The first semester of the Liga Aguila 2017 finished only three weeks ago and in Colombia the teams are ready for the second semester which will officially start on July 7th when Boyaca Patriotas will host Atletico Huila. The champion, Atletico Nacional, will visit Santa Fe at El Campin stadium on July 9th, while another Medellin-Bogota battle will be played one day earlier at Atanasio Girardot stadium between Independiente Medellin and Millonarios.
For those who are not familiar with the system of the Colombian league I’ll remind that there are 20 teams, each plays 20 games. Why 20? one of the fixture is a special ‘Clasico fixture’ between two rivalry teams, usually from the same city or area. for example, Nacional will meet Medellin twice: one as a regular fixture and one as a special. First 8 teams will qualify to the playoff. The firs 4 will be drawn vs. the last 4. Quarter final, semi final and final are all played as two leg series, no away goals rule, no extra time. If there is a tie, the teams go straight to PK shoot-out. At the end of the year, the last two teams in the table which their points will be calculated according to the last three years, will relegated to the second division.
Let’s take a look on the changes the teams have made:
Transfers in: Juan Manuel Lillo (Coach), Gustavo Torres (Deportes Quindío), Christian Mafla (Bucaramanga)
Transfers out: Farid Díaz (Olimpia-PAR), Reinaldo Rueda (Coach), Alejandro Bernal (América), Cristian Bonilla (La Equidad), Francisco Nájera (La Equidad)
In a very surprising move Nacional released coach Rueda and brought Spanish Juan Manuel Lillo who already coach Millonarios in the past and was Sampaoli’s assistant at Sevilla last year. The fans didn’t like the idea but they’ll have to get used to it. Most significant change is Farid Diaz, who left the club after 5 years and talented Cristian Mafla will replace him. Nacional also added talented youngster from Quindio, Gustavo Torres, who did very well last season in the second division and it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll get his minutes with the jersey of Colombia’s champion. The base of last semester should battle for the title again, when all their efforts will be towards the domestic competition when they won’t participate in any international one.
Nacional players celebrate championship last semester
Transfers in: Ricardo Jerez (Alianza Petrolera), Alex Stick Castro (Alianza Petrolera), Christian Rivera (Pasto), Nestor Moiraghi (Newell’s), didier Delgado (Tolima)
Transfers out: Yonatan Murillo, Eduar Caicedo (Tolima), Germán Mera (Brujas), Camilo Vargas (Nacional), Nicolas Albarracin
Deportivo Cali did their best last semester, and were very close to win 10th championship in the history but at the end the lost to Nacional. Goalkeeper Camilo Vargas loan period was finished and Cali signed Ricardo Jerez, the captain of Guatemala and one of the best keepers in Colombia. Center back, German Mera moved to Belgium and he will be replaced by Didier Delgado and Nestor Moiraghi who came from Newell’s. Cali has the ability and the talent to battle again for the title but it also depend if they’ll continue with the Copa Sudamericana as well since they are still in the competition.
Transfers in: Juan José Peláez (Coach), Daniel Cataño (Pasto), Edinson Toloza (Junior), Danilson Córdoba (Avispa-JPN), Santiago Echeverría (Mineros de Zacatecas, de México), Daniel Restrepo (Leones), Yonatan Murillo
Transfers out: Bajas: Luis Zubeldía (Coach), Marlon Piedrahita (Junior), William Parra (La Equidad), Mauricio Cortés (La Equidad), Juan David Valencia (Santa Fe), Juan Fernando Quintero (Orlando City), Luis Tipton (America Cali), Carlos Ibarguen, Jhonier Viveros (Cortulua)
DIM had a very good first phase when they finished second in the table and played maybe the best football in Colombia under coach Luis Zubeldia. Unfortunately for them, they met Deportivo Cali in the quarter final and were eliminated too early. Zubeldia left to Spain to be the coach of Alaves and veteran Juan Jose Pelaez returns to the league after 10 years. But DIM’s most crucial change was the loan of Juan Fernando Quintero which comes to an end. The talented midfielder was one of the best players in the league and without him it’ll be more complicated. Also, important defenders like Arias, Piedrahita, Tipton and Valencia left. DIM’s most significant arrival is the striker, Edinson Toloza from Junior. The team also brought back Danilson Cordoba after almost 10 successful years in Asia and midfielders Daniel Catañ and Daniel Restrepo. DIM may be eliminated soon from the Copa Sudamericana (lost to Racing 3-1 in the 1st leg) which will make them to concentrate only in the league. They are not among the favorites but if they’ll qualify to the playoff, everything is possible.
Transfers in: Eisner Loboa (América Mineiro-BRA), Fernando ‘Queso’ Fernández (Olimpia-PAR), Darío Bottinelli (Gimnasia de La Plata-ARG), Olmes García (Real Salt Lake-USA), Carlos Lizarazo (Alianza Petrolera), Alejandro Bernal (Nacional), Luis Tipton (Independiente Medellin), Nicholas Llanos (Hejduk Split-CRO)
Transfers out: Juan Camilo Pérez, Jonathan Álvarez, Juan Camilo Hernández (Granada), Ernesto Farías, David Ferreria, Yorleys Mena (Alianza Petrolera), Charles Monsalvo, Jeison Lucumi
America returned to the league after 5 years in the second division and did pretty well. They lost only in the semi final to Deportivo Cali but in general impressed under coach Hernan Torres. This semester the main target will be also to gain more points in order to avoid relegation at the end of the year (due to the relegation calculation in the Colombian league) but also to enter once again to the playoff. The team was criticized for releasing striker Farias in the worst way such as closing the club’s gate on him. Beside Farias, Jeison Lucumi, one of the main talented players, may find himself in Europe, while another talented player, ‘Chucho’ Hernandez left as well. America brought several interesting players such as Carlos Lizarazo, Tipton from Medellin and two foreigners such as Argentine Dario Bottinelli and Paraguayan Fernando Fernandez. The club makes a huge effort in order to land also Adrian Ramos, who may be a wonderful addition.
Transfers in: Jader Valencia (Bogotá FC), Matías de los Santos (Danubio FC), Robinson Aponzá (Junior)
Transfers out: Alexis Hinestroza, Pedro Franco, Hárrison Henao (Once Caldas), Enzo Gutiérrez, Cristian Arango (Benfica-POR), Brayan Silva, Enzo Gutierrez (Santiago Wanderrers), Gabriel Diaz
Millonarios had a tough battle with Nacional in the semi final, battle which was decided in the last minute of the 2nd leg. The ‘Blues’ lost one of their talented players this semester, midfielder Cristian Arango who joined Benfica and also lost center back Pedro Franco. He will be replaced by Uruguayan Matias de los Santos, while Robinson Aponza came from Junior to add power up front. Millos under coach Russo can definitely see themselves among the favorites.
Independiente Santa Fe
Transfers in: Gregorio Pérez (Coach), Jhonier Viveros (Medellín), Víctor Giraldo (Deportes Tolima), Jhon Fredy Pajoy (Bucaramanga), Yamilson Rivera (Pasto), Wilson Morelo (Everton-CHI), Juan David Valencia (Medellín)
Transfers out: Cristian Borja (Cortuluá), Gustavo Costas (Coach), Jonatan Gómez (Sao Paulo FC-BRA), Johan Arango (Once Caldas).
Santa Fe had a very disappointed semester, finding themselves out from the playoff in the last fixture. Add to that the failure in the Libertadores and you’ll get a major change for the upcoming semester. Coach Costas left and instead came Uruguayan Gregorio Perez. The club lost key player Jonatan Gomez who moved to Sao Paulo and Johan Arango due to discipline problems, but added gifted striker, Wilson Morelo, veteran left back, Juan David Valencia and talented wingers like Yamilson Rivera and Fredy Pajoy. Santa Fe also performs in the Copa Sudamericana with a good chance to continue forward. Their squad should enter the playoff and battle the title, despite playing in both competitions.
Wilson Morelo returns to the colors of Santa Fe
Atletico Junior Barranquilla
Transfers in: Teófilo Gutiérrez (Rosario Central-ARG) Yimmi Chará (Rayados de Monterrey), Jorge Arias (Medellín), Rafael Pérez (CSKA Sofia-BUL), Luis Díaz (Barranquilla FC), Juan Sebastián Herrera (Barranquilla FC), Arturo Reyes (AT), Jefferson Gómez (Envigado), Marlon Piedrahita (Medellín), Víctor Cantillo (Pasto), Matias Mier (Peñarol)
Transfers out: Faber Cañaveral (Once Caldas), Lewis Ochoa, Héctor Quiñones, Rafael Carrascal (Tolima), Jonathan Estrada, Alexis Pérez (Queretaro-México), Edinson Toloza (Medellín). Robinson Aponzá (Millonarios), Andrés Felipe Correa (Huila), Michael Rangel
Junior suffered from one of their worst tournaments in the past 10 years. They finished 12th when most of their points were achieved in garbage time. This semester Junior is going big. How big? According to their new signings, they are the main favorites to win the title. Junior broke the all-time transfer in Colombia when they paid $4.5M USD for Yimmy Chara and then brought back the city idol, Teofilo Gutierrez. In his presentation, the stadium was packed with 60,000 fans. Another important transfers are the defenders Piedrahita, Perez and Arias. The striker Toloza left after several years which may be the most important change for the team but as you can see, even without him Junior should be considered as no. 1 for the title this year although they still have tough task to pass in the Copa Sudamericana vs. Deportivo Cali.
Yimmy Chara and Teo Gutierrez. Most of the reason why Junior is the top favorite to win
Transfers in: Faber Cañaveral (Junior), Sergio López, Francisco Maturana (Coach), Johan Arango (Santa Fe), Hárrison Henao (Millonarios), Daniel Lloreda (Nacional), Ernesto Alvarez (Sol de America-PAR), Edder Farias (Caracas-VEN), Diego Sanchez
Transfers out: Hernan Lisi (Coach), Andres Alvarez, Julian Guillermo, Jaime Sierra, Dany Cure, John Freddy Salazar, Sergio Romero (Bucaramanga), Oscar Estupiñan (Vitoria-POR), Luis Sinisterra
Caldas was another team who suffered from a bad tournament. It’s been a while since the ‘White’ was relevant in this league. Now in order to do so, they made a very interesting signing, but not among the players: Veteran and legendary head coach Francisco Maturana returned to the Colombian league exactly 20 years after the last time he coached there. Duo strikers Sergio Romero and Estupiñana were the key players who left the club, but foreigners Alvarez and Farias will replace them along with Lloreda who came from Nacional. Harrison Henao and Johan Arango returned from loan. The main goal should be the playoff.
Pacho Maturana returns to coach in Colombia after 20 years
Transfers in: José Eugenio ‘Cheché’ Hernández (Coach), José Erick Correa (Olimpo-ARG), Eduar Caicedo (Cali), Rafael Carrascal (Junior), Jose David Lloreda (Deportivo Cali)
Transfers out: Óscar Héctor Quintabani (Coach), Víctor Giraldo (Santa Fe), Luis Delgado, Oidel Perez, Cristian Mazo, Didier Delgado (Deportivo Cali), Michael Ordoñez, Victor Castillo (Huila), Delman Cajiao, Isaac Arias, Eddie Hernandez (Motagua-HON), Jairo Molina (Sinaloa-MEX)
Another team who wants to return to the playoff is Tolima. One year ago the were in the final but last semester wasn’t good. They also brought veteran coach – ‘Cheche’ Hernandez and hope that he will be the one to bring them back to the playoff. 11 players left the club, most of them finished contract. The significant players who left are Didier Delgado, goalkeeper Luis Delgado and midfielder Michael Ordoñez, while they club brought youngster midfielder Rafa Carrascal and striker Erick Correa, who return to Colombia after 5 years abroad. Tolima can fight for the playoff spot but it’s hard to see them doing more then quarter final.
Transfers in: Rafael Robayo, Kevin Genaro (All Boys Santa Rosa-ARG), Ulises Tavares (La Equidad), Larry Angulo (Figueirense-BRA)
Transfers out: Uvaldo Luna (Atlas-MEX), Jose Johan Silva, Cesar Mena (Comercio-PER), Gabriel Leiva, Felipe Torres, Saramys Rodriguez (Valledupar), Edis Ibarguen (Cortulua)
Patriotas is a pleasant surprise in the last tournaments. Missed the playoff only in the last match but also qualified to the Copa Sudamericana for the first time and drew 1-1 with mighty Corinthians in the 1st leg. Most likely that they will be eliminated after the 2nd leg in Brazil, so they’ll have the time to concentrate in the league and to achieve the playoff spot. Their main signing is midfielder Rafael Robayo who will add them a lot from his experience, but they lost one of their key players last semester, Mexican Uvaldo Luna who returned to his club, Atlas. According to their performance so far in the Sudamericana, Patriotas can definitely be a contender to enter the playoff.
This will be the new ball of Liga Aguila