After days of indecision and u-turns, the Argentinian football season is due to kick-off on Friday. In spite of the chaos, however, the title race is always exciting and Jonathan Wilson has the tough task of choosing where to put his money.
Some day, somebody in Argentina will make a decision and stick to it.
But not this week. Today sees the start of the new championship, which the Argentinian Football Association have decided to name after Eva Peron. She follows Nestor Kirchner and General Belgrano in being so honoured. Quite why AFA have decided to do this remains unclear but at least while they're arguing over which famous Argentinian to name the title over, they're not messing up the actual game. On the other hand, there do seem more important things for them to worry about:
hooliganism, corruption and the club's inability to stay out of debt, for instance. And the structure of their championship.
We had thought that this season would be the first since 1991 (when a Newell's Old Boys team managed by Marcelo Bielsa beat a Boca Juniors team featuring Gabriel Batistuta on penalties in a play-off between the winners of the first and second halves of the season) to have a single champion.
After weeks of negotiation and bonkers ideas - a 40-team championship in five groups, a 38-team championship with everybody playing each other once, a round-robin of meaningless games with River Plate and Boca Juniors settling the championship with a series of 15 superclassicos at the end of the season (ok, so nobody actually suggested that last one, but it's pretty obvious there are interests in Argentinian football that would love such a format) - it seemed AFA had settled on doing everything much the same as last year, only with a play-off at the end of the season between the winners of the two halves of the championship.
But then yesterday, two days before the championship begins, AFA changed their minds again. The winners of each half of the championship (is the first half now the apertura again? Or is it under the new name - the old new name - of inicial? Nobody can keep up) will officially be champions. There will continue to be two champions per season. But there will still be a play-off at the end of the season to decide the "superchampion". Argentina's problems with inflation aren't limited to the economy.
Mind, working out how the tournament is structured is still easier than picking a winner. For all its faults - and they are many - Argentinian football does produce consistently entertaining and competitive title races: there have been eight different champions in the last five years, only Velez Sarsfield and Boca Juniors winning twice.
Boca capitulated towards the end of last season, failing to win any of their last three games to hand the title to an Arsenal de Sarandi side who finished the season superbly. Boca also lost in the final of the Copa Libertadores, well beaten by Corinthians and will have to cope not only without Juan Roman Riquelme, who has quit the club, but also the forward Dario Cvitanich, who has returned to Ajax with his loan spell finished, and Pablo Mouche, who has gone to Kayserispor. With Facundo Roncaglia sold to Fiorentina, this looks a much weaker squad than last season. They are 2.1 to win at Quilmes on Saturday, but given the cautious outlook of their coach Julio Cesar Falcioni and the amount of uncertainty around the club that isn't as tempting as it may appear.
Arsenal themselves open up against Union de Santa Fe this evening. They've lost nobody of note - a rarity given the way the vultures usually hover over Argentinian football - and if they can maintain their form from the end of last season, when they won six of the final seven games, could become the first side to win successive titles since Boca won apertura and clausura in 2005-06. Odds of 1.748/11 for them to win tomorrow looks appealing.
And then, of course, there's the return of River Plate after a season of purgatory in Nacional B. It wasn't the most convincing promotion, but they did enough and with the surge of emotion around el Monumental and the arrival of a new and talented goalkeeper in the shape of Marcelo Barovero, signed from Velez, they should surely see off a much-changed Belgrano side in the late game on Sunday. The 2.111/10 available looks astonishingly long on them.