Torneo Inicial 2013 preview

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Cauteruccio spearheading San Lorenzo's charge

League:  Argentinian Primera – Torneo Inicial 2013

Title Challengers:  River, Newell’s & San Lorenzo

Reigning champions Newell’s will once again be among the challengers for the title but have lost key personnel in the form of manager Gerardo Martino to some club called Barcelona (no, me neither?) and prolific Ignacio Scocco to Internacional of Brazil.  Alfredo Berti steps up from the reserves to take the reins, ensuring a smooth transition, while the core of the squad remains but replacing Scocco’s goals is crucial to their fortunes.  David Trezeguet is a man who knows a thing of two about finding the back of the net and a lot will depend on whether he can stay fit.  I have a feeling they will fall just short but could capitalise if their rivals have prolonged Sudamericana campaigns.

Of the pretenders to the throne, last year’s runners-up River look best placed to take the title this time around.  They have strengthened wisely with Carlos Carbonero, Osmar Ferreyra and Jonathan Fabbro joining and in Teo Gutierrez they have a potent, if hot-headed, marksman.  My dark horse for a title challenge though are San Lorenzo, who went on a brilliant end of season run to finish 4th in the Torneo Final.  Some really impressive signings (see further down) have bolstered an already good side and in Juan Antonio Pizzi they have a very good manager.  Plus the Pope is a fan.

Chasing Pack:  Velez, Lanus, Racing & Estudiantes

Lanus enjoyed a great start to the season and were defensively sound all year but too many draws cost them dear.  Losing Guido Pizarro, Mario Regueiro and Oswaldo Vizcarrondo are big blows and although Jorge Ortiz, Leandro Somoza and Lucas Melano are good reinforcements I think they will fall a bit short.  Having said that, if new signing Santiago Silva can rediscover his form, his goals should push them on further.

Velez had a season to forget but that can mainly be attributed to focussing on the Libertadores and will be back among the top third again.  Mauro Zarate is a fantastic signing and should fill the gap left by Facundo Ferreyra.  Racing too will be at the top end of the table and have retained the services of all their young stars, only losing Luis Farina to Benfica at the time of writing, with Rodrigo Battaglia also set to join.  However, all three clubs Sudamericana commitments mean that it’ll be hard to mount a serious title challenge.

One side I’m expecting to return to form is Estudiantes.  Since their 2009 Libertadores and 2010 Apertura title, el Pincha have been in somewhat of a slump.  Juan Sebastian Veron’s return from retirement will add some class while, should he stay, Duvan Zapata is one of the most dangerous strikers in the league.  Furthermore, they have added Jorge Luna and Matias Aguirregaray among others and I’m expecting bigger and better things in the Torneo Inicial under Pellegrino’s stewardship.

Veron's return

Relegation material: Argentinos Jnrs, Rafaela, Olimpo, Gimnasia LP

The Primera division’s relegation system – based on the average points over three years – isn’t decided until the end of the Torneo Final but a poor Inicial can indicate those likely to be down there slugging it out.  How well newly promoted sides Olimpo, Gimnasia LP and Rosario Central do in the Inicial will determine their relegation woes as, with less games to divide their points total by, early wins can potentially put them in a strong position going into the Final.  Nevertheless, all will be looking over their shoulders for most of the season though.

Argentinos Juniors survived by the skin of their teeth last year and will need a very good season if they are to steer clear of the drop.  While manager Caruso Lombardi is somewhat of a relegation firefighting specialist, he has often struggled to take teams forward and his revamped squad may struggle.  Atletico Rafaela will be another side in danger of going down too, while Tigre could get dragged into it if they continue last year’s poor form

The rest of the pack: All Boys, Boca, Arsenal, Godoy Cruz, Belgrano, Colon, Rosario, Quilmes, Tigre

Boca can hardly be any worse than they were last year and should finish top half but their transitional side is unlikely to mount a title challenge straight away.  Martin Palermo’s Godoy Cruz had a fantastic season and should be top half too, along with Arsenal who despite losing key players Lisandro Lopez, Carbonero & Ortiz will be absolutely fine.

Quilmes were the surprise package of last season and did fantastically to avoid relegation.  However, they have lost key men Martin Cauteruccio and Fernando Elizari so hopes will be pinned on playmaker Miguel Caneo and new signing Joaquin Boghossian and will have to settle for mid-table.  Watch out for young striker Diego Diellos who could breakthrough if given the minutes.  Belgrano and Colon should be comfortably mid-table.  Julio Falcioni’s arrival should keep All Boys difficult to beat and will most likely fill the lower half of the table along with Tigre and Rosario Central.

The Surprise Package: 

San Lorenzo are expected to do well but I think they could exceed expectations by finishing top two thanks to their mix of new signings and promising youngsters, while I’m putting my money on Estudiantes to improve significantly and finish top 7.  Rosario Central could also cause an upset or two and they’ll be a welcome addition to the top flight, with Nery Dominguez one to keep an eye on.

Top transfers: 

As previously mentioned, San Lorenzo have done some fantastic business.  Quilmes duo Martin Cauteruccio and Fernando Elizari are great additions and promising players such as Emanuel Mas, Fabricio Fontanini and Juan Cavallaro will bring a youthful vibe to what is already an interesting squad.  River’s acquisitions have also been very shrewd and I’m a big fan of Estudiantes new boy Jorge Luna.  Trezeguet to Newell’s has the potential to be brilliant, as does the return of Mauro Zarate to Velez on a free – probably the pick of the bunch.

Zarate signing is a major coup

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