Argentine Primera Division, 2011 Apertura, Week 1 Preview: Velez Begin Title Defense Without Maxi Moralez, Boca Juniors Face Olimpo

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Boca Juniors fans enjoy the atmosphere ahead of the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and Boca Juniors at the Emirates Stadium on July 30, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Godoy Cruz and Velez Sarsfield square off in the marquee matchup of the first week of Argentina's Torneo Apertura, while we wonder how life will go on without River Plate in the top flight

While Major League Soccer's system almost imposes parity and the Mexican Primera Division is widely regarded as the most unpredictable league in the world, the Argentine Primera Division is actually the division in the Americas most susceptible to rapid changes.

Take a look at the fixtures and you won't see River Plate, who were unfathomably relegated. Take a look at the roster of defending champions Velez Sarsfield and you won't see Maxi Moralez, the 5'3" playmaker who has since taken his talents to Italy. Take a look at the roster of the most storied club actually playing top flight football this year, Boca Juniors, and there is a massive Martin Palermo-sized hole that Dario Cvitanich is trying to fill.

River's relegation and the yearly summer sales of some of Argentina's biggest stars have opened up the league, though the big boys like Boca, Velez, and Estudiantes La Plata should all be near the top come December. In Week 1, all of the favorites should be able to get off to good starts.

Godoy Cruz vs. Velez Sarsfield

Saturday, 6:00 pm ET

With Moralez gone to Atalanta and Ricardo Alvarez gone to Inter Milan, Velez will have an attack with a completely different focus for the 2011 Apertura. The club will lean more heavily on second striker Juan Manuel Martinez, while attacking midfielder Alejandro Cabral has returned from Legia Warsaw after the Polish club did not exercise their option to buy the attacking midfielder. Those two and veteran striker Santiago Silva will spearhead the attack, while young striker Jonathan Ramirez could get some opportunities.

Godoy Cruz have been slight overachievers in Argentine football recently, and it wouldn't be surprising to see that trend continue. They boast an extremely strong midfield with Diego Villar and Ariel Rojas, among others, and they might have a candidate for one of the best signings of the summer. Panamanian international attacking midfielder Armando Cooper has arrived from Arabe Unido, and he could turn into a surprising star for El Expreso.

It's hard to predict what Velez will do in a world without Maxi Moralez and Ricardo Alvarez, so it's hard to predict this match. Godoy Cruz should be formidable at home, and a draw appears to be a likely result.

Olimpo Vs. Boca Juniors

Sunday, 7:20 pm

That Palermo-sized hole that Cvitanich is trying to fill? Well, he might be successful throughout the season, but it appears that an ankle injury will keep him out in Week 1. That's obviously good news for Olimpo, who did well to avoid relegation last season with a fourth place finish in the 2011 Torneo Clausura.They would be in a relegation battle again this year...if the Argentine Primera wasn't about to become 38 teams.

Boca lost defender Fabian Monzon to Nice in France, but brought in Franco Sosa from Lorient in that same country to replace him. The rest of their summer signings came from pillaging their neighbors in the Primera, save for their capture of Cvitanich. Juan Roman Riquelme and Sebastian Battaglia are still around and kicking, and it goes without saying that they'll be key to Boca's success this season. 

The blue and gold should be able to get a good result, but Olimpo are no pushovers. Though, it'll be interesting to see how much the should-be-but-aren't relegation fighters care to put in maximum effort this season.

Other matches

Banfield vs. Atletico Rafela - Friday, 6:10 pm ET

Union de Santa Fe vs. Argentinos Juniors - Friday, 8:15 pm ET

All Boys vs. Belgrano de Cordoba - Saturday, 4:00 pm ET

Arsenal de Sarandi vs. Colon de Santa Fe - Saturday, 6:10 pm ET

Newell's Old Boys vs. Estudiantes La Plata - Sunday, 1:00 pm ET

San Lorenzo vs. Lanus - Sunday, 3:05 pm ET

Tigre vs. Racing Club - Sunday, 7:15 pm ET

Independiente vs. San Martin de San Juan - Postponed due to Independiente playing in Japan

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