Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica lock horns on Sunday in the latest chapter in Chilean football's oldest rivalry, one that according to some stretches back exactly 100 years. FIFA.com reveals the history that has made Santiago's clásico universitario such a special fixture.
The roots of this battle for supremacy stretch back to the start of the last century, years before the two sides actually came into being in their current guises. Both clubs emerged from the respective university teams that predated their creation. Club Deportivo Universidad de Chile was founded on 24 May 1927 under the name of Club Deportivo Universitario, an institution created as a result of the merger of three teams representing other seats of higher education.
Universidad de Chile (also known as Los Azules, La U and Los Chunchos - The Owls), adopted their current name in 1937, when a group of students from the Universidad Catolica, which formed part of Universitario, broke away to form a team representing their university only. It was on 21 April that year that these footballing dissidents finally fulfilled a dream first nurtured back in 1908 by the members of the amateur side Universidad Catolica Football Club, the forerunners of the club now known by the nicknames of La UC, Los Católicos, Los Franjeados (The Striped Ones) and Los Cruzados (The Crossed Ones).
It is for this reason that certain purists identify a match ending in a 3-3 draw on 1 November 1909 as the very first meeting between the sides. If that were the case, this Sunday's league encounter would conveniently mark the exact centenary of the start of the rivalry. According to the record books, however, the first official match between the university rivals was a second division game on 13 June 1937, with Universidad de Chile emerging 2-1 winners.
Facts and figures
Since then Los Azules and Los Cruzados have faced each other 164 times in the first division, with Universidad de Chile claiming 64 wins, Los Católicos 44 and the other 56 games ending in draws. The leading goalscorer in the fixture is Carlos Campos, who scored 14 times for La U, while no player has made more appearances on either side than Universidad Catolica's Mario Lepe, a veteran of 35 university derbies.
The biggest ever victory was a 5-0 win for Catolica in a 1954 league match, while the fixture's longest unbeaten run was put together by Universidad de Chile, who went 21 games without defeat between 1971 and 1984.
Over the years the rivalry has been fuelled by its protagonists' determination to outdo each other in the league championship standings, with Los Chunchos occupying second place in the all-time table with 13 domestic titles, and Los Católicos lying one place below them with nine. In terms of cup competitions, Universidad Catolica have the edge, however, winning nine of the 11 Chilean Cup finals the two outfits have contested. La UC also have an international trophy to their name, the 1994 Copa Interamericana, and have made one appearance in the final of the Copa Libertadores, achievements that their scholarly rivals have so far been unable to match.
Tales of derbies past
In 1939 Los Azules recorded a 2-1 win in the first top-flight duel with their neighbours. Up until 1955, the year in which Universidad Catolica were first relegated from the first division, honours were even with 15 wins apiece. The bad feeling between the sides intensified in the 1960s when La UC won the league championship at their opponent's home ground in 1961 and La U promptly returned the favour the following year. By the 1970s and early 80s, however, Universidad de Chile has established a grip on the fixture, stringing together 21 games without defeat.
One clásico that Católicos fans like to relive is a memorable meeting in August 1994, with both sides battling it out at the top of the table. Reduced to nine men in the second half, Catolica snatched an improbable 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from Argentinian defender Sergio Vasquez. Universidad de Chile had the last laugh that season, however, winning the return game 1-0 through a Marcelo Salas strike and then taking the title by a single point from La UC.
One of the fixture's more bizarre incidents came in October 2002. With the sides tied at 1-1, referee Carlos Chandia awarded a penalty in La U's favour. Catolica's goalkeeper was knocked out cold as a result of the incident and as his side had already made their allotted substitutions, defender Cristian Alvarez was forced to pull on the gloves.
"Dive to your left," said referee Chandia as the stand-in keeper took up position. Heeding his advice, Alvarez pushed away Pedro Gonzalez's spot-kick, causing an almighty fuss, as the penalty-taker recalls. "There was a huge controversy and though I was able to laugh about it later, at the time I kept asking for an explanation." The game finished all-square.
Later, 2005 proved a year to remember for Catolica. After knocking La U out of the Copa Sudamericana, they then defeated them on penalties in the final of the Clausura Championship, their last piece of silverware to date.
The most recent university derby, played in May this year, generated plenty of talking points. Having steered his side to the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores, Universidad de Chile coach Sergio Markarian decided to field a second-string team, to the dissatisfaction of many of the club's fans. They had no need to worry. Despite their weakened line-up, Los Azules came away with a 1-0 win and celebrated their 15th title success two months later.
The rivalry today
Universidad Catolica currently lead the table with two rounds of games in the regular Clausura Championship still to go, and have already secured one of the eight play-off places. Universidad de Chile find themselves languishing in tenth, meanwhile. And though the number of goals scored is all that separates them from the top eight, La U run a real risk of missing out on the season's finale if they slip up on Sunday.