The ego-pleasing Apertura preview

Just for a minute, it is time to forget the magical surrealism of the Argentina national team.

Forget the national coach being sacked, then promptly slamming his former employees, who then say they haven’t actually thought about his replacement so said coach (who claims to have been lied to and betrayed) could return to his job;

Forget the FA’s president suggesting that one former World Cup winner might get a bullet in his legs if he carries on mouthing off about this whole situation; the government closely watching events unfold as they’d actually quite like the coach to have stayed on and also happen to be paying AFA quite a bit of cash for TV rights; and the fact anything, literally anything, can still happen.

As much as Maradona, Bilardo, Grondona and Ruggeri may all fight it out in board rooms, in the corridors, on radio, on TV and in the press, there are other matters at hand. The league is back.

Later this week will be the time for this blog to take a look at the new boys, at the title candidates and at the big transfers, but for now we have to please egos. Away from the selección, there are also a couple of Grandes who are used to taking centre-stage. Step forward Club Atlético Boca Juniors, and Club Atlético River Plate.

The Apertura 2010 kicks off on Friday, and the two are planning for the new season by making sure the other doesn’t do something they haven’t already done, or vice versa.

Both unveiled new shirts this week, both have new(ish) coaches, both have a new keeper, both have a new back line, both have a promising youngster who will be this season’s ‘Next Big Thing‘, both still have a couple of veterans to pass on their wisdom, and both really, really, really, really need a good season.

First, the new strip. Boca have gone for a lighter blue than last year’s shirt, supposedly harking back to the 2000s design and the colour in which, under Carlos Bianchi, they won everything in sight. Bizarrely, one of its key features is that it is also an eco-friendly shirt, having been made by recycled plastic bottles.

River, meanwhile, have gone retro, which quite a feat given that, were it not  for wi-fi and foreign hair dressers, Argentina would still feel like the 70s. With this in mind, retro in Argentina is actually more 1980s and even 1990s than 1970s, so in copying that strip, it harks back to times when the Millionaires felt, played and won like Argentina’s true aristocracy.

Claudio ‘Bichi’ Borghi moved to Boca more or less hours after lifting the title with Argentinos Juniors at the end of last season, while Ángel Cappa is starting his first full season with River Plate, having taken charge in the final stretch of last term.

They both identified similar problems at their clubs.

So it is that the penalty-taking keeper Christian Luccheti has swapped Banfield for the Bombonera, while Juan Pablo Carrizo, he who was described by one observer as having ‘a good game’ in Argentina’s infamous 6-1 mauling in Bolivia, has returned after a miserable time at Lazio and Zaragoza.

In front of these two new number ones will be almost a completely new backline. In Matías Caruzzo, Christian Cellay and Juan Manuel Insaurralde, Boca have a championship winning captain, a Libertadores winning centre back and one of Maradona’s 108. Clemente Rodriguez, meanwhile, realised just what he was missing and has returned for a third spell at the club.

River have brought in central defender Jonathan Maidana, who will have to forget his Boca upbringing, Carlos Arano from Huracán, who will hope to shine once again with Cappa, and Adalberto Román, who will have to live up to his price tag.

Down in the south of Buenos Aires, Boca are lavishing praise on 20 year old playmaker Marcelo Cañete, while up in the north, River are doing the same about 17 year old playmaker Manuel Lanzini.

Both will be able to look up to club legends - Martin Palermo and Juan Román Riquelme both signed extended deals at Boca, while Matías Almeyda and Ariel Ortega are set to be first choice for River.

Beyond blatant plagiarism, there is a reason as to why both are planning this campaign much the same way.

Both had shocking seasons last time round, and need that to change.

River Plate start the season with serious worries about three-year relegation averages, and although Boca don’t share those concerns, they also need to win the title to return to their rightful place – fighting it out for the next year’s Libertadores.

They both debut in the Apertura 2010 this Sunday. More to read...

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