Friday, December 6, 2019
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SPORTS | 27-07-2019 11:41

Superliga returns with new players, new rules – and usual candidates

Local football is back. Though some of the grandes have been quietly plugging away in continental competition, on Friday night the Argentine Superliga returned as defending champions Racing Club took on Unión de Santa Fe.

There have been high-profile transfers for sure, and managerial changes aplenty, but despite the renewal, Argentina’s biggest, most traditional names are once again among the favourites to take the title this time around: Racing, Independiente, River Plate and Boca Juniors lead the betting.

The Xeneize have been leading the headlines, too. Boca shook up the transfer market this week with their signing of legendary Italian midfielder Daniele De Rossi, the veteran former AS Roma star who won the World Cup in 2006. Having just turned 36, there’s no doubt his best days are behind him, but the bosses at Boca will be hoping his experience will be able to lead them to domestic glory at home and international glory in the Copa Libertadores.

Manager Gustavo Alfaro’s side is certainly looking refreshed this time out. Boca have also secured the signings of ex-Argentina international and former Benfica star Eduardo Salvio, Brighton & Hove Albion’s Alexis MacAllister and young Venezuelan national team striker Jan Carlos Hurtado, who is being tipped as a future star. They will, however, have to cope with the departure of Darío Benedetto, the scorer of many an important goal in recent years.

Unlike Boca, River have not dipped into the transfer market so much. The Millo, however, do expect to secure the arrival of Chile’s Paulo Díaz, the only player reportedly requested by Marcelo Gallardo. However, the coach, who recently welcomed his fourth child, has managed to keep together almost the entire squad that he led to Copa Libertadores glory last year.

Meanwhile, Racing have signed skillful central midfielder Walter Montoya and Paraguayan attacking midfielder Matías Rojas. Independiente, with ex-Defensa y Justicia boss Sebastián Beccacece now in the dug-out as head coach, have added Colombian midfielder Andrés Roa.

San Lorenzo, who are in desperate need of improvement after finishing bottom last time out have signed many players, including Lucas Menossi, brothers Bruno and Mauro Pittón, Santiago Vergini and Paraguayan striker Adam Bareiro. Not content with one pair of relatives, they are also said to be seeking to sign Paraguayans Ángel and Óscar Romero.

NEW RULES, NEW KICK-OFF

Though Racing kicked things off on Friday night, there are some other high-profile clashes to look out this weekend, such as Argentinos Juniors v River Plate. Saturday’s fixtures also include San Lorenzo v Godoy Cruz and Lanús v Gimnasia La Plata.

On Sunday, Boca face Huracán, Estudiantes take on Aldosivi, Talleres face Vélez Sarsfield and Sebastián Beccacece returns to his former club, Defensa y Justicia, for his first league match in charge of Independiente. On Monday, Arsenal play Banfield, while Atlético Tucumán play Rosario Central.

Many eyes, however, will be on the debut of Club Atlético Central Córdoba, based in Santiago del Estero, who play Newell’s Old Boys on Sunday. The Ferroviarios (or “Railwayman”), who celebrate their centenary as a club this year, won promotion after defeating Sarmiento in the 2018– 2019 second-tier play-off final. It will be their first top-flight campaign for 48 years.

This season, there will also be more of a focus on the league’s structure and organisation, with 24 teams taking part instead of 26, with 23 rounds of fixtures. At the bottom, three teams – instead of the usual two – are set to be relegated this year too, as the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and the Superliga’s authorities seek to trim the number of clubs in the nation’s top division. The aim is to trim the number of clubs to 20 by the 2023-2024 season.

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