split into two tournaments: the Apertura and the Clausura (the opening half and the closing half). It is therefore one of the only leagues in which two teams can be crowned champions within one season. The division consists of 20 teams, of which 3 teams are relegated each year. The big news last season was the relegation of 33-time champions River Plate, for the first time in their history, to the second division. At this point I could venture into the system of 3 year averages that defines who is relegated, but I won’t.
River’s relegation unfortunately means that there will be no Superclásico this year, with Boca fans now at a loss: “Yeah sure, I’m glad they went down, but now how am I meant to channel my aggression?” very few Boca fans have been overheard grumbling. Furthermore, there will be fewer teams from Buenos Aires than there have been for years. In fact, with intense rivalries being few and far between this year, we’ll have to rely on fixtures such as Racing Vs Independiente to provide some drama (I was recently told that Racing fans were the most “chiflado” of them all – they’re all nuts, basically – so this may come to fruition sooner rather than later).
The Reigning Champions
Last year’s Clausura champions, Vélez Sársfield, are all set to defend their crown this season, and with River Plate splashing about aimlessly downstream they might have a good chance of doing so. Mexican veteran Guillermo Franco signed for Vélez last January, and the 34-year-old striker’s goals could aid Velez’ title challenge. Maximiliano Morales could prove even more influential. Whilst he is the smallest player in the league (a wee 160cm), the little guy is a favourite amongst fans for his short passing.
As for 2010’s Apertura champions, Estudiantes, the performances of key players such as Paraguay no.1 Justo Villar and the legendary – and forever balding – Juan Sebastian Verón – will be vital to their success. One thing’s for sure though, if manager Miguel Angél Russo and the “students” aim to end the season with a trophy, they’d better do their homework.
All this information is well and good, but here at Expanish we are inclined to support our local kids team Boca Juniors. Last year was disappointing in more ways than one. Firstly, Boca finished the two tournaments in 12th and 7th respectively. Secondly, and much more upsettingly, Boca lost the talents of Martín Palermo to old age. “El Titán”, as he was respectfully known, is Boca’s all-time leading scorer with 236 goals, and his retirement at the end of last season was an emotional time for all concerned. He will be missed. However, all is not bad in La Boca. Argentine Forward Lucas Viatri is to be the attacking focal point of the team this year following Palermo’s departure, with many inside the team confident of his ability. New additions to the squad include Darìo Cvitanich, the Argentine-born Croatian striker hoping to fill the supporting role behind Viatri. Additionally, Juan Román Riquelme is still going strong, or at least can still move at a gentle jog. Even at 33, the playmaker still has the ability to be a match-winner. However he could probably do with a diet.
Players to watch this year:
Leandro Romagnoli (MF) – San Lorenzo
Lucas Viatri (ST) – Boca Juniors
Darío Cvitanich (ST) – Boca Juniors
Maximiliano Morales (MF) – Vélez Sársfield
Ezequiel Carboni (MF) – Banfield
Mauro Cameronesi (MF) – Lanús
Vélez Sársfield, Racing, Boca Juniors, Independiente, Estudiantes
An outside chance:
San Lorenzo, Banfield, Lanús
Atlético Rafaela, San Martín San Juan, Colón, All Boys, Unión Santa Fe