Welcome to my latest post which is the first post of season 2 with Racing Club. Has I write this post I am still buzzing from this afternoons FM game time which I experienced the full emotions that this game throws at you. Has you have already figured out from the title of this post we have won the Copa Libertadores the pinacle of South American club football. I have redesigned the cover of El Grafico to celebrate our famous win which is the clubs second Copa Libertadores title after winning it in 1967. Lisandro Lopez with 13 goals in the competition was our hero has he turned back the years with some clinical finishing that gained him the golden boot with the pinacle being in the 2nd leg of the Final were he scored an hat-trick to bring the Libertadores home to Avellaneda.
Wednesday 8th August 2018 and an away trip to play Atlético Peñarol the Uruguayan champions which I had to make a few changes due to injuries and suspensions but I was confident we still had enough about us to go and get a result right, wrong we left with our tails between our legs suffering a 3-4 defeat that had me worried as we looked a long way off from last seasons solid team. I realised we had work to do on the training ground with 2 weeks before the 2nd leg I decided to put faith in the 3-4-3 system that I had been working on with the reserve team last season. We focused on defensive positioning in training and set about overturning the 1st leg defeat in the Cilindro. We started well and found ourselves overpowering our visitors and went in at the break 4 up and cruising with Lopez netting a 40 minute hat-trick. Lopez added his 4th in the 2nd half and we ran out 5-0 winners advancing to the next round.
The 3rd round draw (Quarter-final) was pretty kind to us avoiding the bigger sides, we drew with no disrespect Columbia’s Atletico Nacional which we dispatched comfortably 2-0 and 1-0 to set up a mouth-watering Semi Final against Botafogo of Brazil a team who I knew very well from FM16. What I did know and have analsed is that the Brazilians don’t like going up against three strikers so I was ready to hit them with the 3-4-3 system that allowed me to play Lopez,Martinez and Walter up top. The 1st leg was away and after just 10 minutes I knew we had a game on our hands this was end to end football and on the stroke of half-time we got the breakthrough and away goal with Nehuén Peréz capitalising on an error by Luis Ricardo to put us in front at the break. “We are doing well boys but don’t get complacent” was my message at the break and just 12 minutes after the restart we were 2-0 up thanks to a deftly executed finish from Lautaro Martinez. We were playing well and I felt we would get a third and then Botafogo got one back in the 62nd minute and the game changed, I was stuck with a dilemma do I stick or twist, close the game down or go for a third? I chose the latter figuring that Botafogo would push for an equaliser and we would catch them on the break. How wrong was I ? Very wrong and you know how football sometimes throws up them funny twists well Botafogo forward Roger who on FM16 I terminated his contract because I thought he was over the hill only went and scored an equaliser in injury time with the last kick off the game. Botafogo 2-2 Racing Club.
The 2nd leg in the Cilindro was just as much a cracking game to watch with Botafogo silencing the Avellaneda faithful with Rodrigo Pimpão goal after just 6 minutes, Botafogo had come with a plan and frustrated us early on however captain El Simbolo Lopez equalised in the 24th minute 1-1. The game ebbed and swayed and then in the 44th minute Maximiliano Lovera found an unmarked Lautaro Martinez with a slide pass that cut the Botafogo defence in half for Martinez to cooly finish what proved to be the winning goal. Racing Club 2-1 Botafogo (agg 4-3) We had reached the Final.
The Copa Libertadores final was an all Argentine affair with us going head to head with Boca Juniors with the 1st leg at home in Avellaneda. The country was buzzing with excitement with the continents premier competition guaranteed to be won by an Argentinian club and after the 1st leg it looked like Boca Juniors would be that club has they came to the Cilindro and claimed a 2-0 win which put them in poll position ahead of the 2nd leg in the atmospheric La Bombonera were I decided to go on the offensive with 3 strikers in our 3-4-3 system that caused Boca problems from the kick off. We went in at half time with a slender 1-0 lead thanks to a cooly taken penalty scored by Lisandro Lopez. After the restart it was Lisandro Lopez who put us 2-0 up and level the tie up 2-2 on aggregate after 56 minutes, we were now looking confident and scored a 3rd in the 80th minute courtesy of substitute Brian Fernandez. It was a vital 3rd away goal meaning Boca had to score twice in the last ten minutes of the game, however it was to be Lisandro Lopez who completed his hat-trick in time added on to win us the game 4-0 on the night that overturned the 1st leg defeat and win us the Copa Libertadores. It was to be a proud moment for the club and our captain El Simbolo.
A brace from Brian Fernandez gave us a 2-0 lead to take in to the 2nd leg at River Plate’s El Monumental stadium but the forward could have had an hat-trick had he not missed from the Penalty spot. We had both Marcelo Meli and Ivan Pillud sent off in an heated game that had multiple yellow cards.
The 2nd leg in Rivers back yard was a real backs to the wall performance from us has we showed we are not just a pretty side has we broke the game up time after time to come away with a 0-0 draw with ten men to claim the Recopa Sudamericana.
With all our attention on bringing the Copa Libertadores to Avellaneda it would have been easy to have not been on song in the Superliga but we finished the first half of the season just 2 points behind Boca in 2nd place. With Lisandro Lopez in scintillating goal scoring form in the Libertadores I used him a lot less in the league to keep him fresh but both Walter and Lautaro Martinez stepped up to the plate to keep us within touching distance at the top. We lost 2 games both on the road and both by a single goal 0-1 to both San Lorenzo and River Plate. The 2nd half of the season will see us try and concentrate on the league but with the 2019 Copa Libertadores group stage about to be drawn it will be difficult to balance defending our Libertadores crown and mounting a title challenge but that is our goal,
The Fifa World Club Cup provided us with the opportunity to test ourselves with a Semi Final against Mexico’s Tigre UANL which we came through with flying colours in a 5-2 win with goals from Walter 2,Lopez, Barieri and a Vargas own goal. The win put us in to the final were we would play Atlético Madrid meaning a reunion with Racing old boy Diego Simeone. The 43,000 crowd did not have long to wait for a goal has Mario Fernandes put the Spanish side 1 up after just 5 minutes but we responded well and got an equaliser just 3 minutes later when Walter finished from close range. It looked like we would go in level at the break until Antoine Griezmann breached our defence to put them up at the break. The 2nd half was to be a tough one for us has we failed to break Atlético down and then spurned a chance with 20 minutes to go when Lopez shot wide. In the end we came up short against a well drilled Simeone side who held on to win the game and be crowned Fifa World Club winners.
When you are successful it’s only natural that your players get courted by the bigger club’s in the World and that is what as happened to us and the first player to leave us is Copa Libertadores best player Matiás Zaracho who has joined Bayern Munich for £25.5m a fee which was just too much to turn down especially once the players head had been turned. I have a philosophy that if a player wants to move and I can’t persuade him to stay then I will not stand in their way and this was the case again with both Santiago Rosales who moved to Internazionale for £9m and Walter González who also moved to Italy joining Napoli for £18m taking our fees received to £53m during the transfer window which puts the club in a good financial position.
We did dip our toes in the transfer window by bringing in 21 year old versatile midfielder Juan Bautista Cascini for a fee of £3.4m from Estudiantes.
With the sale of Walter an opportunity for someone to step up and take his place has presented itself to Brian Fernandez, Rodrigo Amaral and Pablo Cuadra. Cuadra has been scoring for fun in the reserve side and will get the chance in the 2nd half of the season to step up to the big time.
The Story So Far
2018-2019 Racing Club
Copa Libertadores Winners
Recopa Sudamericana Winners
Fifa World Club Cup Runners-Up
2017-2018 Racing Club
Copa Sudamericana Winners
Copa Argentina Winners
Superliga Argentina Runner-up
Super Copa Argentina Runner-up
Racing Club Statistics To Date
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and an Happy New Year and hope you will join me again soon has we look to track Diego Milito in his managerial career which as started well, Milito’s good start as not gone unnoticed with a number of European Clubs expressing an interest in him.