The Triple-Trim Fighting-Fit Season Preview
TheyÃ¢ÂÂre fighting fit, lean, tanned, and raring to go.
Gruelling double sessions over the summer have prepared ArgentinaÃ¢ÂÂs players for the Clausura 2010.
Diego Simeone, far from content with punishing his San Lorenzo squad in the heat a mere twice a day, ordered triple sessions.
The new season is upon us, fitness is good, kits are new, fÃÂºtbol is still para todos, for everyone, morale is high and expectations are higher.
That is, unless you are Cristian Fabbiani.
The description 'former River Plate striker' may soon have to be shortened to just Ã¢ÂÂformer strikerÃ¢ÂÂ.
After Fabbiani was thrown out of NÃÂºÃÂ±ez for being atrocious last season, his agent was hard pushed to find him a new club.
HuracÃÂ¡n and Chacarita both politely declined.
UruguayÃ¢ÂÂs Nacional were less gentle. "We wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt have him for free," said their president, making sure Mr. FabbianiÃ¢ÂÂs Mr.15 percent realised they were talking about both the transfer and the wages.
Fabbiani has always had a fixation with Ronaldo (which one? Well Fabbiani's nickname is The Tank).
When he arrived at River, he requested the 99 shirt in homage to the Brazilian.
This pre-season, out of work but looking for a club, Fabbiani showed further signs of Ronaldo-adulation.
Unimpressed with traditional methods of getting in shape Ã¢ÂÂ like watching your diet, not spending the summer at the beach with your wife, running, doing sit-ups and so on Ã¢ÂÂ Fabbiani simply went under the knife.
(We should say at this point that his WAG, Victoria Vanucci, denied that her man had had liposuction. The papers arenÃ¢ÂÂt so sure. Neither are we).
What will be next for Fabbiani then, adventures with ladyboys of the night? Watch this space.
In England, they'd call him Flabbiani
One thing he wonÃ¢ÂÂt be doing is taking part in the Clausura Ã¢ÂÂ10, which starts this weekend.
When it comes to who is expected to dominate proceedings, supporters have perhaps spent too much time under the sun and lack any imagination whatsoever.
In OlÃÂ©Ã¢ÂÂs poll of who will be Clausura 2010 champion, 23 percent have gone for River Plate, 22 percent went for Boca.
First up is River, a side that finished last a year ago and havenÃ¢ÂÂt moved out of the bottom half of the table since.
Hoping to turn their fortunes around, the Gallinas have brought in a number of decent-looking reinforcements.
Defenders Juan Manuel Diaz and Alexis Ferrero have arrived, along with Paraguayan midfielder Rodrigo Rojas and Chilean striker Gustavo Canales.
Meanwhile, River have also tied their two teenage stars Gabriel Funes Mori and Daniel Villalba to four-year contracts.
Winning both superclÃÂ¡sicos in the pre-season has helped the morale boost, but the rot spread deep at the Monumental in recent years.
Leo Astrada himself admitted that his side would be happy with a top-five finish.
Boca, meanwhile, fired their manager less than a week before the season started, didnÃ¢ÂÂt manage to convince the man (some of) the board wanted to take over, and have gone for the reserve team coach.
However, Abel Alves, who is in charge of the Xeneize this term, is an Ã¢ÂÂhombre de la casaÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ so he knows whatÃ¢ÂÂs needed and whatÃ¢ÂÂs expected.
He also groomed a number of the current first team squad as they made their way up through the clubÃ¢ÂÂs youth team system.
Alves has a number of new faces to help him improve (and boy, must he improve) on last season's finish of 11th.
Last seasonÃ¢ÂÂs most impressive midfielder, JesÃÂºs MÃÂ©ndez, joined from Central.
They have also bolstered midfield with World Cup hopeful SebastiÃÂ¡n Prediger from ColÃÂ³n and Matias Gimenez from Tigre.
NicolÃÂ¡s Gaitain, arguably the best player in the Argentine league, is fighting for a place in MaradonaÃ¢ÂÂs squad, as is Palermo. Riquleme is back fit.
Colon try to stop Prediger (seated) from leaving
While the big two dominate the fans' expectations, there is little love, respect or regard for the current champions.
Just 1.3 percent believe Banfield can repeat the feat of lifting the league title in four months' time.
The Drill have lost centre-back Sebastian MÃÂ©ndez, who retired, and centre-forward Santiago Silva, who refused to answer calls from the club when they reasonably tried to discuss a contract extension with the Uruguayan.
Julio Falcioni has replaced both, but Banfield will no doubt be focusing on a bash at the Libertadores. Maybe 1.3 percent is generous.
Most Improved Side should go to Racing, where they seem convinced they can not only improve, but also challenge for the title.
Claudio Vivas says his side start the league with a Ã¢ÂÂfinalÃ¢ÂÂ, but not because itÃ¢ÂÂs a title six-pointer: it's a relegation one.
As things stand, Racing will play the dreaded relegation play-off come the end of the season.
Bringing in forward Gabriel Hauche and striker Claudio Bieler should keep the ghosts of the descenso away, but whether they will challenge for silverware is another matter.
Elsewhere, the best team of 2009, VÃÂ©lez, have benefitted from Santiago SilvaÃ¢ÂÂs ambition and avarice and so now have last seasonÃ¢ÂÂs top scorer to add to their already-impressive squad.
While LanÃÂºs will rely on SebastiÃÂ¡n Blanco more than ever having sent Eduardo Ã¢ÂÂTotoÃ¢ÂÂ Salvio to the footballers' graveyard that is AtlÃÂ©tico de Madrid.
Estudiantes, meanwhile, are not interested in the league and will concentrate on the Libertadores.
Maybe one of the Big Five will live up to their name and tradition and take the title, or perhaps NewellÃ¢ÂÂs will build on last season and go one better than runnerÃ¢ÂÂs up.
Just donÃ¢ÂÂt expect them to look for help from former player Cristian Fabbiani.
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