Envigado v Tolima
Envigado did so well to come this far. But now, it’s like they wished they hadn’t bothered. Crushed in almost every game in the semi-final group stage, they have long been playing to make up the numbers. Not even Watford-bound Yaser Asprilla has been able to inspire them with just one goal all season. Against Equidad in their last game, it was men against boys as their youthful side – easily the youngest in the division – were naively torn apart. Injuries and suspensions have played their part in reducing their tiny squad down to its bare bones, but it also seems like they have given up the ghost.
Tolima are battle hardened and experienced when it comes to qualifying for Colombian league finals. They are aiming for a third consecutive appearance in the title decider, but need to win here to avoid being pipped at the line by Equidad. Pressure hasn’t been much of an issue all season, though. Both in qualifying from a tough Copa Libertadores group by needing to go to Atletico Mineiro and win in Brazil for the first time, or playing over 70 minutes in their last crunch tie against DIM with ten men – and winning! -, Tolima have long shown mental resolve. In previous years their first XI was always good enough to give anyone a game. But now they have a quality-packed squad to rely on too.
Equidad might not like to hear it, but there’s little to suggest that it will be Tolima and not them qualifying for this year’s apertura final. A Tolima win here will seal it. Against a woeful Envigado side in a virtually empty stadium, expect Tolima to emphatically get the job down and make it a hat-trick of finals for the first time in the club’s history.
La Equidad v DIM
There’s still hope. The odds might be against tiny Equidad reaching their first final for 11 years, but with the pressure piled on Tolima to win their match, Equidad will be poised to spring a surprise. Finishing joint on points will Tolima won’t be enough no matter their goal difference, so Equidad will need to win this game and hope Tolima slip up. The first part of the deal seems likely.
Equidad are probably the most in-form team left in the title race at the moment. Three home wins on the spin without conceding a goal only tells half a tale. Equidad have been dominant in all those games, as well as the weekend 3-0 win over 10-men Envigado. Something has clicked. They are playing their best football of the season and at their Techo home, are imperious.
It took a while for players to bed in to manager Alexis Garcia’s rigid team-focused system, but during the group stage of the Colombian league, Garcia has found his team. It picks itself, especially up front where Chaverra, Sabbag and Camacho, have chipped in with 17 goals. Yet Equidad remain a low-scoring team and we shouldn’t be fooled by the 3-0 win over hapless 10-men Envigado at the weekend. Ever true to their style, expect Equidad to chase the first goal and then ruthlessly close the game down.
With DIM headed in the opposition direction, so lacklustre and flat with a man extra at home to Tolima in their last game, an Equidad win should be highly fancied. But with DIM’s leading scorer Luciano Pons also suspended for this game, the better option is unders.
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