BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Diego Milito, whose fine scoring form helped Inter Milan win the Champions League in 2010, is back at Racing Club for the Argentine league season starting this weekend.
Racing have revamped their squad in a bid to end a long slump and kick off on Saturday (01:30 AM BST) against promoted Defensa y Justicia, the side who Racing’s new coach Diego Cocca steered to the Primera B Nacional second-tier championship.
“I had a pleasant surprise when I returned to the club and I like Diego Cocca’s ideas a lot. I have high hopes for the project,” said the 35-year-old Milito, who has signed a deal until December 2015.
The striker said in an interview with TyC Sports that Racing, one of Argentina's so-called Big Five clubs, would need time to bed in their signings under a new coach. “It’s not easy to play well from one day to the next.
“But because of Racing’s greatness, we must do battle, we have to be competitive and measure up,” said Milito, who helped Racing win their last league title in 2001 before embarking on a successful European career.
“As well as my experience of so many important matches, I have added movement in the penalty area to my game. I’ve turned into a box number nine. When I made my debut I was a forward moving across the front of the attack.”
The start of the first division championship was postponed for a week following the death of Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona eight days ago.
The 19-match “Torneo Transicion” (transition tournament) will bridge the half-year period to December before a new 30-team top-flight competition starts in 2015, the brainchild of Grondona.
Only three members of the Argentina squad that reached the World Cup final in Brazil last month return to the domestic stage - Boca Juniors midfielder Fernando Gago and goalkeeper Agustin Orion, and Newell’s Old Boys winger Maxi Rodriguez.
Across wasteland in the Buenos Aires suburb of Avellaneda from Racing’s Cilindro stadium, their arch-rivals Independiente will also be looking for a fresh start after a season in B Nacional following the first relegation in the club's history.
The record seven-times South American champions, Independiente are at home to Atletico Rafaela at their Libertadores de America stadium on Sunday (19:15 PM BST).
River Plate open their defence of the title they won in last season’s Torneo Final when they visit Gimnasia at the Estadio Unico in La Plata (0030 Monday).
Ramon Diaz quit after steering River to the title in May and he has been replaced as coach by another club favourite and former player, Marcelo Gallardo.
Boca Juniors host Newell’s Old Boys on Sunday (2130) without their fans’ favourite Juan Roman Riquelme, who failed to agree terms for a new contract and has returned to his first club, relegated Argentinos Juniors, in the B Nacional.
Boca have strengthened their midfield by signing Chile World Cup midfielder Jose Pedro Fuenzalida from Colo Colo.
San Lorenzo, scheduled to host Olimpo, have had their match postponed because they are playing Nacional of Paraguay in the South American Libertadores Cup final.
The Saints drew the first leg 1-1 in Asuncion on Wednesday and host the second leg at their Nuevo Gasometro ground in Buenos Aires next week.
(Writing by Rex Gowar; editing by Robert Woodward)