Although the Copa América has only just finished, it is time for club football again with the Paraguay Clausura kicking off on 16th July with Sportivo Luqueño vs Cerro Porteño.
What follows is a club-by-club guide for the main contenders including some of the key movements during the transfer window. To learn more about each club’s history be sure to check out this page.
2021 Apertura: 1st
Daniel Garnero made history in the Apertura by becoming the first manager to win the Paraguayan league title with three different clubs. You can read more about that league title win here. The Gumarelo will have sights set on Copa Sudamericana and with that in mind they’ve strengthed their squad which will also aid the Clausura campaign. Chilean midfielder Marcelo Díaz a two-time Copa América winner and Uruguayan right back Camilo Mayada a Copa Libertadores champion were joined by former Benfica & Spartak Moscow man Lorenzo Melgarejo. The experienced core throughout the lines of Martin Silva, Cristian Javier Báez, Daniel Bocanegra and Tacuara Cardozo will be complimented with the youthful exuberance of Julio Enciso, Hugo Martínez and Rodrigo Bogarín.
One to Watch: Tito Villalba – with Antonio Bareiro injured it is likely we will see Villalba get plenty of game time on the right side of midfield. His searing pace and technical ability will cause problems to local defences.
Predicition: Top 3, only thing stopping a title challenge is if they go deep in Copa Sudamericana
2021 Apertura: 2nd
El Decano begin their third consecutive season with a different manager as Sergio Órteman looks to try and build some kind of consistency in the side that has not quite managed to click this year. The club has been publicly linked with financial problems so the only major signings so far have been Víctor Salazar on a free transfer, the right back joins from San Lorenzo of Argentina, and Edgardo Orzusa who joins from Nacional. They do have the advantage, compared to the Apertura, that Derlis González is fit and most of the side has been doing a full preseason in Encarnación rather than having to travel to Brazil with the National Team.
One to Watch: Braian Ojeda – if the central midfielder can stay injury free he could be a key player in the Clausura.
Prediction: Title challengers, could well win the Clausura should Libertad stay distracted.
Club Cerro Porteño
2021 Apertura: 4th
Chiqui Arce arguably has one of the best XIs in the league, but his squad depth wasn’t strong enough to compete in both league and Copa as they faltered in their title challenge to ensure qualification to the Last 16 of the Libertadores. They’ve tried to address that somewhat with the signings of Luis Fariña, Adrián Martínez, Fernando Romero and Rafael Carrascal to provide cover in midfield and attack. While the defence hasn’t been bolstered, in fact they’ve lost Santiago Arzamendia to La Liga, they can now count on Brazilian goalkeeper Jean who will be eligible for league games. However, last season the Lucena-Villasanti midfield duo were key and with both players featuring heavily for the Albirroja they won’t be well-rested, that could be a deciding factor in the fate of their league campaign.
One to watch: Robert Morales – brilliant in the Apertura and all eyes will be on the young striker from Concepción who can both score and create space for his strike partner.
2021 Apertura: 3rd
Hernán Rodrigo López’s side were brilliant in the Apertura, their high-pressing style and the form of Leonardo Villagra, who finished topscorer, took them close to unsettling the major leaders. Led by 38-year-old Cristian Riveros in central midfield they showed much more intensity than most sides in the league. The lack of squad depth and likelihood that more talent could be departing (as mentioned above Orzusa has already moved to Olimpia) makes it improbable they go better than the Apertura.
One to Watch: Carlos Espínola – a young attacking right-back that really caught the eye and fits well with López’s high-tempo style.
Prediction: 5th or 6th
2021 Apertura: 6th
The Gustavo Costas era has ended after two years but Guaraní have managed to tempt back Spanish coach Fernando Jubero who started his managerial career with the aurinegro. They’ve added some real experience in the middle with the Cáceres brothers, Marco (35 y.o. central defender) and Víctor (36 y.o. central midfielder) while also picking up full back Rodi Ferreira and forward Alfio Oviedo. They have surprisingly held onto Rodrigo Fernández Cedres who has formed a strong partnership with José Florentín in midfield.
One to Watch: Rodi Ferreira – the attacking right back was hot property when he broke through at Olimpia as a teenager, his career went on a downward curve but now reunited with Jubero who he played most games under he could surprise many.
Prediction: Top 3 thanks to the Fernando Jubero influence and no continental distractions.
2021 Apertura: 8th
The auriazul are in real danger of relegation which would be unthinkable in their centenary year. With a new President in charge they’ve embarked on an ambitious recruitment project bringing in eight players at the time of writing. Local talent Rodolfo Gamarra, Miguel Samudio and Blas Díaz are complemented by foreign expertise in the Argentinian trio of Jonathan Schunke (34 y.o. defender), Nazareno Bazán (22 y.o. forward) and Iván Colman (26 y.o. midfielder). There is a sense that this is a new start for the club with the change in leadership having languished for several seasons, I for one have faith in this new order.
One to Watch: Diego Huesca is a 20-year-old goalkeeper who was born in Encarnación but has been formed in Spain mostly at Valencia. He also represented Paraguay at the U-17 World Cup in 2017.
Prediction: Top 5 and avoiding relegation
2021 Apertura: 5th
The team from Villarrica began the season surprising everybody losing just once in their opening 10 games with a defensive counter-attacking style that was hard to breakdown. But in the second half of the Apertura that manifested into a lot of scoreless games (three of last four fixtures were 0-0). With striker Fernando Romero moving to Cerro the goalscoring could become an issue. They probably won’t manage top half this year but certainly not a side to write off.
One to Watch: Junior Marabel – a striker that has always shown promise but not quite clicked in his time at Cerro Porteño or Capiatá, but maybe now at 23 he will have the experience and tactical ability to provide the goals Guaireña will surely need.
Prediction: Sniffing around Sudamericana
Notes on the remaining three
12 de Octubre have probably done enough to play the Clausura without a threat of relegation, assuming they achieve around 20 points again they should feel safe. They brought in some experience in Jorge “Torito” González & José Ortigoza (Forwards) and Danilo Ortiz (Central Defender). Sol de América need to outperform Luqueño to stay out of relegation playoff place but it seems a tough task, they picked up GK Nico Campisi from their direct rival and have brought in central defender Jorge Aguilar from Necaxa in Mexico. River Plate are all but doomed to return to Intermedia after three years (six seasons) in Primera.
By Ralph Hannah