La U will make the trip from Lima up into the northern highlands of Peru to take on Cajamarca at 2,400 feet. Will the major club be able to earn a victory to set up an epic final weekend of league play, or will bottom-feeding UTC play spoiler?
Two weeks to go
With only two weeks remaining in the Peruvian Liga 1 Clausura, the stakes could not be higher. The three biggest clubs in the country based in the capital, Alianza Lima, U. de Deportes and Sporting Cristal are all within one point of each other.
With both Alianza and Cristal playing at home the week, it is critical that La U earn a victory away to set up a home match for the title next weekend. The remaining two matches set up easiest for La U away at Cajamarca (16th) and home to Garcilaso (12th).
In comparison, Alianza Lima plays at home to Huancayo (4th) and away at Comercio (7th). Cristal finishes at home to Huanuco (10th) and away at Binacional (5th).
Not only do both of the other teams in Lima have to play two teams inside the top ten, but La U has the benefit of facing two teams in the bottom eight, with the more difficult of the two coming at home. The title is there for La U to win, and it begins this week at Cajamarca.
Strength vs. Weakness
On paper, this matchup is exactly what Los Merengues want.
Through 15 matches so far, Angel Comizzo has led the club to a historic season on defence. In total, the team has conceded just nine goals, with five of them occurring in the past two weeks. Before the game two weeks ago at Deportivo Municipal, Universitario had played seven consecutive matches without conceding.
Cajamarca has been the complete opposite. One of the poorest attacks through the first ten weeks of a season saw a managerial change, with little to show for it since.
UTC has scored just ten goals this season with four of them coming in the past three weeks. There is a clear lack of finishing, but also an issue generating opportunities. UTC has won the shot battle just once in the past six matches.
Cajamarca is located at 2,600 feet above sea level which is an enormous shift for La U who play and train at sea level in Lima. In each match where altitude is a factor, the visiting team from Lima is offered at an inflated price.
However, the style of play which Universitario prefers makes them somewhat immune to the altitude advantage lower ranked teams in Peru rely on. Typically, high altitude teams play into a high press and force their opponents to always be moving and wear them out.
UTC is anything but aggressive, and should they change their tactics to be so, they play right into La U who want to approach this match in a conservative manner utilizing their strength – which is on defence. Universitario has already won matches at altitude this season against Huancayo and Pirata.
Betting market analysis
As expected, despite the talent mismatch, Universitario is listed as a 2.87 underdog (34% implied probability). At such an inflated number, the +0 handicap is incredibly in play at just less than 2.00.
This is a clear indication of the overlying altitude factor affecting the market rather than the on-field matchup, which in each way plays into the hands of Universitario. Not having to pay much more than 2.00 for the +0 is the one to focus on for bettors.