LigaPro Action Returns!
The 2021 LigaPro season promises to be one of the most entertaining in recent years.
The 2021 Ecuadorian LigaPro is back this week. The players have had the last couple of months to rest, the teams have put in their best efforts to sign players and improve their teams, and now it’s time for the 16 teams to compete in what promises to be one of the most entertaining seasons of recent memory.
Reigning champions Barcelona S.C. will attempt to make it back-to-back championships in 2021. Their impressive defensive record propelled them to the title in 2020. This year, Fabián Bustos has strengthened the defense even more with some fantastic acquisitions and signed attacking minded players which make them a scary prospect for the other 15 teams in the division. Will their superb squad and technically sound manager lead El Ídolo to a record 17th title? Or will their wonderful team make them dream of continental glory?
Beaten finalists, Liga de Quito will go into the season with a chip on their shoulder. After losing two consecutive finals they will be wanting to prove that it’s third time lucky. Unlike Barcelona, their transfer window has been much more austere. Esteban Paz has repeatedly said that the team will operate with responsible finances due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, this has not prevented the former Copa Libertadores champions from making one of the most exciting signings of the season. Luis Amarilla, has been plucked away from cold Minnesota in a loan deal with Velez Sarsfield. The Paraguayan striker was the top striker two seasons ago and will hope to recover his scintillating form in the altitude of Quito. Amarilla and Martínez Borja will attempt to form a deadly partnership up top and guide Pablo Repetto’s men back to local glory.
Independiente del Valle, one of the best run teams in South America, will attempt, once again, to fulfill their destiny and become Ecuadorian champions. The Future Champions of Ecuador have suffered some hard blows in the offseason, losing manager Miguel Ángel Ramírez along with two their most exciting prospects Moisés Caicedo and Ángelo Preciado. Renato Paiva, the Portuguese manager, has been entrusted to continue an exciting project that is anxiously awaiting its first local trophy.
Universidad Católica, who limped into the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 4 decades, will attempt to shed off the tag of entertainers and become genuine contenders for the title. Their signings, although not very exciting, have attempted to fill the gaps that almost left them without a Libertadores berth last season. The Chatolei, have a narrow squad that will force them to balance their attention between the LigaPro and the Libertadores, that coupled with the medical absence that Sachi Escobar will take after the first two matches means that it could be a difficult season for the Little Blue Train.
C.S. Emelec underwent a renaissance during the second part of the 2020 season. The team and manager finally managed to achieve harmony and we were able to have a taste of what the team from Guayaquil could produce. This season, the team has made some very shrewd signings that should once again make them one of the best teams of the league. Will it be enough to compete with Barcelona and Liga de Quito?
Last season, Guayaquil City were the surprise package. Their exciting attacking football, coupled with Pool Gavilanez’ intelligent tactics were enough to earn them a first-time appearance in the Copa Sudamericana. Since then, they have lost their captain Michael Hoyos to Barcelona and made plenty of signings to help them have a deep squad. Will the team be able to work well together and compete in two different fronts?
CD Macará will face the 2021 season without Paúl Vélez in the dugout. The team from Ambato qualified for the Sudamericana last year in a season where they were unable to reach the dizzying heights of 2019. A much-changed squad, lead by Eduardo Favaro, must attempt to click fast if they want to be on the right end of the table.
S.D. Aucas is one of the teams that has made the most ambitious signings in an effort to become title contenders. Francisco Fydriszewski and Stiven Tapiero were the brightest lights of their former teams and have signed to provide the squad a solid backbone. Their participation in Copa Sudamericana and the vast number of signings that will need time to understand each other is the only caveat for a team that might surprise a few people in the upcoming season.
Técnico Universitario will once again attempt to have a good season that sees them fight for a possible continental berth while remaining as clear as possible from the relegation zone. That task looks easier said than done. The team from Ambato lost their best player in Stiven Tapiero and will have a hard time finding a defensive midfielder that will replace him. They will be pinning their hopes on former Colombian U-20 striker Carlos Ibargüen. If they are not careful, a relegation fight is not out of the picture.
Delfín S.C. shocked the nation with their title winning run in 2019. Last season was not very kind to them, as they finished 10th. Their new manager, Paúl Vélez, will hope to make them contenders once again and to do so has signed players that suit his solid defensive style with quick counterattacks upon recovering the ball. Unfortunately, for the team from Manta, this appears to be a rebuilding year. It is likely that they will not struggle with relegation but will have to be content with sneaking in a Copa Sudamerican berth at best.
Mushuc Runa, led by their eccentric president Chango, will be hoping for a more stable season with Geovanny Cumbicus in charge. Unfortunately, for the Little Poncho, their signings, both in and out clearly state that they are a weaker team than they were last season. They have a relegation battle in their hands and a turbulent season lies ahead for them.
Club Deportivo Cuenca looked doomed last season. Their team didn’t click, and they seemed to be relegation favorites. Nevertheless, the team rallied together, and, lead by the brilliant Diego Dorregaray, were able to defy the odds and stay in the top-flight of Ecuadorian football. This season, their goals are different, they will be looking to finish higher up in the table and be safe from relegation. To do so, they will have to rely on getting the best out of their new signings, including Andrés Chicaiza, who has had a torrid couple of years after arguably being the best player of the season in 2019 and commanding a 1.5-million-dollar price tag. They should be safe from any troubles, but perhaps this year is one to focus on stability.
Patricio Lara, once Jorge Célico’s right hand man, did what was seemingly impossible, he turned Orense S.C. into a solid team that managed to stay in the top-flight. The Argentine was precisely what the team from Machala needed. His no-nonsense defense was brilliantly protected by central midfielder Éder Cetre who grabbed games by the scruff of the neck and bullied even the most fearsome attacking players in the league. Cetre is no longer a part of this team, and if Patricio Lara wants his team to be safe from relegation, he must immediately find a replacement. He has entrusted that role on Wilmer Godoy. Often Emelec’s scapegoat, Godoy will need to find his feet fast if Orense want to stay in the top-flight during 2022.
That C.D. Olmedo, are in the LigaPro 2021 is a mere coincidence. They happened to be marginally better than El Nacional and Liga de Portoviejo. Their best player and captain, Willian Cevallos, has been sold, and their second-best player is a goalkeeper who is inconsistent. The former champions face an uphill battle to remain in the division, and will need Jordan Rezabala to be in top form to even stand a chance.
The newly promoted teams are always a complete enigma. You never know how they will perform. Out of the two promoted squads 9 de Octubre F.C. have the biggest chance to stay up. The highly controversial team has made a slew of signings in their bid to become a mainstay in Ecuadorian Football. In their televised friendly against Barcelona, they didn’t look out of place. If the new players fit in well into the manager’s plans and philosophy, they should be in with a fighting chance to squeeze a Sudamericana Berth.
Manta F.C. are back in the top-flight. The team with one of the best badges in world football will be trying to stay up in the top-flight against teams, that on paper are much better than them. A concerted effort has been made to sign clinical strikers, but this has been done while ignoring their defensive frailties. They will seriously struggle to stay up this season unless something close to miraculous clicks with their defenders.
Who will be the 2021 LigaPro champions? Who will be relegated? Will this season actually live up to the expectations? If you want these questions answered and to enjoy a fast paced, physical league, make sure you tune in to the Ecuadorian LigaPro 2021 when it kicks-off on Friday, February 19th at 16:30.