Clausura 2012 preview: Organisation key to Verón's hopes of a fairytale ending
In the absence of bitter rivals River Plate, Boca Juniors waltzed (or should that be tangoed?) their way to an Apertura title with very little competition.
Second place seemed to induce vertigo upon the team to occupy it, with each more feeble than the next when presented with the chance to forge any sort of title charge. The result of this is that four teams ended up joint second, albeit twelve points back from Boca.
With the top sides taking part in the Copa Libertadores as well as the Clausura during the second half of the season, there will be a chance for the chasing pack to take advantage of the enormous midweek journeys being made by playing in the continentÃ¢ÂÂs premier club competition.
Relegation will be decided in June, with ArgentinaÃ¢ÂÂs complicated system meaning every point gained over the past three years could be absolutely vital. The bottom two sides of the average points table are automatically relegated while the next two play in two-legged survival playoffs against sides from the second tier.
Here is your team-by-team guide to the Argentine Clausura 2012...
Mauro Matos scored seven of All BoysÃ¢ÂÂ fifteen goals last season and if his contribution dips then el AlboÃ¢ÂÂs flimsy squad will find themselves plunged even further down the table.
Key Player: Mauro Matos
Prediction: 18th Ã¢ÂÂ Relegation Playoff
With a new manager in, and a couple of their better players out; January has been a fairly uninspiring time for Argentinos fans who will need to unearth another talent from the youth system that spawned Juan RomÃÂ¡n Riquelme and Diego Maradona.
Key Player: FabiÃÂ¡n Bordagaray
Arsenal de SarandÃÂ
A bizarre rule has gifted Arsenal a (perhaps undeserved) Copa Libertadores place and with a small squad, they could struggle over the next few months to juggle long midweek trips all over the continent with their domestic commitments, meaning they may have to settle for mid-table. Obolo will be a big loss, but Carlos Carbonero is a great signing.
Key Player: Luciano LeguizamÃÂ³n
Hit the giddy heights of second early on in the Apertura, but Rafaela will be happy to repeat their mid-table finish if it gives them another season in the top flight to build on. Cesar Carignano returns to the club to partner Dario GandÃÂn up front and will represent a great piece of recruitment.
Key Player: Cesar Carignano
A shocking campaign from Banfield saw them finish bottom, principally due to managerial comings-and-goings, but also thanks to general mismanagement from above. In Walter Acevedo and Facundo Ferreyra Ã¢ÂÂ among others Ã¢ÂÂ they have some fine players, but there are no excuses for losing 14 from 19 games in a season. They need a remarkable twelve months from now on if they are to avoid relegation in 2013.
Key Player: Facundo Ferreyra
Finishing joint second on 31 points was an enormous achievement for Belgrano, having only just been promoted back to the Primera DivisiÃÂ³n. Having sold Franco Vazquez to Italian side Palermo, they now need someone else to build the side around and may struggle through this campaign at the wrong end of the table.
Key Player: RibaÃÂr Rodriguez
New signing Santiago Silva is only permitted by FIFA rules to represent Boca in the Libertadores, but this could well work out for JC FalcioniÃ¢ÂÂs side. Their squad has been further strengthened following their title win and they finally have the right manager, but significant progress on the continental scene may mean they miss out on retaining their domestic title.
Key Player: Leandro Somoza
ColÃÂ³n de Santa Fe
Shrewd signings in the summer propelled ColÃÂ³n to fifth place (although level on points with second) and there seems little reason that theyÃ¢ÂÂd struggle to repeat that in the Clausura. The further addition of Leandro GraciÃÂ¡n last month was a wise one, and without the added strain of continental football they should do well despite the unfortunate injury to defensive leader Ronald Raldes.
Key Player: TomÃÂ¡s Costa
Estudiantes de La Plata
In re-signing Mariano AndÃÂºjar and Enzo Perez, Estudiantes can now put out ten of the eleven players that won them the Copa Libertadores in 2009. Three years on from that, and under a different manager, the Students have a great shot at the Clausura title if they can once more get organised Ã¢ÂÂ something lacking in their last two managerial experiments. Could VerÃÂ³n end his career in fairytale fashion come June?
Key Player: Juan Seba VerÃÂ³n
A terrific few years for the club from Mendoza mean they will get the chance to appear in the Copa Libertadores. But given their fairly small squad, they will be happy with mid-table anonymity and a progression from the group stages in CONMEBOLÃ¢ÂÂs showcase tournament. They boast the Apertura top scorer - by quite a distance - in Ruben Ramirez.
Key Player: Diego Villar
The red devils are another side who will benefit from not being involved in continental competition, and following a torrid 12 months, could challenge for the top four again. With the experience of Gabriel Milito, and young talents like Patricio Rodriguez and Lucas VillafaÃÂ±ez, RamÃÂ³n Diaz has a strong squad to pick from.
Key Player: Ernesto FarÃÂas
A small club that continues to punch above its weight, LanÃÂºs may struggle Ã¢ÂÂ like Godoy Cruz Ã¢ÂÂ to deal with battling on two fronts. They are boosted by the collapse of Guido PizarroÃ¢ÂÂs move to Fiorentina, after his Italian passport failed to come through before the deadline. The talented Silvio Romero needs to start scoring regularly to avoid wasting his undoubted potential.
Key Player: Diego Valeri
Virtually certain to go down in 2013, they could bring that forward if they continue their horrendous performances of the past year or so. If archrivals Rosario Central donÃ¢ÂÂt come up from la B then it could be the first time in the nationalised professional era that the city of Rosario doesnÃ¢ÂÂt have a club in the top flight. They won just one of their nineteen Apertura games.
Key Player: Mauricio Sperdutti
Olimpo de Bahia Blanca
Having overachieved in their first season after promotion, that difficult second season has proved to be just so for the leagueÃ¢ÂÂs most southerly team. Stripped of many of their best players, only Martin Rolle keeps them above mediocrity and it could be a hard campaign for them.
Key Player: Martin Rolle
Prediction: 19th - direct relegation
Diego SimeoneÃ¢ÂÂs overly defensive outlook cost them the chance to challenge Boca for the Apertura, but his departure to Atletico Madrid will be replaced by a more attractive footballing era under Alfio Basile. Managing to keep hold of their prized Colombian duo of Giovanni Moreno and Teo Gutierrez has made them Argie BargyÃ¢ÂÂs favourites to triumph come June.
Key Player: AgustÃÂn Pelletieri
San Lorenzo de Almagro
San Lorenzo face the very real possibility of joining River Plate Ã¢ÂÂ a fellow member of ArgentinaÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂbig fiveÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ in plying their trade in the second tier. Having strengthened significantly in January though, they have given themselves as good a chance as possible of avoiding the drop. Carlos Bueno will be a vital signing.
Key Player: Nestor Ortigoza
San Martin de San Juan
Another newly-promoted team that overachieved in the Apertura, they will find things a bit more difficult now other sides have become wise to their style of play. Facundo Affranchino has signed from River and could be a crucial player.
Key Player: Mauro BogadÃÂ³n
The spectre of relegation is truly hanging over Tigre, but if they can repeat their strong performance of the Apertura, they may be able to avoid the automatic relegation places. A club of limited resources but they have a lot of heart, a good young manager and some talented individuals.
Key Player: Roman Martinez
Prediction: 9th Ã¢ÂÂ Relegation Playoff
UniÃÂ³n de Santa Fe
Having finished the season poorly, manager Frank Kudelka said he was looking to bring in some fresh blood. A lower-league striker has arrived but if he doesnÃ¢ÂÂt immediately find his feet then Argie Bargy can see them finishing rock-bottom.
Key Player: Paulo Rosales
One of the countryÃ¢ÂÂs best clubs over the last two to three years, Velez still managed to finish third last season despite having a poor season by their high standards. They have signed three top quality additions to their squad and Ricardo Gareca is a coach allowed the time and resources to keep evolving the club. They do, however, have some very long away trips in the Libertadores.
Key Player: David Ramirez