Tuesday, April 29, 2008

San Lorenzo - River: The Preview

River Plate will be facing San Lorenzo de Almagro tomorrow in an extremely important clash for the Round of Sixteen of the Copa Libertadores 2008. "Los Millonarios" should be looking for anything but a loss tomorrow, with the following eleven players aiming for that goal:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Nicolas Sanchez-Eduardo Tuzzio-Cristian Villagra;
Augusto Fernandez-Oscar Ahumada-Matias Abelairas-Rodrigo Archubi;
Radamel Falcao Garcia-Sebastian Abreu

This formation indicates that River will be returning to a classical 4-4-2 formation, something we hadn't seen in a long time. The most surprising part, though, is that Ariel Ortega, Diego Buonanotte, Alexis Sanchez, and Mauro Rosales are all missing from the starting line-up. Many would have been considered it a better choice to field this alternative team last weekend vs. Argentinos Juniors, and put the starters tomorrow. Instead, Diego Simeone has opted to do pretty much the opposite. Despite that, his tactics may seem logical in certain point of views: not only will many players get some rest before the Superclasico, but if the team manages to hold back San Lorenzo and atleast tie, we will have the opportunity to define the game at home. It is obvious that by taking out the more offensive players (mentioned above) and inserting more defensive players (Ahumada, Abelairas, and Archubi), "el Cholo" will be looking to control the home side's offensive flare and leave Carrizo's goal as safe as possible.

Meanwhile, San Lorenzo have been keeping their best for this game. Many starters rested on Sunday vs. Boca (Ramon Diaz's team won 1-0), though they would be present vs. River. The most dangerous player -without a doubt- is Andres D'Alessandro. The ex-River player is full of jukes, precise shots and accurate passes. Add that to the fact that he'll be looking to prove himself to his current team's fans (he was accused of faking an injury in the game against us earlier on this season), making him a huge threat. Forwards Andres Silvera and Gonzalo Bergessio should also be looked after, with the first being a historic goalscorer, and the second being on a good scoring streak as of late.

Unfortunately, Fox Sports en Espanol have decided to broadcast the America (MEX) - Flamengo (BRA) match live instead of ours. This means that to catch the match, one will have to wait till 9:00 PM Pacific / 12:00 AM Eastern Time to watch it on a Tape Delay on the same channel.

Monday, April 28, 2008

River Plate: 4 - Argentinos Jrs.: 2 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate defeated Argentinos Juniors by 4-2 to remain on top of the Clausura rankings alongside Estudiantes. The team was led by an extremely inspired Diego Buonanotte, who scored the first two goals. The other two were scored by Sebastian Abreu and Radamel Falcao Garcia.

The team played well, with Juan Pablo Carrizo once again making some vital saves. Ariel Ortega, who entered the field for the second half, had an overall good performance and boosted the team's collective play. Fortunately, none of the five players with 4 yellow cards (Ferrari, Cabral, Villagra, Abelairas, and Falcao) received a card, and will therefore be present on Sunday's game vs. Boca Juniors.

As a side note, Boca lost this weekend to San Lorenzo, meaning that they are now four points away from the league leaders (River and Estudiantes). The best part about this is that even if we lose the Superclasico on Sunday, they will not be able to catch up to us. What would be even better would be to defeat them: if we are victorious, the "Bosteros" would be left 7 points away, leaving them with smaller chances of lifting the trophy in June.

The goals:

As for transfer updates, they never seem to be missing in the Monumental. Matias Abelairas, for example, was a secondary player at the beginning of the year and was originally not even called up by Diego Simeone for pre-season training with the team. He eventually won himself a spot (due to lack of players in his position) in a few Torneo de Verano games, and since then has been an essential part of the team. Of course the good performances have not only gained us points, but also European clubs that are interested in acquiring the leftie. Schalke 04 of Germany have made their intentions public, though he may end up elsewhere. Radamel Falcao Garcia is also wanted, though his case is different: foreign clubs are after the Colombian every offseason, though River fail to receive any tempting offers. This year may be different though, and Juventus are said to be preparing a $15,000,000 offer.

For now, we must put all these thoughts away and focus on our current plans. An exciting yet tough schedule awaits us, with two fatal matches vs. San Lorenzo for the Copa Libertadores and the Superclasico in between... all to be played in just 8 days. Vamos River!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

River - Argentinos: The Preview

River will be playing Argentinos Juniors tomorrow, in what will be the beginning of the most difficult and exciting weeks of the year thus far: after tomorrow's game, we will be facing San Lorenzo for the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday, and then Boca Juniors for the Torneo Clausura.

Despite risking the prescense of several players in the Superclasico (Cabral, Villagra, Abelairas, and Falcao all have 4 yellow cards), Simeone has decided to field the following eleven players:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Danilo Gerlo-Gustavo Cabral-Nicolas Sanchez-Cristian Villagra;
Leonardo Ponzio-Matías Abelairas;
Mauro Rosales-Alexis Sanchez-Diego Buonanotte;
Radamel Falcao Garcia

Meanwhile, other key players like Paulo Ferrari (also has 4 yellows), Ariel Ortega, and Sebastian Abreu will all be on the bench waiting patiently for their chance. Others such as Eduardo Tuzzio, Oscar Ahumada, and Augusto Fernandez will be missing out due to being suspended.

Argentinos Juniors will intend to prove that they are always a tough side to get past. In certain ways, their 14 points this season may make it seems as if they are underperforming a bit, but they've always given River a tough time: they have won the last two games (2-1 and 4-1, respectively), while "los Millonarios" have only finished victorious once against them since 2005 (six games have been played since then). Our future Copa Libertadores-rivals San Lorenzo even fell in the hands of "el Bicho" last weekend. 'Nuff said.

What's the reason behind their success? The team is full of less-known yet potential players. Alejandro Delorte is a giant who is unstoppable with his headers, while youngster Gabriel Hauche is a very quick foward who is the club's leading goalscorer this season. Meanwhile, others such as Alvaro Pereira should have an eye kept on, for giving them time and space can result in a deadly combination.

The match will be shown live on TyC Sports USA at 10:00 AM Pacific / 1:00 PM Eastern Time.

One may be asking why Alexis Sanchez is the main character in today's preview picture. Unfortunately, the Chilean wonderkid is commencing to attract the interest of several European powerhouses, with Manchester United being the latest club to inquire about him. The British side offered 11 million euros to have Alexis play next to C. Ronaldo, Tevez, and Rooney next season, though the offer was rejected. Still, don't be surprised if Sanchez does not wear "la banda" next season: Sir Ferguson's side are prepared to make a new offer, while Udinese (his owners) are expecting to count on him starting June.

But Sanchez may not be the only player leaving at the end of the season. Augusto Fernandez (pictured behind the Chilean) is one of the main targets for several European clubs during every off-season, and this time it seems as if River won't be able to retain him. He could end up with Fernando Belluschi in Olympiakos, though Sevilla, Lazio, and Fiorentina are also interested in him.

So with Carrizo officially leaving at the end of this season, and Alexis Sanchez and Augusto Fernandez having good chances of departing, all "millo" fans are already starting to miss them. For now, River is one the right path in both continental and league play. Will we be able to do so again next season with a demolished squad?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Confirmed: River to Face San Lorenzo

With all eight groups of the Copa Libertadores 2008 finalized, the eight match-ups for the Round of Sixteen of the most important tournament in the Americas have been confirmed. River Plate have finished as the third best team in the general rankings, and will therefore face Argentine neighbors San Lorenzo. It will be an extremely tough 180 minutes, but to win the Copa you must have the ability to get through all the teams.
The next round of the Copa Libertadores will look as follows:

Fluminense (BRA) vs. Atletico Nacional (COL)
Flamengo (BRA) vs. America (MEX)
River Plate (ARG) vs. San Lorenzo (ARG)
Atlas (MEX) vs. Lanus (ARG)
Cruzeiro (BRA) vs. Boca Juniors (ARG)
Estudiantes (ARG) vs. LDU Quito (ECU)
Cucuta Deportivo (COL) vs. Santos (BRA)
Sao Paulo (BRA) vs. Nacional (URU)

*The full bracket is available here.

An interesting observation is that, depending on the final results of these eight games, we could just well see an all-Argentine/Brazilian Quarter-Finals.

San Lorenzo or Audax: Future Rivals?

After a convincing 5-0 win over Universidad San Martin of Peru, River must now look ahead to the Round of Sixteen of the Copa Libertadores.

Our future rivals are unknown for now. One thing has been confirmed though: it has been reduced to two candidates - San Lorenzo (ARG) or Audax Italiano (CHI). Both are very good teams, assuring River a complicated fixture in the next round of the continental tournament.

San Lorenzo has proven to be a fantastic team. Not only do they have some of the best players in Argentina at the moment (midfielder Andres D'Alessandro, foward Andres Silvera, foward Gonzalo Bergessio, defender Diego Placente, etc.), but they are managed by none other than Ramon Diaz. We have already faced them this semester and won (the match finalized 2-0 in our favor), but nothing is guaranteed to repeat. In fact, since then San Lorenzo have had a great improvement in terms of form, and now find themselves only 3 points away from River in the Torneo Clausura. The positive to facing them would be the fact that they are at a close distance and the squad would avoid jet lag/travel inconviniences.

Audax Italiano, on the other hand, are a less known team to "los Millonarios". Their first major international appearance took place last year, while this edition of the Copa Libertadores could be the first ever that they advance from the group stage. They in no way should be underestimated, though: Chilean wonderkid Carlos Villanueva is the head of the team, and could possess a serious threat to any team. The 22-year old has been performing in a great way over the last few years, and even found a way into the Chilean National Team. Other great players are also available for Audax, who could possibly be one of the surprises of the Copa.

After today's matches between Sportivo Luqueno-Audax Italiano and Sao Paulo-Atletico Nacional, the official fixtures will be known. Make sure to check back later on tonight for updates.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Argentina vs. Mexico - Ticket Information

Argentina and Mexico will be facing each other in a friendly match, to be played in Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California) on June 4, 2008. The match itself will begin at 8:00 PM Pacific Time.

Tickets have officially gone on sale today on Ticketmaster. They are available through a Visa-Presale (Visa cardholders can purchase them now, while others will have to wait till May 5th) at the following link: Argentina vs. Mexico Tickets (Ticketmaster)

The Hinchada Argentina (Argentinean fan base) will be sitting in Plaza Level around Section 52. To purchase tickets in this section, one must follow these three steps:

1) Click the above link.
2) Select the quantity of tickets you'd like to purchase. In the box next to it, select the $30 option.
3) Under section, choose "East End of Stadium".

One should then be offered tickets around Section 52 in Plaza level. These tickets are only $30 (cheap, compared to other tickets that go as high as $300) and are very close to the field. To make things even better, these tickets will allow you to sit with the Hinchada, which will be filled with flags, balloons, drums, and chants!

If you have any questions regarding tickets for this match, feel free to contact me.

*Note: Click on the above picture to get an enlarged view of the seating chart.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rosario Central: 2 - River Plate: 1 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River lost to Rosario Central by 2-1, and therefore lost their unbeaten streak in the Torneo Clausura 2008. Despite initially being up 1-0 thanks to Diego Buonanotte, the home side were able to flip the score with goals by Emilio Zelaya and Martin Arzuaga.

I missed the game, but it is said to have been a good one. A more detailed review is available here, and the goals can be seen below:

As a side note, Argentine newspaper Ole claims that the referree did a poor job - not awarding River a penalty, not giving Central two well-deserved red cards, and subtracting one minute from the original injury time that had been given (played 3 extra minutes, instead of 4). A bit suspicious, but unsurprising nonetheless. As long as it doesn't happen again (especially in two weeks vs. Boca), I won't complain.

Friday, April 18, 2008

River Plate: 5 - Universidad San Martin: 0 - Copa Libertadores 2008

Who said River couldn't play well? After a week of critisizm from the press on River's lack of attractive football, "los Millonarios" -led by an inspired Sebastian Abreu- defeated Universidad San Martin in a game that corresponded to Group 5 of the Copa Libertadores. River only needed a tie to advance to the next round, but the team went farther than that and demolished the Peruvians with a final result of 5-0.

River played a good game in every aspect of the word. From the first minute, it was obvious that the plan was to pressure the away side and pile up the attack. "La Banda" did just that, not allowing San Martin to possess the ball for long periods of time. The midfield was strong, the offense was doing well, and the defense/Carrizo didn't even have to show up to this game considering how little San Martin did.

The Player Review -

Juan Pablo Carrizo: He could have stayed home and it wouldn't have even made a difference. To add to his positives, though, he gained yet another clean sheet -- his eleventh this season!
Paulo Ferrari: The left-back had a good game and efficiently assisted Falcao and Rios in River's second and fourth goals, respectively.
Gustavo Cabral and Nicolas Sanchez: The two central defenders didn't have much to do, but when they did, they got the job done.
Cristian Villagra: "Kity" had an excellent night, often launching some good offensive plays. He deserved a goal, but was unfortunate not to score. The ex-Rosario Central player has managed to keep up his good form and is having a quality season so far.
Leonardo Ponzio: The ex-Newell's Old Boys player had a great game, and keeps on moving up in my books. Everytime he plays, he does not stop recuperating balls and always contributes a little something to the attack. In a way, I sort of hope that Oscar Ahumada gets a two-match extension to his current suspension, just so Leo starts against Boca.
Matias Abelairas: "Pitu" is one of the players who has played most this season, and his statistics provide reasoning for this fact. As if he hadn't already participated in enough goals this season, Abelairas once again assisted Sebastian Abreu in a set piece. Good work by Matias.
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean tried a lot, but did not have one of his best games. Despite that, he still gave a good assist to Abreu in River's first goal.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: The Colombian scored a fantastic goal (2-0) and was very active, running from up and down the field all night.
Rodrigo Archubi: The ex-Lanus player surprisingly started over Diego Buonanotte and did well while at it. He had a few good things here and there, and left an overall good impression.
Sebastian Abreu: A dream night for "el Loco". The Uruguayan scored 3 of the 5 goals for River, hit the post on another play, and gave several good passes. Nothing wrong at all. A great fact: in the last 4 games played by River in the Copa Libertadores, he has scored 6 goals (2 vs. Universidad Catolica -1 in away and 1 at home-, 1 vs. America, and 3 vs. Universidad San Martin).
The Substitutes -
Oscar Ahumada: The defensive midfielder replaced Ponzio and did not fill his role as well. Still, he didn't commit any errors, and atleast he didn't get expelled again!
Diego Buonanotte: The "dwarf" appeared in the second half and brought his jukes and electrifying style of play to the pitch. As usual, he was unstoppable and the rivals could do nothing but foul him.
Andres Rios: The young foward finally received a good opportunity under Simeone's management, and he did not let the chance pass by: he came in with the game 3-0, scored the 4th goal, and assisted the 5th. He also did very well last season with Daniel Passarella, and could eventually by an interesting option to replace Falcao once the Colombian is transfered.

The goals:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

River - Universidad San Martin: The Preview

Tomorrow, River Plate will be playing for their qualification to the Round of Sixteen of the Copa Libertadores 2008. The match will be against Universidad San Martin of Peru and will be held in our home stadium, the Estadio Monumental.

The starting team hasn't been confirmed yet, but the lucky eleven are expected to be the following:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Gustavo Cabral-Nicolas Sanchez-Cristian Villagra;
Leonardo Ponzio-Matias Abelairas;
Alexis Sanchez-Radamel Falcao Garcia-Rodrigo Archubi;
Sebastian Abreu;

The best news, for now, is that Ariel Ortega has once again concentrated with the team for an official match, and even has good chances of being on the bench against the Peruvians. Mauro Rosales will also be returning.

As for the match, River must go out with the idea of not losing. The current standings in Group 5 are the following:

1. America (MEX) - 9 points; +2 goal difference
2. River Plate (ARG) - 9 points; +1 goal difference
3. Universidad San Martin (PER) - 6 points; -1 goal difference
4. Universidad Catolica (CHI) - 6 points; -1 goal difference

A win or a draw will automatically get the team through to the next round, while a loss will make our qualification depend on the final result of the Universidad Catolica-America match. Losing by more than one goal will put River's chances of advancing at great risk, while a 1 goal difference loss will still leave us with chances, though it would be very risky to go out to the field with that mentality. Many expect "los Millonarios" to assure at least one point in front of their home crowd, though recent memories remind us to not get too comfortable.

Due to being played at the same time as the Universidad Catolica-America match, our game will be showed on Tape Delay (the Mexican audience is much larger than any other in the USA) on Fox Sports en Espanol at 9:00 PM Pacific / 12:00 AM Eastern Time.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lanus: 0 - River Plate: 1 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate defeated Lanus by 1-0 in a victory that means more than 3 points: it means rising to the top, with 1 point more than Estudiantes and 4 more than Boca (the two tied this weekend vs. Arsenal and Banfield, respectively).

The match wasn't too entertaining, but River deserved the victory and were successful in obtaining it. The only goal of the game was scored by Diego Buonanotte, though a big part of thte credit should also be given to Juan Pablo Carrizo, who effectively stopped a penalty shot taken by Jose Sand in the second half.

The Player Review -

Juan Pablo Carrizo: As mentioned previously, the future Lazio player played a big role in the win by stopping a penalty towards the end of the game and preventing other clear chances from going into the net. Half way done with the Torneo Clausura, he has only conceded goals in one game (vs. San Martin (SJ)). Another interesting fact: of the 5 penalties he's had to defend in his career, he caught 3 (vs. Rosario Central, San Lorenzo, and Lanus).
Paulo Ferrari: The right-back did not go up to attack very often, but instead committed most of his time defending. He didn't do anything that caught anybody's attention, though - neither in a good or bad way.
Nicolas Sanchez: The best player in defense. The ex-Nueva Chicago player improved considerably as compared to his previous game (vs. America). He was much more solid, recuperating the ball constantly - just as we expected him to.
Gustavo Cabral: Cabral had been one of the most critisized defenders lately, but his absence in the Copa Libertadores proved to be disastrous (the team conceded 4 goals). To top it off, he played a very good game today and committed very few errors.
Cristian Villagra: Decent game, which included some recuperation, but nothing too magnificent. Just like Ferrari, he wasn't allowed to frequently add himself to the team's offense.
Augusto Fernandez: After being injured for a while, the right-winger returned to the first team line-up but proved to not be ready to start. He wasn't too active and missed a clear chance to score when the partial result was still 0-0.
Oscar Ahumada: The defensive midfielder came back from a minor injury and played a great game, stopping every player in his path. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave the pitch in the second half due to being injured again.
Matias Abelairas: "Pitu" didn't look like his usual self today. His shots were off target, his passes were imprecise, and his presence did not signify much importance to the team.
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean was far from having his best game with a River jersey, but this doesn't mean that he didn't put any effort: he ran non-stop and pressured to regain possession (as usual). The excessive amount of minutes he has received in the last few weeks (as well as the long roundtrips to Tel Aviv and Mexico City) are commencing to become noticeable.
Diego Buonanotte: The "dwarf" played another great match to add to his already very good season. Not only did he score the game-winning goal, but he was the player who mostly insisted on opening up the match. He did, though, miss a clear opportunity at the beginning of the game, but his goal and effort recompensated for it.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: The Colombian did not have an overall good game and missed several clear opportunities.

The Substitutes -
Sebastian Abreu: The Uruguayan was surprisingly placed on the bench after scoring vs. America. Unfortunately, what was even more surprising was when he missed a clear one-on-one opportunity by accidently kicking the ground instead of the ball. He is producing a rather unpleasant habit of missing easy goals, and is starting to lose many fans' confidence.
Leonardo Ponzio: Leo replaced Ahumada and did a good job. He continued his streak of good form and almost scored the 2-0 (a great chipped shot that hit the post).
Nicolas Domingo: Not enough time to judge his performance.

The goal:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

America: 4 - River Plate: 3 - Copa Libertadores 2008

America of Mexico defeated River Plate 4-3 in the mystical Estadio Azteca. The match was full of defensive flaws, and could have easily gone one way or another.

River began the game surprising the home side. Not only did Leonardo Ponzio manage to surprise the "Aguilas" with a shot from 40 meters away (hit the post), but "los Millonarios" actually found the net with barely five minutes of gameplay. The goal was scored by Rodrigo Archubi, who had just scored his first goal with "la Banda" on Sunday. The first half would finalize with River holding a 1-0 partial lead, but what wasn't expected was such an electrifying last 45 minutes.

The second half presented fans of both teams with several celebrations and frustrations in just a matter of minutes. Rodrigo Iñigo and Enrique Esqueda were able to flip the score between the 53rd and the 55th minute, but not long after River would put the match back on level terms thanks to an own goal by Diego Cervantes. This caused America to go up looking for more goals, and it was the same Cervantes who was able to recompensate the home fans with a partial 3-2 victory. One minute later, though, the Uruguayan Sebastian Abreu (ex-America player) would once again tie for River. The 18-minute-goalfest would finally finish in the 69th minute, when Salvador Cabañas put the final touch to the final score of 4-3.

One may argue that River might have deserved the three points, but there is no doubt that the defense was worrying. In just 18 minutes, the team conceded 4 goals -- the same amount Carrizo had received in the last 7 games combined. Nicolas Sanchez is definitely not ready to play yet, Nasuti has been showing very poor performances lately, and Paulo Ferrari and Cristian Villagra weren't even seen throughout the night.

The goals:

The quest for the Libertadores continues, but first the team must advance from the Group Stage. All we needed was a draw, but after being unsuccessful, the squad will be looking to fix their errors and find at least one point against Universidad San Martin in two weeks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

America - River: The Preview

River Plate will be facing America in the famous Estadio Azteca tomorrow. The game corresponds to Group 5 of the Copa Libertadores 2008.

Los Millonarios will be missing several players because of injuries: Ariel Ortega, Augusto Fernandez, Mauro Rosales, Diego Buonanotte, Oscar Ahumada, Eduardo Tuzzio, and Gustavo Cabral will all be out due to not being fit. Therefore, Diego Simeone has decided to field the following eleven:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Cristian Nasuti-Nicolas Sanchez-Cristian Villagra;
Leonardo Ponzio-Matias Abelairas;
Alexis Sanchez-Radamel Falcao Garcia-Rodrigo Archubi;
Sebastian Abreu

One of the most interesting points of the match will be to see how well Nicolas Sanchez has progressed from his injury. It is important to note that this will be his first official game since he was injured in October 2007 vs. Defensor Sporting.

As for the midfield, Rodrigo Archubi has won himself a spot for tomorrow thanks to his goal on Sunday (also partially because of all the unavailable midfielders). He will be returning a bit back, making the team have 3 defensive midfielders at times. Sanchez and Falcao, on the other hand, are expected to do the opposite and make a line of three fowards during periods of the game.

Regarding America, the team is arriving in the middle of a huge crisis - one of the largest in the club's history according to many. Think of the 2007 edition of River, but perhaps even worse. The coach and the President of the Mexican side have both agreed that they will resign from their positions at the end of the season, while the squad is also leaving weak promises on the field. Still, this doesn't mean we should underestimate the "Aguilas". We all know what getting big-headed can do (remember our good friends Caracas?), and players like Salvador Cabañas always possess a threat.

The game will be shown live on Fox Sports en Español at 8:00 PM Pacific / 11:00 PM Eastern Time.

As a side note, Universidad Catolica defeated Universidad de San Martin today (1-0 in favor of the Chileans). This leaves the group standings as follows:

1. River Plate: 3-0-1 (6/4, +2); 9 Points
2. CF América: 2-0-2 (6/5, +1); 6 Points
3. Univ. San Martín: 2-0-3 (4/5, -1); 6 Points
4. Universidad Católica: 2-0-3 (4/6, -2); 6 Points

This means that a loss tomorrow will still leave us as one of the two group leaders, while a tie or a win will automatically qualify us to the Round of Sixteen with one match remaining. Vamos River!