Podcast 26: Argentina’s 2009 Clausura Championship

After a thrilling end to the Argentinian apertura season in December, football returns to Argentina with the clausura season this weekend and languagecaster looks at some of the players and teams that will feature. We also …

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After a thrilling end to the apertura season in Argentina last year, which ended in a three-way play off between Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo and Tigre, in which Boca triumphed, it’s time to restart the rivalries as the clausura season gets underway this weekend. Now, those three teams are from Buenos Aires, the heartland of Argentinian football, and with twelve of the twenty teams in the top division coming from the city at the mouth of the Uruguay River and the Parana River, it is unlikely that a team from outside the region will win the Championship this time round, although Newell’s Old Boys from Rosario, 300 km northwest of the Buenos Aires, and Estudiantes from La Plata, southeast of the capital, could go close.

So let’s take a look at some of the news before the season kicks off.

Well, River Plate will be hoping that the return of Ariel Ortega, their former star, from Independiente Rivadavia, and Marcelo Gallardo from MLS team DC United, will inspire their team to forget the disaster of last season. They finished in last place after having won the clausura in 2008. To make matters worse, as already mentioned, their bitter cross-town rivals, Boca, lifted the Championship. It remains to be seen how Ortega gets on with coach Simeone after the public disagreements that led to el Burrito being ‘advised’ to leave River last year

While Carlos Ischia remains as coach, Boca will be boosted by the arrival of a new director of football, Carlos Bianchi. Bianchi has coached in Europe with AS Roma and Atletico Madrid, and more successfully in Argentina with Velez Sarsfield, his old team, and Boca. They look like the team to beat especially after beating River Plate 2-0 in a pre-season warm up earlier this week.

Estudiantes de la Plata – the rat stabbers – scraped through to the next round of the Copa Libertadores with an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Sporting Cristal of Peru: goal difference saved them, and on this showing they look unlikely to mount a serious challenge in 2009.

Tigre and Newell’s Old Boys clashed in an exciting game this week, with the team from Rosario, Old Boys, beating the outfit from the capital. While Tigre have come close to winning the championship in the last few years, my money is on the old powerhouse from the barrio, San Lorenzo to wrestle the crown from their more, recently, illustrious Buenos Aires rivals, Boca. Could they regain their glory days of the early seventies when their players were courted by teams like Barcelona and their free-flowing style of play captured the imagination of the Argentinian footballing public? Probably not, but they may sneak the Apertura in 2009.

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