Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Torneo Apertura 2007: The Preview

The Argentine league is always an important tournament for River Plate. Having won 32 of these titles in our 106 year history, the club never got tired of winning the tournament... or so it seemed! Unfortunately, our luck ended a while back, due to not being able to lift a single trophy in over 3 years (the Clausura 2004 being the last thing we won). This time around, the team must go all out and play with heart and passion to bring joy to the fans for a change. Here's the preview of the Torneo Apertura 2007:

Candidates to take it all:
- Boca Juniors: Without a doubt one of the main candidates. Our classic rivals have fought till the end in the las two Argentine leagues and were able to win the 2007 Copa Libertadores. They have a strong team, with great players such as Rodrigo Palacio, Neri Cardozo, Pablo Ledesma, Morel Rodriguez, etc. Not only that, but the club hasn't experienced any major losses over this offseason break. With Leandro Gracian and Juan Roman Riquelme named as possible last-minute reinforcements, Miguel Angel Russo might be able to make his squad even stronger than it already is.
- Estudiantes: Diego Simeone's side, in my opinion, was the best overall team of the 2006/2007 season (Apertura '06 & Clausura '07 combined). Despite having lost key players such as Mariano Pavone, Jose Sosa, and Jose Luis Calderon, they still have a good team with great players like Juan Sebastian Veron, Pablo Piatti, Rodrigo Brana, etc. They have made some interesting signings (including Diego Galvan from River, who got injured for 7 months in a friendly match!), but they will obviously not be nearly as good of a side as they were last semester.
- San Lorenzo: The current Argentine champions could not be left out of the list. Unfortunately for Ramon Diaz, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Cristian Ledesma -two of their key players- have migrated to Europe. They were arguably the best reinforced team this offseason, though, having brought in Bernardo Romeo, Daniel Bilos, Gaston Aguirre, amongst others.
- Indpendiente: Could be the surprise team if they get their act together. Last semester they were miserable, but they actually do have a good squad. Daniel Montegro is one of the best midfielders in Argentina, having proved it in Hurcana, Independiente, and River Plate. Up front they also have German Denis, a deadly foward, and Ismael Sosa, a promising youngster whom Sergio Aguero named as the future of Argentine football. Other good players such as Gioda, Machin, or Mareque could also leave there mark. I wouldn't name them as one of the top candidates just yet, but they could easily transform themselves into a great team if they find a way to get their football back.

Key Players:
Over 50 players have left the Argentine league over this pre-season break. That list includes some of the best players we saw last season (Carrizo, Ustari, Di Maria, Leto, Jose Sosa, Oscar Cardozo, Nunez, Pavone, Mauro Zarate, etc.). So with all these great players playing in Europe, who will take their roles of stars of the Apertura? Well, despite losing a huge amount of talent, great players still do exist: keep an eye open for Maximiliano Moralez (Racing Club), Augusto Fernandez (River Plate), Damian Escudero (Velez Sarsfield), Martin Arzuaga (Rosario Central) Neri Cardozo (Boca Juniors), Pablo Piatti and Pablo Luguercio (Estudiantes). These are the generally younger players. Besides them, more experienced players like Veron, Belluschi, Palacio, Montenegro, Rosales, and Calderon will be looking to continue proving their effectiveness in the league.

The tournament will begin on Sunday, August 12th for us, when we face Newell's Old Boys in our home stadium. That will be the first taste we get of the "new" team for this coming season. Without Juan Pablo Carrizo, Ernesto Farias, and Victor Zapata (as well as some subs such as Diego Galvan, Rubens Sambueza, Matias Oyola), yet with only a few reinforcements, things don't seem to have changed positively since the end of the Torneo Clausura. The only way we can change our current situation is by refreshing the airs and starting all over again, forgetting about the past. The trophy will be there, waiting for a new champion to lift it in December. The question is, will it be our turn to take it once and for all?

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