Featured Image: Peru.com
The first leg of the Descentralizado final between Sporting Cristal and Alianza Lima kicks off on Wednesday night in what should be a scintillating affair.
Sporting Cristal qualified for the final after winning the Torneo de Verano and Apertura, while Alianza Lima had to overcome Melgar in a dramatic semifinal clash.
Who will come out on top? The Peruvian Waltz staff made their picks ahead of the first leg.
Brian Bertie – @B_Bertie98
I know los Cerveceros often have the capability of blowing the lead, but as they say, lightning doesn’t strike twice. Alianza Lima coach Pablo Bengoechea may have a good formula written down with Óscar Vílchez always coming on as an impact substitute, but I can’t see it working out this time.
Prediction: Sporting Cristal win 2-0
Peter Galindo – @GalindoPW
Mario Salas should be warier of Alianza’s threat on the counter compared to the last meeting in September. However, neither set of full-backs are very convincing when defending, so they could nullify each other.
Cristal does have the slight edge in terms of individual attacking quality, though. They are one of the only sides in Peru that can seamlessly change the intensity of their play. I still anticipate it being a game where neither side wants to commit any mistakes, which is why a low-scoring draw is very likely.
Prediction: A 1-1 draw
Christopher Vizcardo – @viz_fc
I expect an interesting game from both sides.
While most people hate Pablo Bengoechea for his Juan Carlos Osorio-like fervour for rotation and his Diego Simeone-like efficiency, we must give credit where credit is due. Bengoechea has been to hell and back this year and is only two (possibly three) games away from back-to-back Descentralizado titles. Very early on, he said he saw himself playing the finals and despite all odds, here he is.
Mario Salas, on the other hand, needs to wake up and play ball. Sporting Cristal had such a solid first half of the tournament that the last few months saw los Cerveceros go on a downward spiral towards complacency. Alianza Lima – or should we say Alianza Uruguay – should be able to ride the excitement from the semifinals right onto the pitch. A win for Cristal would be an uphill battle for Alianza to overcome, but then again, Bengoechea seems to like that kind of stuff.
Prediction: Alianza Lima win 2-0
Michael Williams – @mtwilliams1987
Alianza Lima go into the game with confidence sky high after coming out on top against Melgar. If Sporting Cristal can get back to the level they showed in the Torneo de Verano and the Apertura, then I think they will have too much for Alianza. I foresee two tight games but I expect Cristal to win this one.
Prediction: A 1-1 draw
Joe Healey – @teachermanjoe
Alianza Lima is coming off a strong Clausura and most recently an emotional semi-final win against a solid Melgar team. Sporting Cristal sleep-walked through an unimpressive Clausura because it had long ago clinched the top spot in the aggregate table. Will Cristal come out rusty? Will Alianza ride the wave from last week’s PK victory? My answer is “no” to both questions.
Cristal is a force to be reckoned with. Herrera and Costa accounted for 59 per cent of Cristal’s 106 goals this year. All Alianza has to do is shut down those two guys. Good luck with that. Alianza has risen to the occasion before, but Cristal’s stingy defence is another obstacle that will test the home team’s resolve.
Prediction: Sporting Cristal win 2-1