Newell's Old Boys vs Independiente
Newell's to claim an early win in the relegation battle
Newell's have made the one real star signing of this year's winter break, bringing back their former player Maxi Rodriguez from Europe, where he's impressed for both Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. They've lost a few players, but none look totally irreplaceable (Hernan Pellerano is likely to be the most missed), and manager Gerardo Martino will be looking to build on an impressive Clausura.
Independiente let getting on for twenty players go over the winter, most notably star forward Patricio Rodriguez. Bringing in Victor Zapata from Velez and Paulo Rosales from Union among several others should strengthen their midfield, though. They have a few injury doubts, so the new boys will have to step up quickly.
Suspended: Osmar Ferreyra (sent off in previous match)
Doubtful: Martin Benitez (left ankle); Jonathan Santana (right knee); Cristian Tula (right hamstring)
Injured/unavailable: Adrian Gabbarini (right knee)
Argentina's unique, three-season-long relegation table means that this match, on the first weekend of the season, is a big relegation battle. Not counting the two newly-promoted sides, Quilmes and River Plate, who both start from zero, these two sides are the two lowest-placed in the relegation table.
With the changes to the league this season meaning the bottom three teams in that table will be relegated automatically (no playoffs any more). Form so far in 2012 suggests Newell's are better situated to make the early running in this race; they finished twelve points ahead of Independiente in the Torneo Clausura, and Maxi Rodriguez's return to the club has been an enormous boost to the red-and-black half of Rosario – he's helped them to a few wins already in pre-season. Another aspect of the form book is in Newell's favour here, too; Newell's were unbeaten in their last seven home matches of the Clausura, whilst Independiente were winless in their last seven away games, and have been poor in pre-season too; they were lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw from a 'friendly' derby match against Racing last weekend. I think that pattern will continue here, and that the hosts will claim a victory.
HEAD TO HEAD
Newell's have won four of their last ten matches against Independiente in the league, whilst today's visitors have won three. There have been three draws.