A new season and a new format for the Argentinean Superliga with a system set up for a surprise, although Boca Juniors will still be the team to beat says Peter Coates
Three months after Boca Juniors were crowned the inaugural Superliga champions, Argentinian top flight football is back. After a disastrous World Cup campaign the nation can enjoy a return to club focus and while the main title challengers might be the same, the league has undergone some changes once more.
So what’s the Superliga looking like this year?
As the AFA endeavour to reduce the number of teams (Remember Julio Grondona’s 30-team monstrosity?) the four relegations last term made way for only two promoted clubs so the 28 teams are now 26 and it will be the same again in one year’s time.
#BuenLunes futbolero! ¡Faltan apenas 4⃣ días para el comienzo de una nueva edición de la #SuperligaQuilmesClásica! Aquí compartimos la programación de la jornada inicial y te invitamos a conocer el fixture #SAF completo 👀 Mirá 👉 https://t.co/Z9nkkOyneT pic.twitter.com/dBPfBEQ28T
— Superliga Argentina (@argsaf) August 6, 2018
Starting on Friday with Vélez hosting Newell’s, the new Superliga season runs until March with a straight-forward league format with all 26 clubs playing each once.
25 games and finishing in March? Isn’t that a little short?
Never fear, the AFA are one step ahead. After the Superliga crowns a new champion in March, a new Copa de la Liga will begin, running from April 14 to May 26. Essentially a little knockout tournament with the draw based on Superliga final positions.
Ok, so who are the favourites for the Superliga?
Boca Juniors remain the team to beat. Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side may have stumbled over the line in May to claim back-to-back titles but they now have a historic three-in-a-row on the horizon.
A summary of Boca’s transfer window:
In my opinion, this has been one of the better transfer windows in recent time. This administration is really pushing for the Libertadores title.
— Boca in English (@CABJ_English) August 3, 2018
None of the stars like Cristian Pavón or Wilmar Barrios were sold, Darío Benedetto is fit again and there were some excellent signings to strengthen the squad.
But there must be some challengers?
A short tournament does give some scope for surprises but the traditional grandes look the most likely candidates.
River Plate have opted against delving into the transfer market despite selling full-back Marcelo Saracchi to RB Leipzig but still boast an impressive starting eleven and are currently unbeaten in 19 matches.
Independiente tied Maxi Meza, Fabricio Bustos, Alan Franco and Martín Benítez to new deals and brought in some excellent looking additions to bolster their first team but like their rivals have eyes focused primarily on the Copa Libertadores.
And Racing Club, who may have lost Lautaro Martínez to Inter but brought back club icon Gustavo Bou and under Eduardo Coudet have looked vastly improved.
And the best of the rest?
Well, judging by last season’s table there are a few options but most look considerably weaker this time round.
Runners-up Godoy Cruz have lost influential players Pol Fernández and Juan Garro, San Lorenzo look a long way off being a genuine title contender, Talleres are starting a new era under manager Juan Pablo Vojvoda, Huracán lost Ignacio Pussetto to Udinese and as ever Defensa y Justicia have seen a huge turnover of players.
And what about relegation?
Chacarita Juniors, Temperley, Olimpo and Arsenal all dropped last season and another four will follow in 2019. Once more that will be decided by the promedios, the average points per game table calculated over the past three seasons.
Newly promoted clubs Aldosivi and San Martín de Tucumán begin at the foot of the relegation table but having a blank slate mean they could rapidly climb the table with a few early wins.
Tigre, San Martín de San Juan, Belgrano and Patronato all hover nervously around the remaining positions and now that they can’t afford another poor campaign.