Campeonato de Clausura 2011: Final Preview

The 2011 Clausura season comes to its conclusion in the next few days with Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa playing off in a two-legged final to determine who will be crowned champion. In honour of this we take an in-depth preview for the matches to be played on Monday and Thursday Chilean time.

For the second time this year it is one versus two in the final two games of the season with the irresistible force that is Universidad de Chile hosting a resurgent Cobreloa, who have reached their first playoff final since the 2004 Clausura final. For a team that has only been existence since 1977 Cobreloa has an impressive record winning eight Primera Division titles and are the most successful team outside of the Chilean capital and the fourth most successful overall behind the big three. Their opponent, Universidad de Chile has been a force to be reckoned with since taking out the Apertura final. They subsequently went on a thirty-six match unbeaten run (which includes that second leg of the Apertura final) that included a Copa Sudamericana triumph, which was their first and Chile’s second continental triumph. They will be hoping to add to their trophies this year with a fifteenth Primera Division title.

At the end of the regular season the two teams were separated by a margin of eight points which more than anything reflected the dominance of La “U”. Cobreloa bounced back from a poor Apertura campaign where they finished fifteenth to finish ahead of the likes of Colo Colo, Audax Italiano and Universidad Católica. Universidad de Chile maintained their impressive goal scoring record for the year by matching their thirty-nine goals of the Apertura campaign with Francisco Castro, Gustavo Lorenzetti and Eduardo Vargas being their top scorers during the regular season. For their part los mineros scored twenty-seven goals for the season with Paraguayan Diego Barrios and Hugo Lusardi being their top marksmen. Both team’s defences are evenly matched with los azules conceding fifteen whilst Cobreloa let in seventeen during the regular season.

Last three meetings

Round 3, 2011 Clausura Season

U. de Chile 3-1 Cobreloa (G. Lorenzetti (UCH) 14′ & 71′, H. Lusardi (CBA) 58′, E. Vargas (UCH) 81′)

Round 3, 2011 Apertura Season

Cobreloa 1-4 U. de Chile (E. Puch (UCH) 20′ & 89′, D. González (CBA) 63′, E. Mena (UCH) 70′, G. Canales (UCH) 77′)

Round 28, 2010 Season

U. de Chile 3-1 U. Católica (D. Rivarola (UCH) 17’, J. González (UCH) 19′, F. Seymour (UCH) 34′, D. González (CBA) 57′)

Finals history

Since the playoff system came into effect Cobreloa and Universidad de Chile have only met once in the final playoff. That was for the 2004 Apertura title, where los azules defeated their rivals 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the two-legged final finished 1-1.

Players to Watch

Jhonny Herrera (U. de Chile)

Whilst the likes of Eduardo Vargas, Gustavo Lorenzetti and Charles Aranguiz have grabbed much of the attention for Universidad de Chile this Clausura season the efforts of their outspoken goalkeeper, Jhonny Herrera cannot go unheralded. During their successful Copa Sudamericana campaign La “U” only conceded two goals and much credit can be laid at the feet of Herrera, who came to the aid of his team-mates time and time again. An excellent shot-stopper Herrera is also fearless in the air and commands the area like few others. If it wasn’t for his criticism of national team manager, Claudio Borghi, Herrera could very well be wearing the No.1 for his country.

Diego Barrios (Cobreloa)

Joining los mineros at the start of the season, Paraguayan Diego Barrios has made an instant impression at his new club by leading their goal-scoring charts with nine goals in seventeen appearances. With the absence of fellow Paraguayan Hugo Lusardi from the first playoff game due to suspension, much will be expected of Barrios if Cobreloa are to gain an advantage going into the second leg in Santiago.

Who is going to win and why

As with our Apertura final preview we have asked some others to provide us with their thoughts on who will win the 2011 Clausura final and we are very grateful for Rupert Fryer from southamericanfootball.co.uk, Nicholas Rosano from southamericanfootball.co.uk and goal.com, Joel Sked from The Red One and Cecilia Lagos from Juego de Damas for sharing their thoughts.

Rupert Fryer, southamericanfootball.co.uk

It’s almost impossible to look beyond Universidad de Chile. For me, they’ve been far and away the best team in South America in this year. They’ve shown on numerous occasions that they’re unfazed by big games, and I fully expect them to cap a quite remarkable year by lifting the title. It seems almost counter productive to single out individuals in a team whose entire identity is built around placing the collective above all else, but for all the talk of Eduardo Vargas I’ve been hugely impressed by Francisco Castro and I have a feeling he might be the one to stick it to his old club. Like pretty much every member of the squad, he’s come on leaps and bounds under Jorge Sampaoli and his propensity to pick the right moment to make those runs inside the left-hand channel have played a huge part in La U’s devastating attack. Not only has his movement been directly responsible for a number of goals for his team this year, but it also serves to open up space elsewhere that Vargas has been able to exploit so efficiently. Nelson Acosta has done a terrific job in ensuring Cobreloa finish above the rest, but La U are on another level.

Score predictions: 1st leg: Cobreloa 0-1 Universidad de Chile, 2nd leg: Universidad de Chile 2-0 Cobreloa. Universidad de Chile to win 3-0 on aggregate.

Joel Sked, The Red One

For me there is only one winner even if the excellent and passionate, Vargas does not take part in both legs. Without him they still have an abundance of quality throughout the squad. I actually think Matias Rodriguez is the most underrated player in the squad. His pace and stamina down the right flanks is essential, allowing Vargas inside creating more space for the forward or getting more space because of Vargas’ runs. He always seems to be in place to support the forwards and defence. If Cobreloa play four at the back and a narrow midfield him and Mena will have the freedom of the wings.

For Cobreloa they will miss Hugo Lusardi’s wand of a left-foot that can open a can of worms on the opposition defence. Although Nicolas Trecco is a player I like a lot – fast, direct and can play between the lines and across the pitch and if La U’s defence and Marcelo Diaz can’t decide on how to mark him quickly he’ll cause trouble. Nelson Acosta is an experienced coach so will have something up his sleeve. But as they have shown throughout the last year when it matters La U come up with the answers. I don’t think anyone can argue that Jorge Sampaoli and the team deserve to come away victorious and with an unprecedented treble for the year.

Score predictions: 1st leg: Cobreloa 1-2 Universidad de Chile, 2nd leg: Universidad de Chile 3-0 Cobreloa. Universidad de Chile to win 5-1 on aggregate.

Nicholas Rosano, southamericanfootball.co.uk and goal.com

For me I am of the sentiment that the first leg will be a tight one. Even with some key players missing for Cobreloa, the heat and altitude combined could hurt La U’s vaunted pressing game, not to mention the absence of Vargas for the first leg. Add to that Nelson Acosta, who is a vastly experienced coach that has upset the odds in the final before, and I think a Cobreloa victory is very possible in the first leg, and I’m going with 2-1 result in favor of the home side.

The second leg should see La U turn things around however. This time the conditions will be entirely in La U’s favor, provided they are not in too big a hole from the first leg. They are such a complete team, even without Vargas, it is hard to see them losing to Cobreloa at home. While their forwards are deservedly talked about, I have been hugely impressed with La U’s midfield over the course of the season, especially Charles Aranguiz and Marcelo Diaz, who I think have been almost as good, if not as good as Vargas in their roles. Ultimately this should prove the difference between the two teams. I’ll go with a 2-0 win for Universidad de Chile in this leg, giving them a 3-2 aggregate win.

Score predictions: 1st leg: Cobreloa 2-1 Universidad de Chile, 2nd leg: Universidad de Chile 2-0 Cobreloa. Universidad de Chile to win 3-2 on aggregate.

Cecilia Lagos, Juego de Damas

I think the first final in Calama will be a tight contest and the result surely narrow. Considering the heat of the hour at which the game was scheduled, and the weariness Universidad de Chile started to show in the series with Universidad Católica, I think Cobreloa has a little advantage going into the first final, although logic says that La U should win easily. But whatever team wins, it won’t be for a large score. It could be 1-0 or 2-1 for any of both, but no larger than that. The absence of Eduardo Vargas (who began his career in Cobreloa) after being sent off against Universidad Católica, may be a drawback for La U, although it’s been proven that when Vargas doesn’t play, other players such as Díaz, Mena or Osvaldo González can perfectly perform for their team when they need it the most.

Cobreloa won’t be able to count on either with Hugo Lusardi and Javier Elizondo, but they have one of the best players of the tournament, in my humble opinion: Nicolás Trecco, who’s basically a wizard. His speed, amazing individual talent and ability with the ball can make history when Cobreloa needs it the most or when La U least expect it. About the last final I can’t say anything. All about it will be conditioned on the first match on monday.

Our prediction

With the year they have had and playing a brand of football that has captured the continent’s imagination it is very hard to past Universidad de Chile. With their combination of attacking football combined with a relatively miserly defence (by Chilean standards anyway) they should prove to much for a Cobreloan side that will be Hugo Lusardi much more than their opponents will miss Eduardo Vargas. Going on their previous encounters where the team from Calama has failed to get anywhere near their opponents I expect this to be an easy victory for La U.

Score prediction: 1st leg: Cobreloa 1-3 Universidad de Chile, 2nd leg: Universidad de Chile 4-1 Cobreloa. Universidad de Chile to win 7-2 on aggregate.

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