Sunday’s Colombian Primera A Predictions & Best Bets


Once Caldas v Deportivo Pereira

Sunday 31st July – 8:00PM KO

Once Caldas are unbeaten so far this season with three score draws and a 2-0 win at home against Rionegro Aguilas. The Manizales club currently sits in sixth place in the league; the start has been solid and there are signs of even better to come.

The team has made drastic changes since their underwhelming apertura campaign with a fresh injection of quality and experience across the starting eleven. Though, while the likes of Riquett and Artunduaga add to the sale there have also been a couple of important departures this week.

Tricky winger Nelson Quiñónes (20) has joined Houston Dynamo on loan with an option to buy, lively forward Mender Garcia (23) has signed for Minnesota United and complete midfielder Robert Mejia (21) has moved to Giresunspor in Turkey. While fans will be disappointed to lose some interesting academy graduates, I think this represents smart business in the short term.

Once Caldas have brought in experienced, proven performers at this level to replace talented but inconsistent youngsters. This should set them up for a good end to 2022 even if the ceiling of the squad overall is lower. They have the quality needed to make the playoffs and from there anything is possible.

Pereira has switched up their tactical approach and after a slow start things look to be moving in the right direction. They finished fourteenth in the apertura and they lost their opener of the clausura 2-1 at home to a limited Alianza Petrolera side but bounced back with a 2-0 home win to Patriotas and a 2-1 away victory against Deportivo Cali.

Pereira play three solid experienced central defenders with three midfielders in front; the young energetic Goez, the veteran anchor Vasquez and the dynamic creator Medina. Jherson Mosquera on the left and Duban Palacios on right both provide pace, drive and invention while Leon and Castro combine effectively up top.

It is a pragmatic, uncomplicated but effective approach; two good strikers, three solid midfielders and lots of pace out wide.

This derby game between two historic coffee region clubs will be fiercely contested in front of passionate fans. Both clubs have reason for optimism this season and I can see this as a close encounter.

I expect Once Caldas to dominate possession but I can see Pereira hitting them effectively on the break while minimizing their creative threat by packing the midfield.

Prediction: Once Caldas to Win, 1.67 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

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Rionegro Aguilas v Junior F.C.

Sunday 31st July – 10:05PM KO

Mulleted Colombian legend Leonel Alvarez has launched a bit of a revolution at Rionegro Aguilas, with many of those signed by the club in January already shipped out again. Alvarez has cut down the squad and looked to build a more consistent, trusted core for this season.

They picked up a creditable 2-2 draw against Santa Fe at home in the opener, were beaten away by Once Caldas before dominating at home to apertura playoff qualifiers La Equidad with a resounding 3-0 win. They had 16 shots on goal with 8 on target in this game from a week ago.

Aguilas play a 4-2-3-1 system with experienced poacher Marco Perez up top, three interchanging attacking midfielders behind while Rivas tidies up and Castaño distributes from deep. The defensive midfielders sit, the fullbacks push on and the wingers invert to create effective overlaps in wide areas.

Aguilas look to be building quite an effective, functional side that could see them sneak into one of the playoff spots.

Junior, on the other hand, has seen one experienced Colombian international striker leave and another arrive. Miguel Borja has moved to River Plate while one-time academy graduate Carlos Bacca has come in. Bacca (35) only scored 1 in 19 for his final European club Granada but his record at Club Brugge, Sevilla, AC Milan and Villarreal shows the quality he has on his day.

In a league where defenses often sit deep and smart movement in the final third is key, I am sure Bacca will shine even if he has lost some pace.

Junior has shifted from their usual 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-1-1 system this season. This works particularly well with the possession one of the Colombian giants usually enjoy; the numerical advantage in the midfield means they control possession, runners can arrive late in the box, the 10 has freedom to drift and the wingbacks can push high.

This makes Junior less predictable and gives greater fluidity while also retaining a solid core with experienced ball winners Moreno and Giraldo bossing the midfield.

I think Rionegro is moving in the right direction but I can see a big win for Junior in this one. The superior quality and numbers should mean Junior dominate the center of the pitch while Bacca will look to make a big impact on his first start since his return.

Prediction: Over 1.5 Goals, 1.44 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) 

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