Sabella steering Estudiantes towards double

LA PLATA - Alejandro Sabella will be relying on the rich heritage of Estudiantes as symbolised by the Veron family when his team attempt to become world club champions next month.

The coach also hopes the good momentum Estudiantes have in the Argentine Apertura championship will carry the team, led by Juan Sebastian Veron, through to two major titles by the end of the year.

Veron's father Juan Ramon was the most skilled member of the Estudiantes team that won the club's first three South American titles from 1968 to 1970 and the world crown when they beat Manchester United for the Intercontinental Cup in 1968.

"The club's philosophy is to fight to the end and all the players (in the squad) are prepared for that. It's the life philosophy we were taught in the club," Sabella said.

"The championship is red hot. We're alive, we're three points from the leaders," the former Sheffield United and Leeds United player told Reuters in an interview.

South American champions Estudiantes face a busy few weeks completing their Apertura programme early to head for Abu Dhabi for the December 9-19 Club World Cup where they are favourites to meet Barcelona in the final.

Having beaten Argentine title holders Velez Sarsfield 3-0 on Sunday, Estudiantes travel to Rosario Central on Wednesday in the first of two matches brought forward from the end of the championship.


"There's the mathematical factor and the mental aspect. On the one hand we'll be happy but on the other, fighting on two fronts will be tough," said Sabella, who at 55 is a big success in his first job as number one after a coaching career as Daniel Passarella's assistant.

"It's going to be awkward, we're going to have a series of successive matches, the fatigue will be greater, we're going to have to rotate (the team)," Sabella said.

"There are positions that are more difficult to cover or players who because of their importance are harder to replace," referring mainly to 34-year-old captain Juan Sebastian Veron.

Estudiantes will play their last Apertura match on Dec. 4, two weeks before the scheduled end of the championship. They could leave for the United Arab Emirates as leaders and be crowned in absentia or come back to face a title playoff if they finish equal at the top.

Sabella, a creative midfielder who was Passarella's team mate at River Plate before heading for England in 1978, was the former World Cup-winning captain's right hand man with the Argentina and Uruguay teams and clubs in his home country, Italy, Mexico and Brazil.

He took charge of Estudiantes, a club he knew well having helped them to two league titles in the early 1980s, in March during the Libertadores Cup group stage and steered them to their fourth crown. They were unbeaten in the 11 Libertadores matches he presided over.

Sabella, who said he had just begun to think about his team's potential rivals in the Club World Cup, is wary of the tag of favourites, warning that whichever team Estudiantes faced in their semi-final would be tough to beat.

"On the track is where you see the best horses," Sabella said. "You have to go step by step and the first is very difficult so you have to go carefully.

"It's not easy to get information and we have started looking for all we need to go gaining time."