The 2014 Clausura is upon us with one of the two big clubs Olimpia or Cerro Porteño likely to miss out on the Copa Libertadores if they don’t win the title so an intense battle is afoot. But what about Rubio Ñu – how does relegation work – why does the home team often not play at home? Some of your questions answered here.
1. What is the format of the Paraguayan Clausura?
There are 12 teams, everybody plays each other home and away so 22 games in total. At the end of the 22 games the winner is crowned Clausura champion. Libertad have already won the Apertura so they would be “Campeón absoluta” should they win this. There is no playoff between the Apertura/Clausura champions as happened in previous years.
2. Who qualifies for continental competition?
Libertad are already in both the 2015 Libertadores and Sudamericana by virtue of winning the Apertura. The Clausura champion will join them. Then the best-placed non-champion grabs the final Libertadores spot, that is calculated by adding their points total from both the Apertura and Clausura. The other Sudamericana spots go to the non-champion with the 2nd and 3rd highest accumulative points total.
3. How does relegation work?
Similar to Argentina the relegation system is weighted in favour of the big team. At the end of each calendar year the two sides with the lowest average points (promedio) over the last 3 seasons are relegated to the Intermedia. If a team has only been in the league for two or one year then that average is taken instead. Going into the Clausura the 2 promoted clubs 3 de Febrero and 12 de Octubre are in the drop zone.
3 (a). Isn’t that a bit unfair?
Yes, but it does allow the major clubs to throw all their weight behind a Copa Libertadores campaign in a particular year and not fear relegation.
4. Why do a lot of teams not play at home?
Usually when a smaller side plays Olimpia or Cerro Porteño it is safer and more economically viable to “sell” their home advantage and organize the game at the national stadium Defensores del Chaco. Ultimately the two games against Cerro and Olimpia are the major earners for the smaller clubs. The superclásico is also usually played in the Defensores del Chaco (and sometimes the Antonio Aranda in Ciudad del Este) to accommodate as many fans as possible. On a few occassions games are played in a different venue because of the TV kickoff times although this is less of an issue now that most Primera clubs have installed floodlights.
5. Are any games fixed?
No, stop being so cynical! Since I’ve been following the football here closely in the last 4 years there has been no suspicion of a Primera game being fixed. Having said that incentive payments do happen which is when a team is promised a bonus from a bigger club to beat their rival. That can sometimes explain why a small team on a terrible run of form somehow manages to steal a point or 3 from a title-challenger.
6. How many games are televised?
On a given weekend there are at least 3 and usually 4 televised games – the current TV contract with the APF stipulates that all Cerro Porteño and Olimpia’s game must be broadcast and usually one from Libertad, Guaraní, Nacional or Luque will be shown. The deal is with Tigo Sports with Tigo also sponsoring the league. I usually mention the televised games in the fixtures.
7. Why are players getting subbed off in the first half so often?
The current rules stipulate that a Paraguayan player under 20 years of age must start each game but there is no maximum time they must be on the field. With many coaches not in agreement with the rule (nor very trusting of their youngsters) the habit has developed of the U20s player to be subbed off after 15-20 minutes in each game.
8. Any other rules I should know about?
Oh yes, having previously allowed a maximum of 4 foreign players per side that was reduced to 3 during the Apertura and for the 2014 Clausura only 2 foreign players are allowed per team. The idea behind this rule and the insistence of an U20s player is a direct reaction to Paraguay’s failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Let’s see if it works!
9. Ok, I’ve got it – who is going to win the thing?
Your guess is as good as mine!
By Ralph Hannah…any other questions you can find me on Twitter @paraguayralph or put them in the Comments section below