With Miguel Borja hitting new heights in his debut season and with Salomon Rondon’s recent transfer from Everton, it looked likely Lucas Beltran may be watching from the bench this year.
Yet after scoring four goals in three matches in March the 22-year-old is very much at the forefront of Martin Demichelis' mind, who has done nothing but impress the former Manchester City defender.
A loan spell away from River back in 2021 to league rivals Colon appeared to be the perfect opportunity for the Argentine to grow in confidence and showcase his goal scoring ability.
Yet despite scoring just one league goal in 18 appearances former River boss Marcelo Gallardo wanted his striker back, in order to register him for the next stage of the Copa Libertadores.
His original deal with Colon was set to expire in December 2022 but Beltran re-joined his parent club six months early, expressing his desire to return to Buenos Aires.
A complicated situation was resolved, and Colon reluctantly allowed Beltran to return to River.
Neither side managed to qualify past the round of 16 in the Libertadores in 2022, but opportunities fell the way of Beltran domestically, with Gallardo keen to see more of his striker.
Beltran went on to score four league goals in the second half of the season, including a fitting goal during Gallardo’s last game in charge - a small gesture for his faith shown in the 22-year-old, if you will.
In came Demichelis having managed Bayern Munich’s II team who clearly trusted Gallardo’s judgement of Beltran, but the striker had to bide his time in order to impress the new boss.
A goal in River’s 1-0 victory over Monterrey in a friendly kickstarted Beltran’s relationship with Demichelis - although patience was required in the Primera Division.
A total of 25 minutes off the bench was all Beltran had in his opening five matches, where he was also an unused substitute against Argentinos Jrs.
His first start came in a disappointing home defeat to Arsenal Sarandi, where Beltran was hooked on the hour mark with his side chasing the game.
Back on the bench against Lanus, Beltran utilised his 24 minutes on the bench, scoring his first goal of the season, securing three points for River, kickstarting his recent flurry in March.
Beltran excels at knowing where his opponents are in the box, scanning around the area before making space for himself and picking a corner to slot the ball home.
He then opened the scoring against Godoy Cruz, with a composed touch, turn and finish inside the box. Beltran converted a penalty in the second half to score his first brace for the club.
Another composed finish from the spot against Sarimento Junin secured another three points for River, a match in which Beltran played 84 minutes - the most in one game this season. Miguel Borja was an unused substitute, while Rondon only featured for the final 20 minutes.
The sharp finisher is a menace in the box, and if allowed any time, he's proving to be deadly with his new-found confidence.
A simple scroll on social media will tell you how well-liked Beltran is, with River’s fan base eager to see their young prospect lead the line.
Beltran has grasped his opportunity with both hands, not only scoring key goals of late, but putting in eye-catching performances with his movement and confidence to deliver in front of a demanding audience.
With River currently sitting at the top of the tree after eight games, both Demechilis and Beltran will be delighted with how their early start to the campaign has gone.
It’s early days for both men, who both have similar personal goals in 2023, but so far, so good, for the Argentine duo.