Welcome back to On the Break! Doesn’t real life just get in the way?! It’s 3 weeks since I gave the last update, the end of the 2027 season, and I’ve barely had time to sit at the PC since! Here we are though, ready to get the 2028 season underway!
In theory there’s a lot of potential in this group, but I just don’t see anything I like from them. Rodrigo Costa is supposedly the hot prospect, and he certainly has some positives, but needs a lot of work mentally, and has about 5 or 6 better prospects ahead of him already at the club. For me the shining light is Tristan Devos. The young Belgian goalkeeper has a long way to go and a lot of solid keepers ahead of him, but they’re all approaching 21/22 and needing to either stake a claim or leave, so he has a few years to impress and exceed their talent when he reaches that age.
Last year I had the best transfer window of the save so far; this year hasn’t been as strong, but I have a contender for signing of the save in this group. Santiago Brunel is already capped by Uruguay, is a truly excellent holding midfielder, and we stole him from our rivals on a free transfer. Unreal business. The rest are hit and miss, Juan Manuel Estoyanoff looks a good prospect but doesn’t really fit the system right now, so he’s gone to Cerro Largo to get some game time. Gabriel Correa is probably never going to make it to the first team if I’m honest, but looked okay so we may get some money for him one day, and Maximiliano Falcón is a solid player, but isn’t quick enough to play as the covering CB, which means he’s competing with Carlos Burgos, no mean feat.
Three outs worth mentioning – Luciano Boggio joins our unofficial B Team Cerrito, that’s 6 of our outcasts playing for them now! The fee is underwhelming considering I’ve turned down £1.2m before, but he wasn’t going to feature and it’s the best I could get. Hércules goes back to Brazil for a bit, joining Bahia on loan to play some top flight football, and youngster Darío López joins Liverpool FC in the hope of playing well enough to join our first team next season.
Two Uruguayan Super Cup appearances in 2 years, this time we faced Peñarol with the hope of retaining the title.
We dominated the game in the end, but were poor at the start at deserved to go behind on the half an hour mark. The sending off of Ramos helped us, and Jhon Da Luz put us back on terms with a smart finish. We pushed for a winner but couldn’t find one, so for the second year in a row, it’s penalties!
The friendlies were good again, with a more settled system these days it’s more about getting match sharpness up and having a look at trialists. John Robinson is a player I was desperate to bring in, and he played well in the friendlies he was involved in, but our offer for him was leaked and Peñarol, not content with denying us last year’s title and this year’s Super Cup, stole in and took him. Fuming.
Just as we did last season, we got off to an exceptional start. Beating Peñarol away in the second game of the season was a huge signal of intent, and going on to then also beat Nacional within the first 6 games is massive. Interestingly, both also dropped points in other games, giving us an early and hopefully significant advantage.
The second half of the Apertura looks equally impressive, but we actually got really lucky and could have dropped a lot of points. Three 90+ minute goals earned us an extra 6 points that we could conceivably have dropped as well as the 2 in our draw with Cerrito – yet again unable to beat them.
Peñarol were literally perfect in this same period, and actually after struggling for the opening 4 games they won 11 on the bounce. Nacional have fallen off a cliff, losing 4 winnable games as well as losing to us in the Apertura stage, and it’s hard to see how they’ll put up much of a title challenge this year. Could we be in a two-horse race?
Apertura winners, and my minimum goal of reaching the Championship Play-Off has already been achieved, no matter how the rest of the season goes. That doesn’t mean we’ll rest on our laurels though, if we have a good Intermedio and top the Clausura we can have a clean sweep and avoid a play-off altogether, just as Peñarol did last year.
No qualifying this year, we’re straight back into the Group Stages, where in my opinion we belong now. We’ve mixed it with some pretty big sides over the last couple of years, and proven ourselves more than capable.
Despite being drawn against giants São Paulo, I’m confident of our chances. We’ve faced them 4 times before, losing just once, and I definitely fancy us against Barcelona (not them) of Ecuador and Paraguayan’s Libertad. I don’t think we’re favourites to top the group, but if we don’t qualify I’ll be bitterly disappointed.
Without being one of the elite clubs on the continent, we must be one of those sides that nobody wants to face. A year after knocking São Paulo out of the qualifying rounds, we’ve now taken 4 points from them in the Group Stages. A comprehensive double over Barcelona and the opening 6-0 away at Libertad meant that by the time they beat our rotated side in the final gameweek, we were already through.
Topping the group is an excellent achievement, and although some of the second place sides in other groups arguably should have topped theirs, we’ve avoided some of the very hardest draws. Make no mistake though, whoever we get will be a massive test…
That’s it for this post, we’re off to an excellent start once again, and have a genuine shot at our first title of the save!
Let me know if you think we’ll get it down in the comments, or over on Twitter @adam_otbfm.
Thanks for reading.