It is almost two months since Unión Española were crowned champions and it seems like an eternity since Jose Luis Sierra lifted the championship trophy. Much has happened during that time but now everyone’s attention can focus on the start of the new Apertura season. For those who don’t remember the powers that be at ANFP headquarters decided that this season will be a seventeen round affair with the winner crowned at the end of the last round much like last season.
Everton and Palestino kick off proceedings for the new season at the Estadio Bicentenario Lucio Fariña on Friday night. The off season saw Palestino saw their best player from last season, Jason Silva, depart for Colo Colo, and will be hoping that Joao Ortiz is a more than ample replacement. Everton for their part have signed former Universidad Católica midfielder Álvaro Ramos amongst others but have seen José Luis Muñoz.
Both teams have have had good Copa Chile campaigns with both teams qualifying for the next stage of the competition as Everton finished top of Group 6 and Palestino second in Group 4. The last time these two teams met Palestino triumphed 2-1 continuing a run of recent form that has only seen them lose once to their opponents in their last six meetings.
Saturday’s opening match sees Huachipato play host to Santiago Wanderers in the Estadio CAP. After their Clausura triumph Huachipato had a somewhat disappointing campaign last time around with their Copa Libertadores commitments making it difficult mount a serious challenge for the title. In the off season they have seen young star and captain Lorenzo Reyes depart to Real Betis in La Liga whilst Braian Rodriguez has indicated he also wants to leave the club. The only signing at this stage has been that of Lucas Simon from Palestino. Meanwhile Santiago Wanderers will look to back up their best season in a while and have managed to snag Boris Sagredo from O’Higgins and Marco Sebastián Pol from Cobreloa whilst they haven’t suffered any significant departures.
Huachipato have had a good Copa Chile finishing second in Group 2 whilst Wanderers just missed out on Round of 16 spot after they finished third in Group 6. Huachipato have a good recent record against their opponents having only lost once in their last ten meetings against the team from Valparaíso so will confident of starting the season in good fashion.
Saturday’s next match sees Unión La Calera take on Cobresal in the Estadio Nicolás Chahuán. Cobresal, who have somehow managed to avoid relegation despite being the league’s worst performing team over the last three season, will be looking to have a much improved 2013-14 campaign and avoid any chance of another relegation battle come the end of next season. They face a La Calera side who at one stage were in the race for the title last season but faded quite badly. Unión La Calera manager Néstor Craviotto is hoping to hold onto to their star player of last season, Ruben Farfan, but with both Universidad de Chile and Colo Colo circling it may difficult.
Cobresal have only made one signing so far this season in the form of Fabian Saavedra from Unión Española but have also managed to hold onto Sebastián Cuerdo, Álvaro Navarro, Lucas Parodi and Alexis Salazar whilst Jean Paul Pineda is their most significant off season departure. La Calera had a poor Copa Chile group stage finishing last in Group 6 with only a solitary point whilst Cobresal have qualified second from Group 7 which featured three Primera B sides. Cobresal surprisingly has a good record against their opponents having only lost once in their last five encounters, including a 2-1 win in their last meeting so will have some confidence in starting this season in positive fashion.
It has been quite a tumultuous off season for Universidad de Chile who will look to put that all behind them as they take on Rangers at the Estadio Santa Laura in Saturday’s penultimate match. A poor Copa Chile campaign was the final nail in Dario Franco’s coffin and he parted ways with los azules midway through what in the end was to be a failed attempt to progress to the next stage. Taking over from Franco is the irrepressible Marco Antonio “El Fantasma” Figueroa who parted ways with Cobreloa to take the position.
On the player front the major departure has been Eugenio Mena to Santos but have managed to make some astute signings in the form of Juan Rodrigo Rojas from O’Higgins, Bryan Cortes from Cobreloa and Juan Ignacio Sills from Vélez Sarsfield. Their opponents Rangers have made a number of changes during the off season off loading a number of players and picking up a number of new recruits so it will be interesting to see how well they gel come Saturday afternoon. Both teams had poor Copa Chile campaigns finishing bottom of their respective groups. Surprisingly given La U’s form in recent years Rangers have a good record against them since their return to the Primera Division with the honours shared in their last three meetings with a win apiece and a draw.
Saturday’s final match sees Unión Española begin their title defence with up a trip up north to take on Antofagasta in the Estadio Bicentenario Calvo y Bascuñan. Whilst their Copa Chile campaign has been less than spectacular, finishing well out of the running in Group 4, la furia roja did manage to win the first ever Chilean Supercopa by defeating Universidad de Chile. Most notably they have managed to hold onto Gustavo Canales, who was attracting much interest from Colo Colo and the aforementioned Universidad de Chile and signed Nicolás Berardo for another three seasons. They have also signed Sebastián Miranda from Everton, Francisco Alarcón from San Martín de San Juan and Lorenzo Faravelli from Argentinean champions Newell’s Olds Boys whilst Enzo Ruiz and Christian Cueva have departed.
Meanwhile for Antofagasta they have seen the return of René Bugueño from O’Higgins, Marlon Fernández from Deportivo Lara in Venezuela, Jorge Broun from Rosario Central and Ángelo González from San Marcos de Arica whilst going the other way are Sebastián López, David Portillo and Daniel Arismendi. Like their round one opponents they failed to qualify for the next stage of the Copa Chile finishing third in Group 8 with two wins. Unión Española will be confident of starting their season in style having only lost once to Antofagasta in their last eight meetings.
Sunday’s action kicks off in the Estadio Bicentenario La Florida with Audax Italiano playing host to Colo Colo. Both teams parted ways their respective managers in the off season with Pablo Marini being replaced at Audax by Jorge Luis Ghiso whilst Gustavo Benítez replaced interim Colo Colo manager Hugo González. Player wise Colo Colo have made some astute signings in the form of Paraguayan national goalkeeper Justo Villar, Fabián Benítez from Audax Italiano and rising star Jason Silva from Palestino but were thwarted in their attempts to sign Gustavo Canales from Unión Española as a replacement for Carlos Muñoz, who they expect to depart the club in the near future.
For Audax Boris Rieloff has arrived from Colo Colo and joining him will be Gonzalo Menéndez from Deportivo Merlo, Enzo Cabrera from Magallanes and Carlos Ross from Copiapó. Colo Colo had a good Copa Chile campaign finishing top of their group whilst for Audax Italiano they narrowly missed out on progression after losing their last match to Primera B side Curicó Unido. Audax have won their last two meetings against los albos but that aside have a pretty poor record against a Colo Colo side that will be looking to get off to a good start in their campaign to attain that elusive thirtieth title.
Sunday’s next two matches take place in the north of the country with Iquique hosting O’Higgins and Cobreloa hosting the newly promoted Universidad de Concepción. O’Higgins biggest loss playing since last season has been the departure of Juan Rodrigo Rojas to Universidad de Chile but have sought to replace him with Argentinean playmaker Fernando Gutiérrez from Olimpo de Bahía Blanca whilst Francisco Pizarro from Cobreloa and Paulo Garcés are also notable inclusions. After a disappointing campaign last start Iquique will be hoping for a much better performance this time around but will have will have to do without the likes of Edson Puch and Leonardo Monje, with the latter departing for CSD Municipal in Guatemala whilst the former is clubless.
Both teams have had good Copa Chile campaigns have both progress to the knockout stage and will hoping that form transfers to the season proper. Iquique has a good recent record against O’Higgins having only lost once in their six meetings with four of those being wins to los dragones celestes.
Last season saw Cobreloa come close once again to claiming another title and will be hoping they can go one better this time around. They kick off their Apertura campaign against an Universidad de Concepción who return to the top flight of Chilean football after spending only one season in Primera B. There have been some significant departures from Cobreloa with leading goalscorer Marco Sebastián Pol departing for Santiago Wanderers whilst Bryan Cortes has departed for Universidad de Chile and Francisco Pizarro has joined O’Higgins. Meanwhile Universidad de Concepción have signed Cristián Magaña from Colo Colo, Sixto Peralta from Universidad Católica and Fernando Manríquez from Iquique and have managed to hold onto Gabriel Vargas.
Both teams topped their respective groups in the Copa Chile and thus come into the season on the back of good form. Honours are pretty much even between these two teams in their last six meetings with both teams having two wins and the remaining two matches were drawn so one would expect a fairly even contest.
The final match of the round sees last season’s runners up Universidad Católica take on Ñublense at the Estadio San Carlos. Universidad Católica have been relatively quiet on the transfer front with Franco Costanzo coming out of retirement whilst José Luis Muñoz joins from Everton. There has however been a number of departures including Álvaro Ramos, Carlos Bueno and Carlos Villanueva. Meanwhile their opponents have been extremely busy in the transfer window bringing in nine new players whilst nine players have gone the other way.
Universidad Católica qualified top of Group 4 during their Copa Chile campaign whilst Ñublense failed to qualify from Group 1 as they only picked up one win in their six matches. Los cruzados will be confident of starting their season with a win having only lost once to their opponents in their last six outings with Martin Lasarte hoping that it is a forerunner to going one better than they did last season.
Primera Division Torneo Apertura 2013 , Round one fixtures
Everton vs. Palestino (Fri 20:00, Bicentenario Lucio Fariña)
Huachipato vs. S. Wanderers (Sat 12:30, CAP)
U. La Calera vs. Cobresal (Sat 15:30, Nicolás Chahuán)
U. de Chile vs. Rangers (Sat 17:30, Santa Laura)
Antofagasta vs. U. Española (Sat 20:00, Bicentenario Calvo y Bascuñan)
A.Italiano vs. Colo Colo (Sun 15:30, Bicentenario La Florida)
Iquique vs. O’Higgins (Sun 16:00, Tierra de Campeones)
Cobreloa vs. U. Concepción (Sun 16:00, Bicentenario Calvo y Bascuñan)
U. Católica vs. Ñublense (Sun 18:00, San Carlos)