The 2012 Clausura season finally comes to its conclusion in the next few days with Huachipato and Unión Española 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 Wednesday and Sunday Chilean time.
For the first time in four seasons it won’t be first versus second in the final two games of the season as Huachipato, who finished the regular season in sixth position, taking on an Unión Española side that finished in seventh position. This is the first time that Huachipato have made the final since the playoff system was introduced in 2002 whilst their opponents’ last appearance was in 2009 when they went lost to Universidad de Chile in the Apertura final.
Huachipato, who saw off Palestino and Rangers de Talca on their way to the final, will be looking to be add to their only title which they won way back in 1974. In recent times the team that is based in Talcahuano and are nicknamed the “el campeón del sur” have failed to repeat their performances of the early 2000s when they made the semi-finals in the Apertura seasons of 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Whilst the team doesn’t have the experience of taking part in the final games of the season they can take heart from the fact that their manager Jorge Pellicer has done it all before in 2005 when he took Universidad Católica took the Clausura title.
Unión Española, who at one stage of the season looked like they wouldn’t even make the playoffs, are on an impressive run of form that has seen has seen them win six of their last seven matches. In the playoffs this run has been even more impressive as they have comfortably seen off Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile, who finished the regular season in first and second places respectively. Even though they finished the below Huachipato they go into the final as slight favourites following these results. La furia roja, who last won a title in the 2005 Apertura season, will be looking for their seventh title under club legend José Luis Sierra who at one stage looked like he would be lucky to finish the season.
Last three meetings
Round 7, 2012 Clausura Season
Huachipato 2-0 U. Española (J. Contreras (HU) 18′, C. Cortés (HU) 27′)
Round 7, 2012 Apetura Season
U. Española 1-3 Huachipato (E. Herrera (UE) 7′, M. Villalobos (HU) 23′, G. Sandoval (HU) 50′, B. Rodriguez (HU) 84′)
Round 12, 2011 Clausura Season
Huachipato 2-1 U. Española (L. Monje (UE) 25′, C. Cortés (HU) 57′, J. Vera (HU) 61′)
This is the first time that these two teams have met in the playoffs.
Players to Watch
Emiliano Vecchio – Unión Española
One of the key components in Unión’s recent run has been their Argentinean attacking midfielder Emiliano Vecchio who has been in stellar form of late. The former Defensor de Belgrano player had an indifferent Apertura season where off-field issues got the better of him but in the latter stages of the Clausura he has been a revelation. Vecchio has formed an irresistible combination in midfield with Emilio Hernández and Mauro Diaz, a combination that has been key to Unión’s wins over Universidad de Chile and Colo Colo. Huachipato will not only have to quell Vecchio but also Hernández and Diaz if they are going to triumph.
Cesár Cortés – Huachipato
A key part of Huachipato’s run to the final two games of the season has been the form of Cesár Cortés, who scored eight goals so far during their Clausura campaign after only scoring once in the Apertura season. Along with fellow striker Braian Rodriguez they have contributed more than two thirds of Huachipato’s goals this season. The Iquique native has also scored in two of their last three matches against Unión Española, which coincidentally have all been wins, so the defence of la furia roja will need to keep Cortés quiet if they want to win the title.
Who is going to win and why
As with our all final previews we have again sought the opinions of those who probably know more than we do and have asked some others to provide us with their thoughts on who will win the 2012 Apertura final. We are very grateful for Joel Sked from The Red One, Daniel Boyle from I Love Chile and Adam Brandon from cannigiascores for sharing their thoughts.
Joel Sked, The Red One
Despite the comfortable score lines against their bigger Santiago rivals I think Union Espanola will find it harder against Huachipato, mainly because they will now be the favourites and playing with more pressure.
However Huachipato are better opponents for Union than Rangers. The Steelers are quite open and fluid in attack with Manuel Villalobos, Braian Rodriguez, Cesar Cortes, Daniel Gonzalez while both full-backs are not shy in going forward. Whereas Rangers are more stuffy opponents.
The onus will still be on la furia roja and with Emiliano Vecchio – is there a more exciting player to watch in Chile? – and Mauro Diaz finally in the same starting XI with Emilio Hernandez beginning to turn in match winning performances I think Union have the greater quality in attack that should see them edge a close two-legged affair.
Daniel Boyle, I Love Chile
Unión Española have overcome the irregular form of the midseason, which included losses to Universidad de Concepción and a draw with Santiago Wanderers. Lead by strong performances by Sebastián Jaime, Emilio Hernández and ex- Barnechea striker Patricio Rubio, los hispanos have blasted both Universidad de Chile and Colo Colo out of the competition.
Huachipato have been more clinical in their path to the final, generally passing through with a single goal advantage. Los arceros will have to find something special to stop Unión Española and to add to their 1974 title.
While the attack has been a key element for Unión, Eduardo Lobos has been a star as goalkeeper, seeing only two goals go past him in the past four games.
Adam Brandon, cannigiascores
Unión Española v Huachipato is the final nobody expected as both only just made the play-offs in the first place. Unión Española have been especially impressive in the play-offs, humiliating U.de.Chile and Colo Colo in the quarters and semis respectively. Unión have one of the best frontlines in the country, Emiliano Vecchio is unstoppable at the moment and forms an excellent partnership with Sebastian Jamie.
It’s difficult to see Huachipato winning either of the two legs, although they have done well to make the final. Cesár Cortés and Brian Rodriguez provide the main threat for the underdogs, it should be noted their defence has stood firm in the play-offs so far with only 3 goals conceded in their 4 games. I have predicted Huachipato to lose every game so far in the play offs and I am foolishly betting against them again here.
Whilst recent history would indicate that Huachipato have the wood over Unión Española the form of the latter in the past month has been irresistible and it is hard to go past them. What gives la furia roja the edge is their attacking threat in the form of Mauro Diaz, Emiliano Vecchio and Emilio Hernández in midfield which ably supports strikers Sebastián Jaime and Patricio Rubio. This will be a tightly fought affair but Unión is on such a roll and full confidence they should prevail over the two legs.