Millonarios v Junior
The wheels appear to be finally coming off the Millonarios bus. After being the best team in the Colombian Primera A in 2022, faithful to a distinct style and with the best defensive record in the league, injuries to key players have exposed the team’s shallow squad. In the away leg of this fixture at the weekend, Millonarios were awful, playing probably their worst game of the season. With Juan Pablo Vargas, Stiven Vega and Eduardo Sosa all missing the trip to the coast, Millonarios were sorely exposed in the Barranquilla heat, with Costa Rican defender Vargas’ replacement Andres Murillo culpable in both of Junior’s goals in the 2-1 defeat.
The good news is that Sosa returns for this game, alongside young full back Roberto Rosales and temperamental striker Ricardo Marquez. They are hardly key figures, but will nevertheless provide a significant boost to a squad creaking at the seams.
Millonarios now need to put in a performance. After being so dominant in the Colombia league all year, a big result is needed against a Junior side who always struggle in the high Andean mountaintops of Bogota. With a packed house expected, Millonarios will be strong favourites. But their recent blip in form can’t be ignored. Millonarios still lack a quality striker with manager Alberto Gamero rotating between the clunky Diego Herazo and youngster Jader Valencia. For all their dominance in games, it’s rare to see Millonarios beat a team convincingly. With Junior obviously coming to sit deep in the Bogotá altitude, the smart money points at unders.
Bucaramanga v Nacional
It was one-way traffic in this reverse fixture in Medellín at the weekend as Nacional romped to a 4-1 win to end a seven-game winless streak. Nacional had been steadily improving and the win was long overdue. But the manner in which they glided to victory was perhaps surprising. Yet don’t expect them to find it as easy here.
Home advantage is often more pronounced in Colombia than other countries as teams have to navigate a range of variables including extreme altitude, humidity and temperature, as well as the absence, quite often, of away fans. It often produces quite frightful football as teams rely on their home form and simply try to shut up shop away from home.
But goals are a hallmark of both of these teams and it is overs that seems to be the glaring call here. Bucaramanga know they simply need to win to have any hope of making it to the final. All season they have thrown caution to the wind in concentrating on where they are strongest – in the final third. At 36 years old Dayro Moreno is in the form of his life, thanks largely to the quality of chances provided by wily playmaker Sherman Cardenas. Lumping a small sum on Moreno to score at any time and you are usually laughing. But with Nacional also having the quality – particularly on the bench if an early goal isn’t found – to hurt Bucaramanga’s porous defence, we should be in for more than a few goals. Go over 1.5 goals to play it safe, or reduce your stake and slap money on over 2.5 goals at 2.25 if you feel bold.
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