Argentina Apertura: Week 3 Preview

While the top European Leagues feature only two, or in rare cases three, teams capable of winning the title each season, in South America that is not the case. In Argentina's Apertura, five teams have claimed six points from their first two matches, and each side will feel they have the squad to go forward and win the title

Leaders Face Off Friday Night

Two of the sides who have taken maximum points so far kick the weekend friday night when Banfield hosts Estudiantes in the south in what should be a open and exciting tie. Champions in 2008, Banfield brushed aside promoted team Olimpo on the opening match day before getting a late winner to knock off Colón in Santa Fe. Estudianes, the 2009 Copa Libertadores Champions, have yet to concede a goal and were impressive in dispatching Quilmes 2-0 last Saturday, with new signing Hernán Rodrigo López setting up Rodrigo Braña's opener before netting the second himself. The match betwen league leaders will be an interesting battle between midfielder generals Juan Sebastian Veron of Estudiantes and Walter Erviti of Banfield, two of the most impressive stars of the season so far.

Favorites Face The Champs

On saturday, Velez Sarsfield host defending champions Argentinos Juniors in a mouthwatering tie in Liniers. Velez has for many years been arguably the best run club in Argentina, as it has been able to keep hold of the important players while bringing through youngsters, while other big clubs have been forced to sell their most prized assets at such a young age. The continuity at the club make Velez the envy of many other fan bases in Argentina and always gives them a fighting chance to take the domestic championship. The key man for Velez is playmaker Maxi Moralez, the Silver Ball Winner from the 2007 Under 20 World Cup in Canada.

To many pundits, Moralez is the most in-form player in Argentina and deserving of a call-up to the National Team. Moralez came up through the Racing youth system before a short spell in Russia with FC Moscow. Unhappy in Europe, Moralez returned home to Racing and was later purchased by Velez, where he has been the key player ever since. Last week, Frasquito netted a brilliant free kick and set up Juan Manuel Martinez's goal as Velez overcame historic rivals All Boys, in their first season back in the first division in over 30 years. Argentinos will have to keep close tabs on Moralez, and veteran midfield Juan Mercier will have to be the man for the job in the central of midfield. Mercier was one of the better players as Argentinos overcame the odds to lift the trophy last May, and the Tristan Suarez man will have to be at his best with Paraguay international Nestor Ortigoza suspended after picking up a red card against Independiente last week.

Derby In Avellaneda

Saturday night features the first of two Buenos Aires Clasicos, or Derbies, of the weekend when San Lorenzo travel to Avellaneda to battle Racing. San Lorenzo began the season dreaming of glory with coach Ramón Díaz back on the bench for the Cuervos, but the Boedo outfit have managed only a couple of draws in each of their first two matches and will certainly face a difficult task in front of Racing's passionate home supporters. The team of Avellaneda's working class, Racing won the 1968 Intercontinental Cup, but have managed just one trophy since, but this looks like the year that the most loyal fans in the world could finally be rewarded. With a number of new signings such as Colombia international Giovanni Moreno and former Huracán star Patrico Toranzo, Racing look to be one of the top teams in Argentina after so many  years fighting relegation.

El Clásico Of Sunday

On Sunday, the big game of the weekend takes place in Nuñez when River Plate take on Independiente in the Clásico. Like Racing, River's supporters feel this is the year La Banda returns to glory, and the fact that tickets sold out in three hours Thursday shows the optimism surrounding Argentina's most successful club. Unfortunately for River, they cannot call on captain Ariel Ortega who is suspended after picking up a red card against Huracán last week. In his place, Angel Cappa will put 17 year-old wonder kid Manuel Lanzini who is being hyped as the next great star of Argentine Football. Lanzini will join Rogelio Funes Mori and Diego Buonanotte in what is on paper a very potent attack.

Although River has and always will be a team that prioritizes playing a slick passing game and scoring many goals, it has been the defense that has impressed so far. Former Inter and Lazio star Matias Almeyda has been the lynchpin of the midfield, while Juan Pablo Carrizo has returned from Europe to give solidity and confidence to a back four that has been very poor in recent years. Independiente coach Daniel Garnero has only been able to gain one point from two matches, causing some unrest amongst the supporters and it will not be any easier in El Monumental against River.

Boca Under Pressure

On Sunday night, Boca Juniors play All Boys, a match in which both sides will look for their first wins of the season. For All Boys, relegation seems a likely ending to the season, but a victory over Boca could be the perfect morale booster. To achieve a victory, there is no question that goalkeeper and captain Nicolas Cambiasso will have to have a great performance. Cambiasso was key in keeping All Boy's close in their losses to Racing and Velez, and there is no question he will be in for another busy night.

For Boca, coach Claudio Borghi can still not call on playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme, and looks set to give youngster Marcelo Cañete his first start to try and add some speed to the attack. Clemente Rodriguez and Cristian Cellay, two new signings who have failed to impress in their first two matches, look set to be on the bench in order to sure up the back line. A loss or even draw would put immense pressure on Borghi, as Boca currently sits 17 points out of the Copa Libertadores places, and another setback would all but end the dream of playing in South America's premier club competition next year.

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