CD Universidad Católica – Match Report vs. Sporting Cristal (12/04/2022)

Chilean champions Universidad Católica managed to take an important 3 points from their Copa Libertadores group stage match against Peruvian team Sporting Cristal by winning 2-1. Despite creating the better chances, Sporting Cristal fell behind shortly before half-time thanks to a spectacular volley from outside of the box, courtesy of Marcelino Nuñez. Although the Peruvians equalised through Nilson Loyola, a controversial 92nd-minute penalty converted by Fernando Zampedri gave the points to the side from Santiago. Both teams lined up in 4-3-3 formations and played a fairly similar style of football. Building out from the back was a key aspect of both game plans, however, UC then focused their efforts down the flanks with the end goal of crossing the ball to the striker and Diego Valencia to finish. Sporting Cristal though, played through the centre and down the left-wing. In a high-pressure and must-win match for both sides, the players were definitely feeling the pressure, UC will be very relieved to have won this match. Sporting Cristal will be bemoaning their lack of composure in front of goal. The players I observed in this match were Diego Valencia and Marcelino Nuñez.

Ratings:

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Marcelino Núñez

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Chilean
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 01/03/2000
  • Current club: Universidad Católica
  • Career: Universidad Católica (Y), Universidad Católica
  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Secondary Position: Right Back, Right Winger, Attacking Midfielder, Defensive Midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Right

At 22 years old, Núñez is already an integral part of a title-winning Universidad Católica side and is beginning to shine for the Chilean national team. In this match, though he played in two positions. In the first half, he was deployed as the right central midfielder in a 4-3-3. his role was to drift into space, create chances (mostly through crosses from the right-wing) and to progress the ball with his either-footed passing and dribbling ability. In the second half, he was the deepest in the midfield 3. This allowed him to be the passing hub of the team and to dictate the tempo. 

Standing at 173cm tall with a slim/toned build, he isn’t the tallest or strongest player on the pitch. Despite this, he has quite good lower body strength and is difficult to muscle off the ball. His brilliant close control, first touch and dribbling ability contribute to the repertoire of a supremely skilful player. Furthermore, he works hard on and off the ball. He spent the match intelligently moving into space to receive passes and winning the ball through both tackles and interceptions. He is well-rounded and good enough to play every midfield role to a high level as well as having the versatility to operate down the right flank as a right-back or right-winger. He is right-footed but his incredible volley from outside of the box to open the scoring was impeccably taken with his left foot. 

Nunez seems like quite a quiet and introverted man, who’s not keen to run head-first into mass brawls on the pitch. I think this is great as he is super composed, press resistant and less likely to get carded for violent conduct or dissent, so he is able to dazzle on the pitch more often. I would compare him to Bernardo Silva or Mateo Kovačić, a complete technical and tactical midfield maestro. 

Rating – A1

Marcelino Núñez is an exceptionally talented player who will make the loss of the ageing Arturo Vidal less of a concern for the Chilean national team. He is an incredibly intelligent, versatile, composed, either-footed and creative midfield maestro who has the ability right now to play in a good European league and then to play in a top 5 league eventually. As Ajax look set to lose the mercurial Gravenbrech this summer, they should be extremely interested in bringing this star to Amsterdam.

Diego Valencia

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Chilean
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 14/01/2000
  • Current club: Universidad Católica
  • Career: La Serena U20 (Y), Universidad Católica (Y), Universidad Católica
  • Position: Striker
  • Secondary Position: Right Winger, Left Winger
  • Preferred foot: Right

The 22-year-old Diego Valencia played as a left-winger in this match. His role on the ball was to help progress the ball through passing and dribbling, while off the ball he moved alongside the striker to form a faux front two, as both strikers are tall and good in the air. With his team out of possession, Diego was asked to track back and help win aerial duels resulting from set-pieces. 

The hybrid role that Valencia was utilised in is somewhat suited to his strengths. Standing at 185cm, he has the height to score headed goals and beat defenders in the air, though he has quite a slim frame and looks like a rather lanky player, and could definitely benefit from adding some muscle mass. Should he bulk up, then Chile will have a very powerful weapon in their arsenal. Clearly, he is right-footed and in this match, he avoided the use of his left foot whenever possible. He has some speed, but his acceleration isn’t great, especially for a winger. His first touch is good enough not to be a liability but not quite good enough to be a world-class facilitating forward. Valencia can dribble too, enough to be categorised as a mobile striker rather than a target man. In my opinion, he isn’t a particularly threatening player on the wing. 

The Chilean showed good leadership and communication design the match. He worked hard for the team, pressing and tracking back when appropriate. Valencia is similar to players such as Ivan Perišić, Mario Mandžukić and Darwin Núñez. Although Valencia was taken off after 70 minutes after a rather ineffective showing, I think this was more down to misuse of his abilities rather than a lack of quality. 

Rating – B2

Diego Valencia played fairly poorly in this match as a left-winger. However, he did show enough technical, physical, mental and social competence to justify my instinct that Valencia could be a good player in the future, should he work on adding muscle mass to his tall frame. I acknowledge that he is currently a far worse player, but Benfica should have a look at him as a cost-efficient Darwin Núñez replacement. 

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