After a long week off for the International Break, the Liga Postobon is back in force this weekend with its 9th round of play, the so-called ‘Round of Clasicos’.
Historically, there are six local rivalries in Colombian soccer, called ‘clasicos’, dating back to the beginnings of league play. Energy runs high for what are typically the most anticipated match-ups of the season.
With the changing makeup of Colombia’s first division come three more ‘young clasicos’, rivalries less steeped in tradition but just as emotionally charged as their more storied counterparts.
The structure of the Liga Postobon means that every team has to play every other team twice each season. The ‘clasicos’, in other words, necessarily come twice — one away, one home for each team — at random dates throughout competition.
One date every season, however, is deliberately crammed with the type of frenzied passion only a local rivalry can inspire.
Here are some of the better matchups from the 9th Round of the Liga Postobon, where ‘clasicos’ are the norm.
Atletico Nacional vs. Independiente de Medellin KO Saturday 17.30
Independiente will play an away fixture this Saturday in their home stadium [the result of a ground share], taking on league-leading Atletico Nacional in the heart of Medellin.
Nacional boast over 40 games on their crosstown rivals historically, and come into this weekend with an early 10-point advantage in the standings.
The two sides are colliding in the midst of dramatically different trajectories. Since winning the league championship last season, Nacional has yet to lose a game in league play, enjoying sole possession of the top spot in the table, even with one game in hand.
Medellin, meanwhile, recently made a coaching shift, after a trend of inconsistent play and poor results carried over from the spring.
Pedro Sarmiento got something of a public pass on a 1-3 loss to struggling Chico in his first game with his new side. But a 0-0 draw with Pasto in the last round did not show much improvement, and now, after more than a week to work with his new team, the pressure will be on for a strong showing against a Nacional side that has looked just short of flawless in recent weeks.
Millonarios vs. Independiente Santa Fe KO Sunday 17.00
All eyes will be on the Colombian capital Sunday for what promises to be the weekend’s best matchup.
After a shaky start to the season, Millonarios have put together a string of wins as of late, pushing past their Bogota neighbors in the standings. But with a game in hand, and only one point between the two sides, Santa Fe could take back second place in the league second with a win on the “road” Sunday.
The ‘Reds’ only loss of the season came weeks ago against a surging Deportivo Cali team. Apart from that, Santa Fe has looked every bit the team it was last season, when it made a run to the league finals and came just short of its eighth league title.
Sunday’s result could come down to the depth of the Santa Fe roster. Already battling a series of injuries, the ‘Cardinals’ will have to play Sunday without midfielder Juan Daniel Roa, out on suspension, and possibly starting defender Francisco Meza, who went down with a knee injury during Santa Fe’s last game.
Regardless of the outcome, neither team will have to wait long for a do-over, as a strange twist of fate has the Bogota giants locked in a rematch the following Saturday.
The rivalry is tight no matter what the circumstances, and with the teams so close in the standings, expect a hotly contested two weeks of soccer in Bogota.
Atletico Huila vs. Tolima KO Sunday 17.30
After a drawing 1-1 in Neiva two rounds ago, the matchup of the neighbor departments heads to Tolima Sunday night, where the home side will look to continue a four-game unbeaten streak against one of the weaker opponents left on its schedule.
In one of the so-called ‘young clasicos’, much of the attention will focus on Tolima’s young upstart talents like locally developed Frank Lozano and striker Didier Delgado, who have found prominent roles for themselves on a team beginning to regain the form that saw it competing for a top spot in the league last season.
Their opponents, on the other hand, are struggling just to stay in the top flight. With by far the easier half of its schedule coming up, Huila could badly use a road win to build some momentum, and distance itself from the relegation zone.
Patriotas vs. Chico KO Saturday 15.15
As agricultural strikes continue in the Boyaca department, residents will get a distraction Saturday as the two team’s from the local capital go head-to-head in Tunja.
Patriotas have been excellent this season against teams from the bottom half of the table, most recently letting loose a 5-goal riot against a league-worst Quindio side.
Chicho, on the other hand, have been decidedly mediocre since last spring.
They’ve squeezed out solid ties this season against several of the league leaders, but have had trouble asserting themselves against lower teams. Of their nine points, six have come from draws, with only one loss so far in the competition.
This week they’ll be up against two of the top goal scorers in the league in Danilo Moreno Asprilla and Jose Luis Tancredi Malatez, and a Patriotas side looking to break through into the top of the league standings.
Quindio vs. Once Caldas KO Saturday 19.45
Once Caldas is just about the only team Quindio have gotten results against this year, with win in both the league and the Postobon Cup against their rivals from the Coffee-Growing Axis.
With second-to-last place Cucuta taking on high-scoring Junior this weekend, a win at home for Quindio could mean a reprieve from the absolute bottom of the league, and a chance to work its way out of the depths of the relegation zone.
Relegation has left some vacancies in the ‘Clasico schedule, putting Deportivo Cali against Pasto instead of America and Junior against Cucuta instead of Barranquilla.
The youngest of the ‘young clasicos’ are also set to take place this weekend, with Equidad and Alianza Petrolera looking to distance themselves from one another in the standings, and Itagui attempting to make a run at the top of the table against a struggling Envigado.