Vélez Sarsfield v Newell’s Old Boys
Copa de la Liga 2021
13th February 2021
🏟️ Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
And so a mere 35 days after the end of their last domestic campaign, Newell’s return to competitive action as the new Copa de la Liga 2021 gets underway with a trip to Vélez Sarsfield.
It’s a familiar opponent once again for La Lepra, with the teams last meeting on the 3rd of January 2021 at the tailend of the Copa Diego Maradona.
This upcoming tournament was also supposed to bear the name of the deceased legend of football until legal issues forced AFA to drop their plans and instead revert to simply the Copa de la Liga.
As in previous years, a brand new format has been devised by the powers that be. There’s no point in getting in wrapped up in too much detail but in essence; there’s two groups of 13 teams and the top four teams in each group will progress to a Quarter Finals stage later in the year.
There’s also a Clásico, or derby, played every weekend. They sit outside the normal groups but will impact league points. The Clásico Rosarino comes towards the end of the competition in early May. We’ve discussed the new league format briefly here, but Fanatiz also do a good job of summarising it in this tweet.
While our performance in the Copa will obviously be of importance to Newell’s manager Frank Kudelka, there’s no hiding that our participation on the continental front, in this year’s Copa Sudamericana, is the number one priority.
Ahead of the start of the group stages of that competition, which kick off in April, Kudelka has already dipped into the transfer market.
The signing of Franco Escobar on loan from Atlanta United and Yonathan Cabral on loan from Atlético Tucumán has strengthened the vulnerable Newell’s backline that was exposed game after game in the Copa Diego Maradona. Escobar has grown immensely as a player since leaving Newell’s for the MLS in 2018 and Cabral is the sort of steady muscle that La Lepra have been lacking since the departure of Cristian Lema (who is currently being linked with a return to the club).
Fernando Belluschi has also been brought back to the club after being released by Lanús and his experience at the top level can surely be used to develop young talents like Juan Sforza and Nicolás Castro.
On the departures front, the club has acted swiftly to release the two central defenders whose performances were seen as below par by both the fans and the manager during the Copa Diego Maradona: Fabricio Fontanini and Manuel Guanini. Ángelo Gabrielli has also left the club and Aníbal Moreno, a midfielder tipped for stardom, is on the verge of leaving the club on loan to join Racing.
Newell’s, on paper, already look in better shape than they did a month ago but the ability of the squad to keep fit and the lack of fans in stadiums are two outliers that can’t be controlled and threaten to undermine the campaign, as they did towards the end of 2020.
Vélez v Newell’s Team News
Frank Kudelka has called up new signing Yonathan Cabral for the trip to Vélez and he’s expected to make his debut, along with Manuel Capasso, a signing from last season who struggled with injury from the off.
Franco Escobar and Fernando Belluschi are not ready yet to be included. Youngster Tomas Berardozzi, a 19 year old left-back, has been called up for the first time and there’s also places for Braian Rivero, who has returned to Newell’s after a loan spell in Ecuador, and Julián Marcioni, who helped the Argentine 2nd division side Atlanta instigate a strong promotion push last season while on loan.
Maxi Rodríguez will feature in his 22nd season in professional football.
The big news at Vélez is that they have suspended talented youngster Thiago Almada, along with teammate Miguel Brizuela, after they were accused of sexual assault.
While Mauricio Pellegrino hasn’t been as busy in the transfer market as his opposite number Frank Kudelka, he has brought in Matías de los Santos, a Uruguyan defender from Colombian side Millonarios.
📺 Watch Vélez v Newell’s on Saturday 13 February: Live on Fanatiz
⏰ Kick-off: 19.20 ARG | 22.20 UK