LDU Quito and Universidad De Chile prepare to do battle.
Caught Offside will be broadcasting the Copa Sudamericana final between LDU Quito and Universidad de Chile LIVE via twitter, starting with the first leg this Thrusday night at 00:15 GMT (Friday morning).
In anticipation of Caught Offside’s live final broadcast we will be previewing the tie to show you why you should join in and enjoy one of the primary events in the South American football calendar. Liga de Quito take on the ‘Barcelona of the Americas’ – Universidad de Chile – in a two legged final with the winner securing a place in next year’s Copa Libertadores. During the game we will be using the hashtag #coscs for you to comment on the game and ask any questions. But for now, let’s take a look at the visitors for the first leg – Universidad de Chile.
The Chileans are a team whose recent improvements in fortune harken back to the club’s golden era in the 1960s. After being separated from the University with which it shares its name, the club was left with nothing but its fans, culminating in relegation in 1988. Since then the club has gone from strength to strength, winning the Chilean Apertura in 2004, 2009 and 2011. They are currently in the final stages of the Clausura, so there is a potential treble on the line. In 2010 they reached the Copa Libertadores semi-final with a team that included Walter Montillo and Mauricio Victorino (both now with Cruzeiro).
Under current coach Jorge Sampaoli there has been a return of the beautiful football that was dubbed “Blue Ballet” of the Universidad de Chile side in the 1960s. The Argentine sets his side out in a 4-3-3 formation, deploying two wide strikers. They have received abundant praise for the way they play football, drawing comparisons to the European Champions – Barcelona. All their players are comfortable on the ball, spreading the play across the field, allowing for attacks to formulate in any area. Currently on a 31-game unbeaten run, they are a strong team that have eliminated Nacional of Uruguay, Flamengo, Arsenal de Sarandi and Vasco da Gama on the road to the final.
Expected line-up: Herrera; O. Gonzalez, Rojas, Rodriguez, M. Gonzalez; Diaz, Arganuiz, Mena; Vargas, Canales, Castro.
At the centre of their attack will be the imposing Gustavo Canales. Despite being born in Argentina, the striker received his first cap for Chile in the 4-0 drubbing against Uruguay last month. After an impressive spell at Union Espanola in Chile, he was snapped up by the U and has become an integral part of the team. He links well with the wide strikers and has a keen eye for goal, always popping up in the right place. Back in June his second-leg hat-trick brought the U from a two goal aggregate deficit in the final of the Chilean Apertura to beat their historical rivals Universidad Catolica 4-1 and claim the title.
Their most exciting young prospect is the winger Eduardo Vargas. He is already being touted as the ‘next Alexis Sanchez’ though the Barcelona man is yet to really achieve anything in his career in Europe. They do play with a similar demeanour though. A bullish winger, the 22-year-old is eager to take on defenders with great strength and pace but he can also play through the middle. He is just shy of a 50% goal-to-game ratio with 16 strikes in 33 league appearances this year but he is the top scorer in the Copa Sudamericana with eight goals.
Sampaoli has constructed a squad with a good mix of youth and experience. Crucially, much of the experience lies in the defence, with Marcos Gonzalez, Osvaldo Gonzalez, Jose Rojas and Matias Rodriguez. Playing in front of keeper Jhonny Herrera, the U have only conceded two goals in the tournament proper, both coming away from home.
It will be fascinating to see whether the tournament’s most exciting team can win the first continental title in the club’s history. Though they have already qualified for next year’s Copa Libertadores, the prospect of a treble will no doubt motivate them to take the initiative in the first leg.