Alexa

River Plate and Boca try to bounce back

River Plate and Boca try to bounce back

River Plate and Boca Juniors are the most successful clubs in Argentina, but after a disappointing last season both teams will be aiming to get their Clausura season off to a winning start this weekend.
River and Boca were shut out of titles in 2009 with Banfield taking the Apertura title and Velez Sarsfield the Clausura. So this will be the first time in more than a decade that neither of the "Big Two" teams are playing in the Copa Libertadores, South America's most prestigious club tournament.
This could be a blessing, allowing both to focus on the league.
Of course, there will be World Cup distractions.
Although most of Argentina's national team for the World Cup will come from players based in Europe, local players may also have a chance. First among them is Boca's Martin Palermo, who was a key player in the last two critical World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Uruguay.
In action on the opening weekend, River Plate plays defending champion Banfield and Boca Juniors face Argentinos Juniors.
In the other opening fixtures it's: Newell's Old Boys vs. Independiente; Lanus vs Huracan; Tigre vs. Chacarita Juniors; Racing Club vs. Rosario Central; Velez Sarsfield vs. Colon; Estudiantes de La Plata vs. Arsenal; Godoy Cruz vs. Gimnasia y Esgrima; Atletico Tucuman vs. San Lorenzo.
River's main problem will be replacing its best player, midfielder Diego Buonanotte. He suffered life-threatening injuries when a car he was driving on Dec. 26 crashed, killing the other three people in the vehicle. He'll miss the entire season.
River has some new blood. Off the field, the club elected Daniel Passarella as its new president in December. His main job will be to reduce a deficit reported to be $39 million.
On the field, new signings include Uruguay defender Juan Manuel Diaz from Copa Libertadores champion Estudiantes de La Plata, Paraguay midfielder Rodrigo Rojas from Olimpia and forward Gustavo Canales from Union Espanola de Chile.
"The important thing is for this group to maintain its ambition," River coach Leonardo Astrada said.
Boca has problems even before the season opens.
Alfio Basile quit last week as Boca's coach following a dispiriting 3-1 loss against River Plate in a pre-season match. To add to the turmoil, club manager Carlos Bianchi resigned following Basile's departure.
Reserve team coach Abel Alves takes over.
"Things aren't going badly because the players don't want that to happen," Alves said. "Clearly, Boca has the material to go forward."
Boca's only additions during the offseason are midfielders Jesus Mendez (Rosario Central) and Matias Gimenez (Tigre). Both may fill in for Sebastian Battaglia, who had surgery on his right knee and will be out until at least April.
Boca midfield playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme is doubtful for the opening match with an injury to his right foot.
Defending Apertura champion Banfield will have a hard time keeping pace with the so-called "Big Five," none of whom will be playing in the Copa Libertadores: River, Boca, San Lorenzo, Independiente and Racing.
Runner-up Newell's is hoping to reach the group stage of the Libertadores, as is Colon. Both play in qualifying round games.
Defending Copa champion Estudiantes, Velez Sarsfield, Banfield and Lanus are guaranteed places in the group stage.