One team are out, another are not just teetering on the brink, but clinging on to a loose weed, hanging over the edge, staring into the abyss, while the third are well and truly still alive with one momentous final round showdown to come.
That’s right it’s Chilean sides in the Copa Libertadores group stages as we approach the sixth and final round of matches later this month.
Unsurprisingly Deportes Iquique are out, but somewhat surprisingly is the differing fortunes of the two other sides. Huachipato continue to shock away from home, going three games unbeaten and are one last effort, one 90 minute game of football away from qualifying for the knock-out stages for the first time in the club’s history. As for Universidad de Chile, the less said the better. They require a miracle after losing their second game at home in the group stage.
Deportes Iquique 1-3 Vélez Sarsfield
Any slim chance Deportes Iquique had of making the knock-out stages of the Copa Libertadores vanished on Tuesday evening as they were well beaten by Vélez Sarsfield.
In the main the team had kept their key players from a fruitful 2012 and looked like they would be joining Unión Española, O’Higgins and Cobreloa as ‘lesser’ teams trying to outgun the tres grandes.
And it looked to be going that way when they defeated Leon over two legs to qualify for the group stage. But things went from bad to worse under Cristián Díaz, who was eventually relieved of his duties and replaced by Jaime Vera.
Against Vélez, who were without Fernando Gago, Iquique attacked well, but a combination of inadequate defensive play and poor finishing, including Rodrigo Díaz’s missed penalty, just about summed up the season so far.
Now with full concentration on the league it will give Vera the time to focus on his best side, how best to harness the attacking quality he has and start moving up the league. The pressure will be off as there is virtually no chance of relegation to do the club’s performances in recent years.
Caracas 0-4 Huachipato
One Chilean team sit top of their group. And it is not Universidad de Chile. Huachipato have lost both of their games at home in the competition, but away from home they have garnered seven points, the latest a 3-0 defeat of Caracas, to put them in the position that if they win their final group stage match against Grêmio they will qualify for the knock-out stages for the first time in their history.
They were effective and efficient as they delivered a 10 out of 10 away performance in continental competition. Caracas had won the reverse fixture 3-1, a game which Huachipato could not properly prepare for according to manager Jorge Pellicer after the ANFP denied their request to postpone their game with Cobreloa.
However, in Venezuela they were back to delivering performance that won them the 2012 Clausura. Braian Rodríguez was, as always, the focal point but instead of being the only options he was able supported by David Llanos and Daniel ‘Chucky’ González who set up Rodríguez’s first of a perfect hat-trick with a delicate through ball.
The sheer presence of Rodríguez, who is now rated at US$2m, terrified the Caracas backline, while the return to the side of captain Lorenzo Reyes should not be overlooked. There was also a fine performance from Carlos Labrín who will unfortunately miss the game with the Brazilians.
Depending on the result between Fluminense and Grêmio Huachipato could qualify with a draw or even defeat if the other game in round six goes there way. But they have already defeated the Porto Alegre side, and now, after a trying season, the team are once more on the cusp of making history.
Universidad de Chile 0-1 Olimpia
Going into the game with Olimpia at the Estadio Nacional Universidad de Chile knew that at the very worst they had to avoid defeat after Newell’s Old Boys defeat of Deportivo Lara.
Pre-match talk once again surrounded Darío Franco, as it so often has due to the relative struggle to adjust to the demands of coaching La U and integrate his way of playing and philosophy into his squad.
Anything but a win would mean Franco would have the worst start of any los azules after 16 games since May 2007. But unfortunately for him and the team’s chances of qualification to the knock-out stages, that’s exactly what happened going down 1-0 to the Paraguayans.
Franco threatens to alienate the fans by saying the defeat was a learning curve and that he was a ‘newbie’ after the match.
Most worrying for La U was their concession of chances, while lacking their own chances in the attacking third. There was a controversial moment at the start of the second half when Sebastián Ubilla thought his header had crossed the line, but as you will see from the highlights it is a very tough call. Richard Ortiz would get what would prove to be the winner following an incisive attack.
Now La U have to have to defeat Deportivo Lara in Venezuela and hope Olimpia beat Newell’s Old Boys plus an eight goal swing.