The dust has been barely settled on the 2014 World Cup and the Germans have had barely time to check the World Cup trophy through airport security but the Chilean Primera Division is set to kick off this weekend. In order of where they finished the Clausura season we take a look at all the teams featured in the Campeonato Apertura 2014. After finally getting the monkey off their back that was the 30th title last season, Colo Colo will be looking to make it thirty-one titles come the end of the year. A big step towards that stated aim is the signing of Chilean international Jean Beausejour, who returns to Chile from Wigan Athletic for the first time since 2008.
However a much bigger coup surely is the retaining of Hector Tapia as manager, who despite winning that coveted thirtieth title, was at one stage contemplating moving on after a dispute with Blanco y Negro. Tapia’s decision to stay at El Macul brings a much stability to the coaching ranks, something that was missing through the trophy-less years. Also joining Beausejour, will be goalkeeper Paulo Garces from O’Higgins as well as Claudio Maldonado who returns to his former club from Brazil after a fourteen year absence. Once again los albos will be hot favourites to take out the title. Universidad Catolica, the perennial bridesmaids of Chilean football having finished second in the last three seasons, will look to go one better this season. This season they will be under the tutelage of one of the least attractive men in world football in the form of Julio Cesar Falcioni, who makes his first foray into Chilean football after previous spells in charge of All Boys, Boca Juniors and Banfield in Argentina. Falcioni does bring a winning mentality to the Estadio San Carlos having one titles with both Boca Juniors and Banfield although his spell at All Boys was less than spectacular. On the player front they have signed Huachipato’s leading scoring from last season, David Llanos as well as Mathias Cahais from Racing Club in Argentina and have retained the services of Mark Gonzalez.
Club legend Milovan Mirosevic has left the club after it was decided not to renew his contract, something that didn’t go down too well with many of the club’s fans. Los cruzados will have one eye on the Copa Sudamericana and if they want to repeat their semi-final performance of 2012 will have to make some sacrifices in the league. For many of the smaller Chilean teams after success more often than not comes a period of rebuilding, especially when the big three come along and take their star players.
After twelve months or more of unprecedented success for the team from Rancagua the upcoming season will be definitely be one of rebuilding for O’Higgins. The key departure in the off season has been that of manager, Eduardo Berizzo, who is now in charge of Celta de Vigo in Spain. The Argentine also took key attacker Pablo Hernandez with him whilst key young defender Benjamin Vidal has lured away to Universidad de Chile along with goalkeeper Paulo Garces. Berizzo’s replacement will be fellow Argentinean Facundo Sava, who has less than spectacular success with San Martin de San Juan and Union de Sante Fe in Argentina. That being many Argentinean coaches have struggled in their homeland before making their name in Chile. Joining Sava in Rancagua will Damian Lizio, Raúl Octavio Rivero and Luis Valenzuela but this season most definitely shapes up as one of transition for the 2013 Apertura champions.
One of the surprise packets of the 2014 Clausura season was Universidad de Concepcion, who finished in fourth position on the table. It has been a pretty stable off season and they have picked up some handy acquisitions in the form of Felipe Reynero from Huachipato, Sergio Lopez from Palestino along with Diego Churin from Curico Unido and Jose Huentelaf from Lota Schwager. Whether they can repeat their performances of the Clausura is another matter and with teams such as Union Espanola, O’Higgins and Universidad de Chile not having the distraction of continental football it might be a difficult repeat.
After missing out once again on continental action in the post season playoffs, Palestino will look to go one better this season and have particular busy in the off season with a total of seven new signings. These new signings will be joined by the returning Jason Silva, who had a less than spectacular spell at Colo Colo (well apart from getting jailed), and Leonardo Valencia. Manager Emiliano Astorga departed in the off season and was replaced by Argentinean Pablo Guede, formerly of Nueva Chicago in Argentina’s Primera B.
If O’Higgins’ fans want to understand what happens during a rebuilding/transition phase then they have to look no further Huachipato, who after claiming the 2012 Clausura title have struggled at times to stay in the top flight of Chilean football as all they decided to sell off all their good players. That changed somewhat last season with the arrival of former Chilean U20s coach Mario Salas who restored some pride to the team from Talcahuano with a sixth place finish in the 2014 Clausura campaign and also secured a place in the Copa Sudamericana when they lost to Iquique in the Copa Chile final. A big loss has been David Llanos, who contributed fifteen goals last season, as well as long time goalkeeper Nery Veloso who has joined Audax Italiano. Coming the other way have been Esteban Gonzalez from Antofagasta, Leandro Delgado from Iquique and Leandro Ezquerra from Racing Club de Montevideo. This will be in an interesting year for Mario Salas, who will look to build on his reputation as one of the better young Chilean managers going around as he looks to combine the rigours of both domestic and continental competitions.
Joining Huachipato in the Copa Chile will be Iquique, who were another team to part company with their manager in the off season as Jaime Vera departed the scene. Replacing him will be Hector Pinto, who was last on the Chilean coaching scene back in 2007 when he was in charge of Union Espanola. In terms of players los dragones celestes have picked up Boris Rieloff from Audax Italiano, the underachieving Francisco Castro from Universidad de Chile and Cristian Baez from relegated Argentinean side Independiente.
The last few seasons have been fairly underwhelming for the usually overachieving Cobreloa and this season they will be looking to make amends. Joining their ranks this season will be Marco Hidalgo (Deportes Temuco), Rodrigo Gattas (Union La Calera), Jair Reinoso (The Strongest), Enzo Bruno (Crucero del Norte) and Edwin Retamoso (Real Garcilaso) whilst their most notable departure, amongst others has been Rene Lima who has travelled down south to join Union Espanola. One reason for Cobreloa’s poor form of late could be put down to the fact that they have been unable to play at home, with the Estadio Municipal de Calama being renovated. This situation looks like it is not going to change any time soon so it looks like Cobreloa will once again be a team constantly on the road.
Much of Union Espanola’s attention last season was very much focused on the Copa Libertadores, and to their credit they were the only Chilean team to make it out of the group stages. Once again the team from Independencia will be looking to challenge for the title under the tutelage of Jose Luis Sierra, one of Chile’s longest current serving managers. The off season saw a bit of déjà vu as Gustavo Canales once again left them to join Universidad de Chile whilst young starlet Oscar Hernandez has joined newly promoted Barnechea. Another notable departure is Matias Campos Toro, but where he has gone nobody knows.
When I first started following Chilean football and most notably Union Espanola one player that caught my eye was a young Mathias Vidangossy, and this season sees the one time Villareal player make his return to the Estadio Santa Laura. Joining him is the experienced Milovan Mirosevic, Rene Lima from Cobreloa and Ramon Lentini from Chacarita Juniors.