Colombia’s Atletico Nacional are just 90 minutes away from realizing their dream of winning South America’s most prestigious club competition as on Wednesday they face Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final.
The tie is on a knife-edge following a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Quito last week as the Medellin outfit seek to end a 27-year famine with their first and only triumph coming in 1989.
Victory for Reinaldo Rueda’s side would see them become the first Colombian team to win the coveted trophy twice adding to the chapter written by 1989’s golden generation.
“We are at the gates to get in the club’s history forever,” said striker Miguel Borja speaking to the media this week.
The two sides contested an open first leg with Atletico Nacional taking an early lead through Orlando Berrio and looked to be in a strong position to secure a win against this year’s competition giant-killers.
However Rueda’s side’s were punished for their failure to convert a string of chances to score a second when Ecuador international Arturo Mina pounced late on to equalize and secure a lifeline for his team.
Mina’s goal means that the Ecuadorian minnows who already eliminated Chile’s Colo Colo, holders River Plate, Pumas of Mexico aswell as six-time champions Boca Juniors will be confident as they travel to the Atanasio Girardot stadium.
“We come with great enthusiasm because we achieved good results away from home, we want to continue on this same path,” said midfielder Junior Sornoza on arrival to Medellin.
Atletico Nacional, who boast an impeccable home record, will be without midfield talisman Sebastian Perez who is suspended having picked up a yellow card in the first leg of the final.
Alejandro Guerra who is seeking to become the first Venezuelan to lift the Copa Liberatores is likely to replace him with Alexander Mejia expected to regain his midfield berth at the expense of Diego Arias having missed the first-leg through suspension.
The 15-time Colombian champions dominated the possession stakes for large periods of the first leg and with the attacking prowess of Miguel Borja, Marlos Moreno and Macnelly Torres they will expect to add goals to the mix in front of approximately 40,00 home spectators.
“Los Verdolagas” will again go into the game as favorites but Reinaldo Rueda will be acutely aware of the danger posed by the fairy-tale team who have been compared to England’s Leicester City.
Reuda, soon to become the Paraguay national coach, will rely on the experience of goalkeeper Franco Armani and defender Alexis Henriquez who could become the first Colombian to win the Copa Libertadores twice to guide his side in booking a place at the Club World Cup in Japan in December.
Speaking to the media this week Armani pointed out that the team must mange the expectation in advance of the final and deliver a performance to make the continental dream a reality.
“I do not like to talk about assumptions and do not say that we are already champions, neither do I think of that possibility. We will leave everything on the pitch to achieve this beautiful dream,” said the Argentine.
- The prince and the paupers: The gaping wealth gap between Real Madrid and their Club World Cup rivals (Goal)
- Independiente, Nacional all square in Copa Libertadores final first leg (ESPN)
- “Nos merecemos alzar la Copa”: Franco Armani (El Colombiano)
- Pablo Repetto, el técnico que tiene soñando a Independiente del Valle (El Tiempo)