Piling on the pressure, and taking a break

Contrasting Fridays for Daniel Passarella at River Plate, and for the players who’ve succeeded him and the generation of ’78 in the national team. The selección were given a free morning before tomorrow’s World Cup qualifying opener against Chile, but Passarella might not be so relaxed after comments from River’s president…

José María Aguilar, whose own position at the club isn’t exactly comfortable following the scandals of the season so far and the dissaffection of the fans with his presidency, commented on Friday that, ‘I’d love it if River could play with the same team that beat Boca [in last Sunday’s superclásico] from here until the end of the year.’ It seems like common sense – River played superbly to comfortably beat their great rivals, the reigning South American champions. And Aguilar also identified the bleeding obvious, that River’s problem has been in their away matches (they’ve drawn just one and lost none at home, demolishing some teams with ease, whilst having failed to notch a single victory away).

Will Passarella be happy about this, though? Because when presidents start making any sort of comment about team selection, managers don’t tend to be too delighted. It’s an attitude which made Real Madrid a laughing stock this summer even after they won back the Spanish league title, and one which has seen no end of controversy at Chelsea both before and after Jose Mourinho’s departure. They seem to me to be the comments of a weak president determined to try and transfer a little more pressure onto an even weaker manager. Passarella, presumably, will continue to pick the team, and injury permitting he’d surely love to keep the same players who beat Boca. But time will tell.

Argentina, meanwhile, were given a morning off training at Ezeiza, and will train behind closed doors later on in the day. Carlos Tevez has been scoring well for the ‘starters’ against the subs in previous training sessions this week, and thus the puzzle as to which of the forwards is best to start alongside Lionel Messi up front is closer to being solved. Tevez has developed a good understanding with both Messi and Juan Román Riquelme this week, apparently, and they’re likely to form the starting three for the attack, with the ostracised Villarreal playmaker in behind the two little men.

In Spain, meanwhile, Atlético de Madrid have been talking with the agent of another of tomorrow’s possible attackers, Sergio Agüero, in efforts to extend his contract. El Kun currently has a minimum fee release clause of 36 million euros, and Atlético want to give him a new contract with that fee much increased before a bigger club get hold of him. Even Argentina’s substitutes are in demand – Marcelo Bielsa’s return to Buenos Aires, as Chile’s manager, isn’t going to be easy, whoever plays…

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