Patriotas v Atlético Nacional
There’s a strong feeling that Nacional haven’t yet hit top gear this season. The sacking of young coach Alejandro Restrepo after their early exit from the Copa Libertadores required a steadying hand and interim manager Hernan Dario Herrera has done a decent job. Everybody knows that the Medellin side are waiting for Colombia to sack Reinaldo Rueda in order to drag him back to the club he made South American champions in 2016. But for now, Herrera has been quietly getting on with the job. Three wins and two draws in their last five games has propelled Nacional up to sixth. Furthermore, their away record is one of the best in the league.
Against Patriotas the gulf in quality is huge. The Tunja side are almost certainly doomed to drop into the second division, which is quite a statement given we’re only in April. But it’s hardly surprising given the quality of their squad. Normally they can rely on their form at home, the highest altitude stadium in Colombia, to steer them to safety. But not this year. New manager Arturo Boyaca has improved their form slightly, but they should still be no match for Nacional.
Junior v Alianza Petrolera
Junior welcome back two important players for this game with winger Jhon Fredy Pajoy and striker Fernando Uribe returning to the squad after injury saw them both miss the 1-0 midweek defeat against Millonarios. Again, Junior flopped on their travels with patience again starting to run thin among fans with manager Juan Cruz Real. He was never their first pick. And it’s quite incredible that a manager sacked at much smaller clubs like Jaguares and today’s opponents Alianza, should have landed such a job. But as the Argentine openly explained in his press conference afterwards: it will be our home form that carries us into the top eight (and thus seal qualification for the all-important title race).
Junior are undefeated in Barranquilla this season where they have won five out of six. In the game they didn’t win against Pasto last time out, they were extremely unfortunate. Their xG was more than double that of Pasto’s and that can partly be explained by the fact that their main striker, Miguel Borja, was on international duty with Colombia. He’ll surely start here after dashing back for the Millonarios game but only appearing as a late substitute.
We know what we’re getting with Alianza: solid organisation, a deep line and fast transitions. They can be frustrating, but the Junior should know how to handle them. Expect their far superior quality to shine through.
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