Tolima v Cortuluá
There’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. Tolma’s lengthy injury list, at one point this season stretching to half of their first team and 14 players in total, is at last starting to ease. Tolima’s form has understandably suffered this season, yet they’ve still been competing well, all things considered. Against Junior in the Barranquilla club’s all-conquering home last week, Tolima gave it a real go and were unlucky to lose 2-1. Manager Hernan Torres exploded after the game accusing the refereeing as being “perverse.” Club owner Cesar Camargo went further in suggesting something beyond human error was at play in their defeat. The point is that Tolima are going to improve and that turning point should come here. Crucially, three players will return to action against Cortuluá to provide much needed respite.
However, the real reason pointing to a comfortable home win is the paucity of the opposition. Cortuluá are in desperate trouble. Four defeats in a row and without an away win since March, they are a club headed straight for the second division. Last week they didn’t even play that badly, but were still thumped 4-1 at home by Millonarios. Admittedly, Millonarios are the best team in the country right now, but the lack of confidence shown by Cortuluá and the naivety of this mostly young squad reveals a side who have pretty much given up hope this season. With manager Cesar Torres on borrowed time too, this could be the end of the road for him. And Corutulá won’t be far behind. Expect Tolima to hammer another nail in their relegation coffin.
América de Cali v Deportivo Cali
It’s the Cali derby, one of the fiercest in the country. Form normally goes out of the window in such ties where avoiding defeat and saving face is usually the order of the day. Yet here that probably won’t be the case. Deportivo Cali are in such dire straits at the moment, heavily in debt with disciplinary problems and a rookie manager, that it’s hard to see them putting up a fight. The trouble has been brewing for months. The club’s cash situation is so bad that until one of their ex-players was sold (Jhon Lucumi to Bologna) for a £2m sell-on clause, the club were on the verge of financial oblivion. But while matters off the pitch have eased for now, on it Cali continue to plunge to new depths. Last week, one of the main club directors stormed into the changing room drunk after the game, swearing at the players and displaying aggressive behaviour. He’s since been forced to resign, but the club remain bottom of the league and star-man Teofilo Gutierrez, who once pulled a gun out on his teammates while at Racing, has again been up to his old tricks. Sent off twice this season already, the Cali captain probably won’t play for the club again. His poisonous influence in the changing room and ill-discipline is the last thing a crisis-ridden club needs.
América are steadily building. Unlike Mayer Candelo, the rookie Deportivo Cali coach, América have the wily Costa Rican Alexandre Guimaraes in charge. Unbeaten in their last nine, the team aren’t blessed with too much talent or squad depth, yet they are nonetheless making progress and should make the top eight and thus fight for the title at the end of the year. There’s night and day between the two Cali clubs at the moment and that should be evident in the latest derby. Back America to rub more salt in the gaping wound of their city rivals.
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