Week 17 Preview – Three play-off spots up for grabs in the final weekend of the regular season

Can Perez guide Colo Colo to the last-8? (image: ferplei.com)

It doesn’t feel that long ago I was penning the Apertura preview on the back of a wonderful year for Universidad de Chile and Chileans in general, at home and abroad. Sixteen match-days later and we find ourselves looking towards week 17; after which the play-offs between the top eight sides commence.

Of the eight play-off spots available five have been confirmed – Universidad de Chile, O’Higgins, Deportes Iquique, Universidad Católica and Unión Española – before the ‘regular’ season concludes. The remaining three spots are currently being occupied by Cobreloa, Huachipato and Colo Colo. However Unión La Calera, Santiago Wanderers, Universidad de Concepción and Audax Italiano can all, however unlikely, claim a place that will extend their season by at least two games.

Out of the seven teams who cling to the hope of prolonging their season some have been in and around the upper echelons of the Primera Divisón all year, others have drifted in and out of a play-off place, Concepción have crept into the fold unnoticed while a couple looked to have little chance four weeks ago.

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Week 7 Talking Points – Basay enters the last chance Saloon, awesome Mati, continental hangover, more Cobresal misery and Week 8’s top game

Under Pressure; Ivo Basay (image: FOXSportsLA)

1. Basay’s 90 minutes

As hundreds made their way towards the exit to begin a mass exodus others stayed behind to whistle, jeer and boo. It was a familiar sight at the Estadio Monumental as Colo Colo once again disappointed; falling to a 2-0 loss to Deportes La Serena.

Ivo Basay’s job in charge of Los Albos is hanging by a single thread. Defeat against Cobreloa on Saturday and that thread will snap. Win and the thread will be strengthened, there’ll no long be the same weight pulling on it. At least for another week anyway.

But the departure of Basay looks inevitable with Colo Colo in a lowly 11th and little signs of improvement. Universidad de Chile are Universidad de Chile. They have a quality manager, talented players and most importantly they have an ideology.

Universidad Católica and their coach Mario Lepe have also come in for criticism from fans but away from their inconsistency they have quality throughout a balanced squad. If anything they have too many options.

Colo Colo are trailing their Santiago rivals on and off field. They have a top heavy squad which still relies on the predatory instincts and guile of Esteban Paredes as well as midfield maestro Rodrigo Millar while the promising striker Carlos Muñoz has struggled.

The transfer window signings have not worked out as expected. Former player Guillermo Páez explained the inadequate recruitment policy, “They brought in four or five strikers and in defence believed that (Pablo) Contreras was enough, but work is needed.”

The defensive vulnerability was again on show in the defeat to La Serena. Committing players forward and playing with a high line there was no protection offered to the defence. Every time La Serena won possession they looked as if they could score at will, quickly transitioning from defence to attack.

They may have ‘only’ conceded seven goals in seven games – the fifth best defensive record in the league – but it is made worse by the fact they have only scored seven goals despite the abundance of attacking options.

Against an organised and structured Cobreloa Basay will have to spend a substantial time on attacking movements if there is any chance of keeping his job with El Cacique. Not to forget the weakness in defending counter-attacks.

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Apertura 2012 Week 1 Talking Points – La U still the team to beat, Puch and Iquique, 3-5-2, Goalkeepers and Kevin Harbottle

Kevin Harbottle. Remember the name (I'll make sure you will). (IMG: deportes.terra.cl)

1. Despite not playing Universidad de Chile still Chile’s top dogs

When Eduardo Vargas left for Napoli it was expected he would be the first of many from Universidad de Chile’s Copa Sudamericana squad to depart for Argentina, Brazil and Europe. In the end he was followed through the departure door by central defender Marcos González plus a handful of squad players as a number of new and exciting players arrived. With Universidad de Chile and fellow play-off finalists Cobreloa not playing this weekend it meant that the pretenders, namely Universidad Católica and Colo Colo, had the chance to show that 2012 is not going to be another dominated by Los Azules juggernaut.

Universidad Católica were first up but produced a limp first half ‘at’ Palestino (the game was played at the Estadio Nacional) despite the presence of sufficient attacking quality. The midfield lacking Francisco Silva’s passing range and authority struggled to locate a good tempo. The second half was much improved as Kevin Harbottle saw more of the ball as Nicolás Trecco was introduced and Felipe Gutiérrez pushed further forward. The question will be if the squad can handle both the Apertura and Copa Liberatadores.

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News Update: New TV deal for 2012, transfer controversy and more

On La U's radar (IMG: oleole.com)

In the last couple of weeks I haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked in keeping everyone up-to-date with all things Chilean football due to work, festivities and illness. Earlier in the week I briefly wrote about the Clausura play-off final and also an in-depth article on Universidad de Chile and Jorge Sampaoli’s success.

And instead of spamming everyone’s timeline on Twitter I thought it would be better to write about all the latest news that may be of interest which has happened recently. Unsurprisingly news has been dominated by the three Santiago ‘giants’ but there is news of returns to Chile for high profile players as well a new TV deal, coaching changes and the start of the Apertura campaign.

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Clausura Play-off Quarter-final second-leg’s: Santiago giants ease through and are joined by Cobreloa who squeezed through

Kevin Harbottle (right) IMG: ANFP

The closing stages of the Primera División are well and truly underway as four teams were eliminated over the weekend, setting up a Clásico Universitario semi-final and potential ‘El Clásico’ final, while Cobreloa – the only non-Santiago team in the last four – will be happy to just be there after an almighty scare at home to Unión La Calera, leaving it late to confirm their place.

Universidad de Chile won. Again. Colo Colo took care of an elementary second-leg and Audax Italiano floundered when it mattered.

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Week 12 Round-up

The shape of the Clausura continues to alter – with the exception of the top spot which Universidad de Chile have all but sewn up – after another tumultuous and enthralling weekend in the Chilean Primera Division.

There were 27 goals scored in the nine games which kicked off on Thursday (01:00 GMT) due to La U’s impending involvement in the Copa Sudamericana. They travel to Brazil to face Ronaldinho’s Flamengo in good spirits having secured their place in the play-offs defeating Union La Calera late on to end their run of draws and increase their lead at the top to 10 points. La Calera, like Unión Española who were beaten 2-1 by Huachipato, fell out the play-offs to be replaced by Universidad Católica (more about them soon) and Ñublense while Deportes La Serena, Audax Italiano and Cobreloa all strengthened their positions in the play-offs with wins. Palestino moved off the bottom of the Clausura table with a 3-1 win victory in Iquique and Santiago Morning hit bottom of the general table with a 1-1 draw at home to Unión San Felipe.

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Colo Colo 3-0 Audax Italiano

Esteban Paredes

A slip-up by Universidad de Chile on Tuesday was their first in 10 games of the Clausura. Yet it has given their fierce rivals Colo Colo the belief that they can overtake La U at the summit of the Clausura standings, leading to a more favourable draw in the play-offs.

After Thursday night’s comprhensive victory in the stand-out match of Weekday 10 against third placed Audax Italiano, Colo Colo are now six points behind the La U with seven games to go.

It is felt with Universidad de Chile still in the Copa Sudamerican where they face Brazilian side Flamengo there are more slip-ups to come.

Goals from Carlos Muñoz, Rodrigo Millar and Marco Medel eased Colo Colo to victory in what was a fast-paced match-up between two of Chile’s best sides – each finished with ten men. Audax Italiano had their chances but ultimately could not contend with the attacking quality possessed by the home side.

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