Argentina’s 2022 football season kicks off Thursday with the return of the Copa de la Liga Profesional, with 28 teams now in the top flight, more than 200 new arrivals and River Plate and Boca Juniors the favourites to take the title.
Following the crowning of the Millonario as the winner of last year’s tournament, local sides have reinforced their ranks for the long season ahead. This year’s championship will follow similar rules to last year’s epic – 28 teams divided into two groups of 14 who play on a single round-robin basis with an extra round (the seventh) of ‘clásicos’ in which teams face their 'interzonal' rivals.
Zone A’s line-up includes Argentinos Juniors, Atletico Tucuman, Banfield, Defensa y Justicia, Gimnasia y Esgrima, Newell's Old Boys, Patronato, Platense, Racing Club, River Plate, San Lorenzo, Sarmiento, Talleres and Union.
Zone B will see clashes between Aldosivi, Arsenal, newcomers Barracas Central, Boca Juniors, Central Córdoba, Colón, Estudiantes, Godoy Cruz, Huracán, Independiente, Lanús, Rosario Central, Tigre and Vélez Sarsfield.
As ever, the nation’s top clubs have been active in boosting their ranks. River have strengthened the most, with the return of Colombian playmaker Juan Fernando Quintero, plus the additions of defenders Leandro González Pírez, Emanuel Mammana, Elías Gómez and Andrés Herrera, as well as midfielder Tomás Pochettino.
Coach Marcelo Gallardo will even be able to count on Julián Álvarez, the jewel that exploded out into the open in 2021. The Argentine youngster signed for Manchester City in the recent transfer window, but the English side has agreed to let him stay at River for the time being on loan. He will provide vital thrust for the domestic champions in the Millo’s league and Copa Libertadores campaigns.
Speaking at a recent press conference, Gallardo said he is “very happy with his “great squad” and is confident the side can “fight on all fronts” for titles.
Arch-rivals Boca Juniors, meanwhile, have added returning striker Dario Benedetto to their squad after a few seasons in European football. Young defender Gaston Avila has also signed, along with other acquisitions such as defender Nicolas Figal, midfielder Guillermo Pol Fernandez and goalkeeper Leandro Brey.
The Xeneize have seen departures too – the most notable being Colombian Edwin Cardona, who moved to Racing Club, and striker Ramón Ábila, who signed for Colón de Santa Fe.
Racing have also been active in the market. As well as adding Cardona, they have also recovered the goals of striker Gabriel Hauche.
After a 2021 that was packed with bad news and poor results, San Lorenzo have hired Pedro Troglio as coach. The side has strengthened its attack in particular, signing Paraguayan forward Adam Bareiro, Malcom Braida, Gonzalo Berterame and Ricardo Centurión.
At the other end of the scale, Independiente, with severe financial problems, have lost Alan Velasco, one of their best players, to MLS side Dallas FC, while captain and star striker Silvio Romero also left for Brazilian side Fortaleza. New coach Eduardo Dominguez will have his work cut out.
The Copa de Liga kicks off on Thursday with Patronato v Argentinos Juniors, Sarmiento v Atletico Tucuman, Central Cordoba v Barracas Central and Newell's v Defensa y Justicia.
Friday's matches are Arsenal v Rosario Central, Velez Sarsfield v Aldosivi, Godoy Cruz v Tigre and Banfield v San Lorenzo.
On Saturday, there are clashes between Huracán v Lanús, Unión v River and Estudiantesv Independiente. Later on, Racing v Gimnasia y Esgrima, Platense v Talleres and Boca v Colón will close out Sunday.