Up El ***, Argentina's minnows

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Featuring: Arsenal (no not that one), football players to scared to practice, River Plate copy Manchester United, Little teams, Big Cup.

El Arse in the Libertadores

The Copa Libertadores, the greatest competition in Latin America is underway and could prove to be the most interesting yet. It is a tournament where domestic titles pale into insignificance (relatively speaking, this is Argentina after all).

Winners of the last domestic tournament, Lanús (for the first time in their history), took on Ecuadoreans Olmedo who flew down for the delight of kicking a ball around a rather shabby suburb south of Buenos Aires on a scorching night. Olmedo, who won the first leg 1-0, returned home with a headache and a loss as confident Lanus recorded a stunning 3-0 victory.

Another team in action, again for the first time in their history, was Arsenal – the subject of today's Team Focus below. They went into last night's meeting with Venezuelans Mineros 2-0 up. And despite losing in Venezuela last night 2-1, they continue into the Libertadores.

River and Manchester

With only days to go until the opening of the... erm, closing tournament (the clausura), River Plate coach Diego Simone claims his much-discussed (it's the off season and there are pages to fill) 3-3-3-1 or 4-2-3-1, which has so far failed to set the world alight, is based on Manchester United's.

New Colombian signing Falcao will apparently be playing in Tevez's position behind Abreu (think Rooney with a ponytail, good looks and a goatee). Ariel 'El Burrito' Ortega takes Ronaldo's position, and the part of Giggs will be played by Alexis.

"One looks at European football," explained Simone. "There, everyone runs, the forwards return and collaborate with the midfield. Here there is a prejudice or they look at the coach in a funny way when they're asked to participate when they lose the ball."

There may be some in the UK who disagree.

Balls to this

You remember back then. Jumpers for goalposts 'n' all that. That big boy in the park, you probably remember his name, stealing your ball, maybe even your jumper.

Well, with this in mind please offer a bit of empathy for D division Club Athlético Victoriano Arenas who are too scared to practice.

Why? Because wayward balls are being sabotaged by young thieves who bombard the player with stones while another grabs the ball.

"It's impossible to go like this," the president Domingo Sganga told the daily newspaper Olé. "They've stolen nearly 20 balls and each one costs 90 pesos (£15). Then they sell them to buy drugs."

The club borders a villa, one of the vast shanty towns on the edge of Buenos Aires. Despite the rumours, Buenos Aires is still a safe place to visit, but in and around these villas it's dangerous – not least if you're carrying three weeks wages under your arm, even if it is football shaped.

"It's normal to hear bullets flying, even in the middle of the day," one administrator admitted. "We are used to it, but I'm not going to lie, recently we are very scared. The players now all come to training together."


August 22 19564
Nicknames El Arse – which leads to some great graffiti – or El Viaducto
Ground Julio H Grondona, also known as the Viaduct. When El Arse won their first coveted international title in 2007, they played in nearby Racing stadium because the viaduct holds less than 17,000 fans
Manager Gustavo Alfaro
Barra brava Just take a look at this for an idea of La Banda de Beto
Titles The trophy room in the Arsenal stadium must be a pretty lowly sight. On the domestic scene, despite jumping up a series of league, they have never finished on top. Internationally, this team had never even played a non-Argentine team until 2004. But pride of place will be reserved for the Copa Sudamericana 2007, an incredible achievement – and story. This year they are playing in the Copa Libertadores for the first ever time
Star player
The 31-year-old Martín Ezequiel Andrizzi scored the winning goal against Ciudad de México
Useless but quite interesting Needless to say they were named after the Gunners, but the colours were chosen because the original team was formed by fans from arch-rivals Racing and Independiente who chose the colours as an amalgamation between Racing's blue and Independiente's red. Very odd if you ask me. 
Useless and not very interesting El Arse (I like writing that) had an agreement with Barcelona whereby young players at Arsenal, who haven't played for more than a year at the club, can go to Barcelona. In return Barça will help with the club's infrastructure. Ironically the deal fell through because Arsenal couldn't improve their infrastructure.
Even more useless and less interesting Your correspondent is often mistaken for an Arsenal fan while wearing his Scunthorpe United jersey – exactly the same as their away kit.
They share the neighbourhood of Avellaneda with Racing and Independiente and any game with these teams are tense affairs. They also knocked big boys San Lorenzo out of last year's Copa Sudamericana, and San Lorenzo hold a grudge. 
Recent form Poor. They finished 13th in the domestic league, but won the Copa Sudamericana last year so should be fairly confident in the Copa Libertadores preliminaries where they're currently playing. 
If they were an English team Certainly not Arsenal. More like Wigan Athletic: still new to the top flight and not really doing that well.