Two days ago the regular tournament of the Colombian Apertura 2017 was finished and eight teams have qualified to the playoff. Atletico Nacional looked as the best team in the league through the whole season and they are clearly the favorite to take the championship, especially now when they have been eliminated from any International competitions and will play with their strongest squad until the end of the playoffs. They broke the points record in Colombia for both long and short tournaments – 49, but failed in the last match to make it to 50 points. They also didn’t lost in all their 19 matches, but couldn’t make it to the end of the league and lost in their final match vs. rivalry team, Independiente Medellin 4-3. Medellin themselves had a great tournament, achieving 42 points and finished second.
The teams that qualified to the playoff
The teams which disappointed and won’t be inside the playoff are Independiente Santa Fe, the current champion for those who forgot. They drew 1-1 at home in their last match vs. Alianza Petrolera and finished 9th. Also Junior Barranquilla, who had terrible tournament and they finished only 12th. Another teams that usually find themselves in the top-middle part of the table and had terrible tournament are Once Caldas & Deportes Tolima, both finished 16 & 17 respectively.
The playoff system will be two-leg series in the quarter final, semi final and final. In Colombia there is no away goal rule so in case of a tie in the series, the winner will be decided in a PK shoot-out. The first four teams have been drawn against teams 5-8. I will shortly describe every match in the quarter final and give my opinion regarding the odds. This is the playoff bracket:
Atletico Nacional vs. Jaguares – David vs. Goliat. Atletico Nacional broke almost every record in the league, won 15 out of their 20 games with the first or second string. Now that they are no longer playing International competitions, Nacional will play with their powerful squad including Macnelly Torres, Dayro Moreno & Andres Ibarguen and they are clearly the favorite to qualify to the semi final. In the league Nacional won the match at Atanasio Girardot stadium 2-0, Matheus Uribe and Dayro Moreno scored. Jaguares qualified for their first ever playoff and their main target is the grab as many points as possible in order to avoid relegation. Juan Mezu, Cesar Carillo and ray Vanegas will try to do the impossible and eliminate Nacional. Odds: 90-10 to Nacional
Millonarios vs. Atletico Bucaramanaga – Interesting match. Bucaramanga managed to qualify to the playoff on Santa Fe’s expense in the last fixture. While Millonarios is the favorite but not by much, they also very unexpected and inconsistent team. While they can play very good because their squad is capable of, they can also lose games that they should win on paper. This is why I’m tempted to say that Millos is the favorite to win but if Bucaros will do that, it won’t be a surprise. When the teams played in the league, Millos won easily 3-0 at El Campin stadium, Kouffaty, Arango and Machado scored. Now it’s a different story. Millonarios is the favorite but not by much. Bucaramanaga will keep to rely on Dario Rodriguez, John Perez and John Freddy Pajoy and their current form can help the to qualify. Odds: 60-40 to Millonarios.
Independiente Medellin vs. Deportivo Cali – Surely the most promising series of all four and most probably the closest one. Both teams are almost equally strong, especially if we take a look on the squads, but Medellin’s form is much more impressive then Cali. But we know that in the playoff it’s a whole new story and no one will be surprise to see Deportivo Cali qualify to the semi final. While Medellin depending on their midfield-duo, Cristian Marrugo and Juan Quintero and Argentine striker, Valentin Viola, Cali on their hand has their wonderful top scorer, Jefferson Duque, Fabian Sambueza, Abel Aguilar and wonder kid, Nicolas Benedetti. In the league match at Atanasio Girardot, Medellin won 3-1 with goals from Jhon Hernandez (x2) and Juan David Valencia. It was Duque who scored for Cali. Odds: 50-50
Marrugo from Medellin between Aguilar and Perez from Cali
Deportivo Pasto vs. America Cali – America fans waited 5 years in order to return to the premier division and now it happened. In their first year they managed to qualify to the playoff and aim the title, even though they still need to improve. They were very inconsistent this tournament and along side good football, came also bad results. The have the potential, they have good squad on paper, they have many many fans behind them, they should be the favorites in this series even though it was Pasto who finished above them. America will hope that their top scorer, Cristian Martinez-Borja will continue to score and with him there are also veteran striker, Ernesto Farias and also talented midfielder, Jeison Lucumi. Pasto on the other hand did a magnificent tournament. They finished third, they have two strikers in great shape like Sachi Trellez and Yamilson Rivera (ex America) and they finished so high for a reason. So it’s not going to be easy one for the ‘Red Devils’ but my gamble is still on them. In the league America won 1-0 at Pascual Guerrero , Martinez Borja scored. Odds: 55-45 to America.