BOGOTA – Colombian club Atletico Nacional will look to recover from a bitter defeat at home to rival Millonarios when it hosts Independiente Santa Fe in a much-anticipated second-round matchup on Saturday.
Medellin-based Nacional is facing a disgruntled fan base after losing 2-1 Wednesday night (and 2-1 on aggregate) to Bogota club Millonarios at Atanasio Girardot Stadium in the final of the 2018 Superliga Colombiana.
The Superliga pits the winners of the previous year’s Apertura and Finalizacion tournaments, who square off in a two-leg clash in January and early February.
The Medellin club, whose president, Andres Botero, resigned Thursday in the wake of the defeat, is the winningest club in Colombia’s soccer league with 16 titles, one more than Millonarios.
On Saturday, Argentine head coach Jorge Almiron may have the services of 33-year-old creative midfielder Macnelly Torres, whose expected move to Santa Fe fell through after he resolved his difficulties with the Medellin club.
Torres’ return is expected to give a boost to Nacional, which played without the midfielder in both of its Superliga games and in its unconvincing 1-0 victory on Sunday over Tolima in the first round of the new Apertura tournament.
Santa Fe, for its part, comes into Saturday’s match after putting on a poor performance at home in the first round against Tunja-based club Patriotas.
Before its match against Nacional, the Bogota club will have the chance to get back on track when it takes on Venezuela’s Deportivo Tachira at home in the second stage of qualifying for the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club soccer competition.
Uruguayan head coach Gregorio Perez needs a player to fill the shoes of Argentine attacking midfielder Omar Perez, who has left Santa Fe after a nine-year stint in which the team won nine titles,
That search continues after the Bogota club was unable to land Torres.