Season Preview: Can Maxi's return help Newell's win 'remodelled' Primera?
It feels like just yesterday that last season finished with defeat for Boca in the Copa Libertadores final, but Argieball is back and itÃ¢ÂÂs better than ever (if you believe the AFA).
The league has been COMPETELY REMODELLED, in fact itÃ¢ÂÂs been so thoroughly redesigned that to the untrained eye it may well seem to be exactly like it was before but with an extra trophy.
Instead of the season being split into two halves Ã¢ÂÂ the Apertura and Clausura Ã¢ÂÂ we supposedly have one Ã¢ÂÂlong tournamentÃ¢ÂÂ which will be temporally divided into the Ã¢ÂÂtorneo incialÃ¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂtorneo finalÃ¢ÂÂ. The winners of each play a one-off super-final to declare an overall Ã¢ÂÂsuperchampionÃ¢ÂÂ.
No relegation until June, but the Ã¢ÂÂpromedioÃ¢ÂÂ system remains. If youÃ¢ÂÂre one of the bottom three teams based on average points won over last three years then youÃ¢ÂÂre outta here.
But anyway, thatÃ¢ÂÂs the admin out of the way, so hereÃ¢ÂÂs the real stuff:
That All Boys were even in the title race last season brings a bit of vomit to the mouth. A filthy little side full of hatchet-men over the last couple of years, they should be slightly better having got rid of the likes of Hugo Barrientos (who tested positive for a banned substance in the off-season) but theyÃ¢ÂÂre still the Stoke of the Argie league and thatÃ¢ÂÂs no compliment.
Where will they finish? Bottom half, hopefully
Key Player: Mauro Matos Ã¢ÂÂ their only goalscorer
Odds 43/1 Ã¢ÂÂ 5th last year and only five points off the title makes this price look big, but factoring in Libertadores and AlboÃ¢ÂÂs own Sudamericana campaign thereÃ¢ÂÂs nothing to see here, least of all any sort of value
Argentinos are renown for bringing players through. The latest to follow in the footsteps of Maradona and Riquelme is likely to be Juani Ramirez or Sebastian NagÃÂ¼el, but they have bought experience this winter to give them a bit of protection. Diego Placente and Ariel GarcÃÂ© are both former Argentina defenders, while Leonel NuÃÂ±ez and Leandro Caruso provide experience up front.
Where will they finish? Mid-tablish
Key Player: Leandro Caruso Ã¢ÂÂ if they are to do anything of note this year, it will be because the former Udinese forward hits some form
Odds 32/1 Ã¢ÂÂ A touch of value as they could challenge if NuÃÂ±ez and Caruso click
Arsenal de SarandÃÂ
Everyone will try to forget as quickly as possible that Arsenal were somehow champions last year. Their big losses are Luciano LeguizamÃÂ³n, who has a habit of turning up with a goal, and Guillermo Burdisso, who formed the best defensive partnership in the league with Lisandro Lopez. Renewing Carlos CarboneroÃ¢ÂÂs loan is a great move but their dealings have resulted in a net weakening of their squad.
Where will they finish? Hopefully back down with the plankton in mid-table
Key Player: Lisandro Lopez Ã¢ÂÂ until he gets his big European move he will be the bedrock of this team
Odds 12/1 Ã¢ÂÂ not interested in the slightest. Big departures in attack and defence render this price far too short
Started last year like a steam train but ended it narrowly avoiding the drop. The sale of Castro to Godoy Cruz will hit them hard, and with such strong teams coming up this season, The Cream will certainly not be rising to the top, in fact, I fear they will be getting that sinking feeling and dropping out the division.
Where will they finish? Towards the bottom, only saved by a poor season on the promedios by San Lorenzo or Independiente
Key Player: Dario GandÃÂn Ã¢ÂÂ the chubby little frontman scores goals whatever happens. If he can net 15+, they are far less likely to go down
Odds 88/1 Ã¢ÂÂ I wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt take any price south of 300s
The Cordobeses did so well last season that it would take a truly abysmal effort from them to get relegated, although their squad looks very much like a club that could do so. TheyÃ¢ÂÂve gambled on players from lower leagues and abroad to improve their roster and one of them is going to need to bloom in a team that will probably finish low down, maybe even bottom three, but should just about survive the promedios.
Where will they finish? 18th-20th but last seasonÃ¢ÂÂs points tally saves them from the drop.
Key Player: Victor Aquino Ã¢ÂÂ only two sides scored fewer than Belgrano last season, so the Paraguayan has been brought in to attempt to remedy this. The bad news is that he hasnÃ¢ÂÂt scored double figures in a season since Ã¢ÂÂ08
Odds 43/1 Ã¢ÂÂ like MC Hammer, I canÃ¢ÂÂt touch this
Won the Apertura, nearly won the Libertadores, would have won the Clausura if they hadnÃ¢ÂÂt been asked not to by Grondona (warning: conspiracy alert) but the Boca of 2011/12 is gone. Riquelme is on his way out and his departure canÃ¢ÂÂt be underestimated. A bad start could see the end of JC FalcioniÃ¢ÂÂs reign as manager and then we could see Boca return to the locura of days gone by. To balance the books they have lost a lot of talent, and while this could lead to the emergence of youth talents like Paredes and Benavidez, they wonÃ¢ÂÂt win the title.
Where will they finish? Between 3rd and 7th. Good, but not good enough, and if they go far in the Sudamericana it could be even lower down as they give up domestically.
Key Player: Santiago Silva Ã¢ÂÂ I donÃ¢ÂÂt expect Pochi Chavez to be able to fill RiquelmeÃ¢ÂÂs boots, so I can see Silva evolving into a nuevganche and being the attacking focus of FalcioniÃ¢ÂÂs new Boca. On his day, the best striker in the league.
Odds 4/1 favourites Ã¢ÂÂ no thanks
ColÃÂ³n de Santa Fe
Club legend Bichi Fuertes has retired, but they have replaced his goals with those of Emmanuel Gigliotti - a reliable performer at this level - and Godoy Cruz hitman Ruben Ramirez. Javier ChevantonÃ¢ÂÂs injury problems see him depart the club before ever showing his abundant class but their recruitment this off-season means they probably have the best strike partnership in the league and they could shock some people.
Where will they finish? Anonymous in mid-table if they go far in the Sudamericana, otherwise they could be a dark horse
Key Player: Sebastian Prediger will hold together the midfield alongside Bernardello, and with them playing two up front, their shielding of the defence will be key
Odds 23/1 Ã¢ÂÂ Dark horses with a juicy price. Worth backing with the hope they get knocked out of continental competition
Estudiantes de La Plata
Without Juan Sebastian VerÃÂ³n, it was always going to be a tough season, but they have replaced him very well with RomÃÂ¡n Martinez. AngeleriÃ¢ÂÂs return from his English abyss will strengthen the defence but there seem to be too many key departures, including the baffling decision to let Carlos Carbonero back out on loan after dazzling at Arsenal. New boss Cagna will have to work some magic.
Where will they finish? In the mix, but they look a tad short up front to win it outright
Key Player: Roman Martinez has to replace VerÃÂ³n but if theyÃ¢ÂÂre to compete for honours, it will need to be GastÃÂ³n Fernandez up front who shines
Odds 9/1 Ã¢ÂÂ A price based more on reputation than anything, buy a striker and IÃ¢ÂÂll reconsider
Previously the example for all provincial clubs, Godoy Cruz disintegrated into an uncompetitive mush last season and have mad changes in the off-season to correct this. While there have been key departures in Caruso, Rojas and Villar, their replacements are very good and a freshening up of this squad is just what was needed. They should improve on last yearÃ¢ÂÂs showing.
Where will they finish? Back up in mid-table after an awful year
Key Player: The returning David Ramirez guarantees goals from midfield and will be the central figure of this team
Odds 65/1 Ã¢ÂÂ seems a tad short if anything, little chance of challenging
The promedio haunts them like the ghost of a murdered ex-wife and relegation is a distinct possibility after years of underachievement. TheyÃ¢ÂÂve bought so well though, that it seems impossible to see them face the drop, with too many valuable arrivals to mention while crucially they got good money for inconsistent players like Patricio Rodriguez. They also will play in the Sudamericana and this could be a big season for youngsters Montserrat and VillafaÃÂ±ez.
Where will they finish? Again, dependent on continental progress but potentially 5th-8th
Key Player: Cristian Tula will need to be the experienced head at the centre of defence. He could be partnered by young hope Leonel Galeano in a back line that is undoubtedly the weak point of their squad
Odds 18/1 Ã¢ÂÂ The sort of price that is tempting given how much they have strengthened
All change at LanÃÂºs. Out goes the successful manager, in come a pair of twins in joint charge who have never managed at this level before. You may see that I donÃ¢ÂÂt consider this an entirely positive thing. They have also lost top scorer Pavone and Mauro Camoranesi, but if they hold on to Regueiro and Valeri then they should be ok. Castillejos needs to translate his form from the second tier last season into top flight goals.
Where will they finish? The Barros Schelotto double-team is a complete unknown, but they have the squad for a top 6 finish.
Key Player: Mario Regueiro provides creativity and goals from midfield, they need to sort out his contract issues and keep hold of him
Odds 7/1 Ã¢ÂÂ YouÃ¢ÂÂd have to have a lot of faith in the management team to back them. A stronger squad than this one didnÃ¢ÂÂt challenge last year
NewellÃ¢ÂÂs Old Boys
Gerardo Ã¢ÂÂTatoÃ¢ÂÂ Martino single-handedly transformed Newells from whipping boys into title-contenders. They are now a well-drilled and effective unit that are further bolstered by the return of Maxi Rodriguez from Liverpool, and the exciting addition of Ignacio Scocco. If Maxi Urruti continues to develop then they are real dark horses whose only major loss has been PelleranoÃ¢ÂÂs return to AlmerÃÂa.
Where will they finish? Potential to be going for gold this year. Strong.
Key Player: Lucas Bernardi holds together that midfield and is the experienced head among a talented bunch
Odds 14/1 Ã¢ÂÂ the best value of any team in the league
Omar de Felippe did remarkably to get the Brewers promoted last year. It helped that Instituto and Rosario Central monumentally bottled it but the Falklands veteran does an amazing job with small sides, as he did with Olimpo. Rescaldani will be a big loss, but if they maintain their solid back line they could stay up.
Where will they finish? Bottom six
Key Player: Roberto Nanni. If he scores goals then they could feature in the sweet sanctuary of mid-table
Odds 150/1 Ã¢ÂÂ Say no more
ALL CHANGE PLEASE, ALL CHANGE. ZubeldÃÂa has got rid of eleven first-team players and re-sculpted this side in his own image. He has brought in proven players at this level rather than stars, and the front pairing of Sand and Campora looks intriguing. Watch for the emergence of youngsters CenturiÃÂ³n and FariÃÂ±a.
Where will they finish? Always much lower than everyone expects them to. 5th-10th
Key Player: Sebastian Saja; captain and arguably the best keeper in the league
Odds 6/1 Ã¢ÂÂ No thanks. Big club whose reputation tends to smother their odds
Guess whoÃ¢ÂÂs back? Even in success River have found turmoil, with the horrendously-managed departures of Chori Dominguez and Fernando Cavenaghi. This team will focus on feeding David Trezeguet, and they have bought well in the off-season to propel them to a top 5-8 finish. Potential title-challengers if it clicks.
Where will they finish? I kind of just said that
Key Player: Ezequiel Cirigliano will continue his growth into a superstar at the base of midfield
Odds 8/1 Ã¢ÂÂ Reputation forces their price down, but itÃ¢ÂÂs not terrible value
Having narrowly survived relegation via a playoff, they have massacred the playing squad and bought roughly 437 new first-team players. Among them are some great acquisitions, though; Aguiar, Rolle, Mercier, Jara and Stracqualursi should all be top performers in the Argie Primera. If only they had a manager to matchÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Where will they finish? Squad good enough to be top three, but quite simply they always find a way to screw things up
Key Player: Buffarini is a class act on the right wing, and his supply to Stracqualursi and Jara will be dreamy
Odds 12/1 Ã¢ÂÂ Narrowly avoided relegation but have a stupendous squad. I donÃ¢ÂÂt know what to think
San MartÃÂn de San Juan
They just about survived last year as Caprari suddenly started scoring during the Clausura. Without him they definitely would have dropped, yet if he continues this form then someone will take him off their hands in January. Either way, it will be difficult for them to stay up and home form will be key out in the provinces.
Where will they finish? Bottom three
Key Player: Gaston Caprari for reasons mentioned, but also the experienced Grabinski at the heart of defence
Odds 88/1 Ã¢ÂÂ what are their odds to go down?
The miracle boys survived relegation by mounting a title challenge from nowhere, and this season Rodolfo Arruabarrena Ã¢ÂÂ a talented young coach Ã¢ÂÂ should be content with mid-table. The sales of Martinez and Morales have potentially fatally weakened them. Federico Santander is an interesting addition up front with plenty of raw talent.
Where will they finish? Bottom half
Key Player: Diego CastaÃÂ±o is now without two sublime midfield colleagues and will have to hold it together himself. Good luck with that
Odds 44/1 Ã¢ÂÂ Times it by ten and weÃ¢ÂÂll talk. If Arruabarrena goes then theyÃ¢ÂÂre bottom three fodder
UniÃÂ³n Santa Fe
They have bought a host of unknowns in the hope that they turn out good. A side that canÃ¢ÂÂt compete financially, they were forced to sell their star Paulo Rosales to capital moneyboys Independiente and the outlook for them is bleak.
Where will they finish? Bottom five for sure, maybe even bottom three
Key Player: Pablo MagnÃÂn is only 22 but they need him to grow into a goalscorer if theyÃ¢ÂÂre to survive
Odds Irrelevant Ã¢ÂÂ donÃ¢ÂÂt back them
I have watched on in horror as one of the best-run clubs in Argentina has had itÃ¢ÂÂs squad dismantled this summer. First-choice players like Martinez, Ramirez, Ortiz, Obolo, Barovero, Zapata and Fernandez have all gone Ã¢ÂÂ and theyÃ¢ÂÂre all great players. Only Barovero has been adequately replaced, with Ricardo Gareca seemingly banking on youth to replace many of the departed. ItÃ¢ÂÂs gamble, which is most unlike Velez. The kids to watch are Gino Peruzzi (who still has Neymar in his pocket from the Libertadores), Agustin Allione and Brian Ferreira.
Where will they finish? Between 6th and 10th
Key Player Federico InsÃÂºa needs to stay fit and be their main source of goals and assists if they are to rise from mid-table
Odds 7/1 A price befitting the Velez we have seen in years gone by, but not the current edition