Millonarios v Patriotas
For much of this season Millonarios have easily been the team to beat. But over the last couple of weeks the wheels have started to come off the team and they come into this game on a run of three straight defeats. Expect that to change here. Millonarios’ wobble coincided with the international break and a string of injuries to key players. But they are expected to be more or less back to full strength for this game, with only midfielder Larry Vasquez a doubt and will undergo a late fitness test. The return of Andrés Gómez, the best young player in the league this season and whom many are comparing to a young Faustino Asprilla, is a much-needed boost.
Patriotas missed a golden chance to hoist themselves to safety midweek when they could only draw at home to Pasto. In truth, a draw was more than they deserved. They are still likely to survive, mainly because their rivals are in a worse state than they are. But with the worst away form in the division, it’s hard to see how they can match Millonarios’ quality. In fact, Patriotas have played eight away games this season, collecting just one point. With 16 goals conceded on their travels, more adventurous punters might even fancy a -1 handicap bet on Millonarios to roll over Patriotas and book their spot in the next round of the title race in front of a packed El Campín. But backing Millonarios is definitely the right call.
Deportivo Cali v Once Caldas
Deportivo Cali have turned the corner. Buoyed by the appointment of the vastly experienced and widely respected coach Jorge Luis Pinto, there’s a breath of fresh air about this team compared to the one that started the tournament in such torrid form. While issues off the field continue to dog the club, Pinto’s presence has brought much-needed stability. It may not last long. The former Costa Rican manager has long been known for his heavy disciplinary hand and for a string of high-profile squabbles with key players. But for now, at least, his magic and experience has blown away the malaise. The fact that he’s currently living at the club’s training centre has injected some urgency, direction and purpose into the team. And, after beating city rivals América to end a four-match losing streak, Cali claimed a credible point away at high flying Rionegro Aguilas midweek. With no pressure to pick up results this season, Cali will simply be about continuing their recent revival.
Once Caldas do have something to play for. A win here and they will book their place in the title-race showdown. Yet another battling defensive display midweek against Nacional earned a successive 1-0 win. In truth, they got a bit lucky. Their goal came courtesy of a penalty following an act of petulance from Nacional’s goalkeeper Kevin Mier. There’s been nothing lucky about Once’s defence this season though. In their last five games, they have conceded just one goal. Yet scoring has been their problem and with leading marksman Ayron del Valle, scorer of that midweek penalty, suspended for this game, under 2.5 has to be the bet here.
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