Club Deportivo Morón caused a huge upset in the Copa Argentina earlier this week, defeating “Big Five” team San Lorenzo to progress to the last 16. The winning goal came in the 86th minute when super sub Leandro Guzmán, who only came on in the 70th minute, sent a superb left-footed shot from the edge of the box into the top corner of Nicolás Navarro’s net. Their reward is a tie against Unión, who defeated Lanús 2-1 in the last 32.
Morón is a city of just under 100,000, located in the Buenos Aires province approximately 20 kilometres west of the capital’s downtown. Deportivo won the Primera B Metropolitana (regionalised third tier, for teams in Buenos Aires) last season by eight points, and will therefore be competing in the Primera B Nacional this upcoming season. Their history is modest, and last season’s title was only their fifth honour since their foundation in 1947.
The Copa Argentina was formed in 1969 in response to the creation of a South American version of the Cup Winners’ Cup. However, it only lasted a year and remained dormant until its relaunch in 2011. Boca Juniors have won three of the six titles contested so far in the cup’s history, with Arsenal, Huracán, and River Plate winning one each. Bizarrely, all games are generally played on neutral territory, with River Plate and Boca Juniors – to appease their nationwide fan base – forced to travel the length and breadth of Argentina. To make the trophy more appealing to clubs, and encourage the top sides not to field weakened XIs, the eventual winners earn a spot in the subsequent Copa Libertadores. As a an added bonus the winners also contest the Supercopa Argentina against the league champions.
The league finally kicks off this Friday evening with a clash between Tigre and Vélez Sársfield. Perhaps the glamour tie is Racing’s short trip to San Lorenzo, as two of Buenos Aires’ Big Five face-off on the opening weekend of the season. The league was originally scheduled to start the week before but was postponed due to problems with unpaid players at several clubs. Unlike previous seasons, it has now been confirmed that the newly named Superliga Argentina de Fútbol will not contain an extra clásico weekend, with each of the 28 teams facing each other once.
With no Copa Libertadores action until the new year for the champions Boca Juniors, expect them to make a strong start to the defence of their title. Los Xeneize have conducted themselves brilliantly in the transfer market, with the pick of the bunch being the acquisition of Colombian Edwin Cardona from Monterrey in Liga MX. So highly thought of is he at the club he has been gifted the legendary number 10 shirt.
San Lorenzo, Lanús, and River Plate are still in the Copa Libertadores, which is down to the quarter-final stage. Typically, it’s been difficult for teams fighting on both fronts and they’ve tended to put their eggs in the continental basket, so we may see a slow start in the league from the aforementioned trio.
As usual, due to economic pressure and the lure of the European market and the riches and prestige that comes with it, Argentina’s talent drain continues in yet another transfer window. Zenit St. Petersburg have seemingly lured all of Argentina’s young talent to the Russian league this summer, signing Matías Kranevitter and Emanuel Mammana from River Plate, Sebastián Driussi from rivals Boca Juniors, and a soon-to-be-completed deal for Independiente’s Emiliano Rigoni. A very sensible window for Zenit, who have tapped into what it is a relatively cheap market for some of South America’s most gifted young players. Zenit will also no doubt have one eye on the sell-on value of these players, which could conceivably double within a year or two once clubs from more prestigious leagues see them up close and know they’ve been able to adapt in Europe.
Elsewhere newly promoted Argentinos Juniors have lost manager Gabriel Heinze as well as star man Estéban Rolón, who is set to join La Liga side Málaga. Promising Estudiantes midfielder Santiago Ascácibar is set to join VfB Stuttgart who are looking to strengthen after winning promotion to the Bundesliga.
As the league continues to be gradually reduced in size, four teams will be relegated this season. The bottom four teams with the lowest average from the last three years will face the drop due to the promedios system. Newly promoted Argentinos Juniors and Chacarita Juniors will start with a clean slate, but will need to get at least one point per game on average to give themselves a chance of a sophomore season in the top flight. Also in need of a good season in order to avoid being candidates for the trap door are Arsenal, Temperley, Olimpo, Huracán, Patronato and Vélez to name but a few.
After fans of England’s Premier League claimed “football is back” last week as if no other leagues exist, lovers of Argentine football can rejoice at last in this weeks league kick-off.