Marcelo Bielsa will sit on the Roja bench for the last time tonight in Santiago, as his Chile team face a tough test against Uruguay...
When Marcelo Bielsa leads his players onto the pitch in Santiago tonight it will be the end of an era, as in all likelihood it will be the last game the Argentine directs on behalf of 'La Roja'. Falling on his own sword after Jorge Segovia was elected over ally Harold Mayne-Nicholls as president of the Chilean FA, 'El Loco' will be sorely missed by the fans and players of the football-mad nation.
"All 17million of us are sad", was one newspaper's telling reaction to the popular coach's resignation, while several players have put their Roja futures on the line by publicly backing the trainer over the powerful new head of Chilean football. If one thing is clear it is that the players will want to give the man who turned round their national team a send-off that befits three years of sterling work, and with the heroes of the World Cup back in Santiago to play, it will be a bitter sweet night.
Celeste think towards 2011:
While the mood in the Chile camp will be one of reflection, Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez will undoubtedly see this game against their Copa America group opponents as the start of preparations for the tournament in Argentina next July.
The best finishing South American team in the World Cup will feel more confident than ever of making a splash in the continental competition. Tabarez knows his starting XI and tactics inside out; stars such as Diego Forlan, captain Diego Lugano and sharphooter Luis Suarez will barring injury certainly be involved, and tonight's game is a great opportunity to show that the Rioplatense nation will be there or there abouts when the Copa concludes in Buenos Aires in nine months time.
The full international midweek schedule gives Chile the luxury of playing a first-choice team in their capital, giving the public a rare chance to see the stars who play in Europe and elsewhere in the flesh. Alexis Sanchez, Humberto Suazo and Mark Gonzalez make up a potent three man attack, while at the back Gary Medel of Boca Juniors reunites with Waldo Ponce in the defensive partnership that was so effective in South Africa.
The Charrua also have the luxury of fielding their European stars, and welcome back World Cup sensation Diego Forlan after the forward missed recent games in Asia. The Atletico star will play at number 10 behind Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, repeating the attack that was so successful in the team's run to fourth place in South Africa. Diego Godin is the most notable absence for the 'Celeste'; the centre back is injured and will be replaced in defence by Chile-based Mauricio Victorino.
Claudio Bravo; Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Waldo Ponce, Arturo Vidal; Carlos Carmona, Jean Beausejour, Pedro Morales; Alexis Sánchez, Humberto Suazo, Mark González
Muslera; Maxi Pereira, Diego Lugano, Mauricio Victorino, Jorge Fucile; Walter Gargano, Egidio Arevalo Rios, Alvaro Pereira; Diego Forlan; Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez
I believe that Chile with the advantage of home support will be able to give 'El Loco' the perfect send off. 2-1 to the 'Roja'.