…The end of my trip round Spain, at least. And, just possibly, for Juan Román Riquelme’s freezing-out of Villarreal’s first team. But definitely not for Juan Pablo Sorín’s career, according to the man himself, and neither for both River’s and Boca’s challenges for international honours.
We’ll go through those in order: I’m flying back home tomorrow, so depending on the number of internet cafes in Madrid’s airport, there may not be any posts until later on, but from Thursday onwards Hasta El Gol Siempre will be returning to normal – which, for readers who’ve only come across us in the last six weeks, means it’ll be getting better. Lower division coverage will return, and I’ll be adding league tables and one or two other things to the site in the next week or so.
Now, Riquelme. This site was set up to cover a league which doesn’t normally get much regular press in the English language, but it doesn’t need such a specialist remit for our readers to be aware that about five weeks ago, José Mourinho ceased to be Chelsea’s manager. His long-term replacement, according to some press reports today? No, not J.R.R. But Manuel Pellegrini, the man who’s taken such a dislike to Román, could be about to start work for his adversary’s near-namesake, Abramovich. According to Pellegrini’s agent, ‘a little while ago a few people from Chelsea made contact to ask about him and something may become more concrete in the future.’ Any such deal would probably see the former River and San Lorenzo manager take charge at Stamford Bridge from the start of next season, but Pellegrini himself was at pains to stress that right now, he’s only thinking of Villarreal. All the same, with precisely none of Europe’s big clubs prepared to match the club’s valuation of Riquelme in the summer transfer market, this might prove the easiest way to separate the two…
Juan Pablo Sorín, meanwhile, hasn’t been arguing with his club manager, but has still made the papers in his current country of residence for reasons he’d rather not have reported. German sports daily Kicker reported this week that an infection to his knee was set to force the former River left back-cum-midfielder-cum-winger into early retirement, but they’ve been set straight by Juampi himself.
‘Nonsense,’ was Sorín’s blunt reply when asked about the reports. ‘I don’t know if there’s been some problem with translation or what, but I’ve not been treated for any infection.’ Sorín, who captained Argentina during the last World Cup, clarified that he’d been operated on for an inflamation in his knee which has been bothering him this season, but has emphasised that he’s absolutely not retiring, and even hopes that now the discomfort is hopefully behind him, he can set about winning back his place in the selección, for whom he’s not played since his move from Villarreal to Hamburg at the start of last season.
There are more immediate matters at hand, meanwhile, for the two domestic giants, both of whom are thinking today of international trophies rather than the clásicos they’ve each got to play in the league at the weekend. River Plate take on Defensor Sporting in the second leg of the Copa Sudamericana quarter-final in the Monumental tonight, with two away goals and the knowledge that despite a first leg draw, their home form thus far this season will have the Uruguayans worried. With a better chance of winning the Sudamericana than the Apertura, Daniel Passarella’s set to field virtually a 4-2-4, with Ariel Ortega likely to be dropping deep to fulfill playmaking duties to turn the formation into something a little more like 4-2-1-3. Since even one of those two in the middle is Fernando Belluschi, though, we can expect some goals tonight.
Boca, meanwhile, look set to take a bit of a gamble in the weekend’s clásico with Racing. Boca’s opening match of the World Club Championship (or whatever FIFA are calling it this year) in Japan, against Pachuca of Mexico, is still 44 days away, but already Miguel Russo seems to have the starting XI in mind. This may seem odd to our European readers, but South American clubs take the competition a lot more seriously than European sides do in the money-obsessed post-Champions League era. Still, it’s a mark of how little Boca think of their own chances on the domestic scene that Russo already seems prepared to use the league to prepare for the challenge of (hopefully) facing Milan in the final in December. To this end, Leandro Gracián will be playing on Saturday, whilst Nero Cardozo looks set to be benched for Sebastián Battaglia.
River Plate starting XI for tonight’s match vs. Defensor Sporting (manager: Daniel Passarella)
Ferrari —- Sánchez —- Tuzzio —- Ponzio
Ahumada ——– Belluschi
Abelaires —- Rosales —- Falcao García