Junior vs Flamengo
Competition: Copa Sudamericana
Date: 1 December 2017
Kick-off: 01:30 CET
A week after the first leg at Maracana, I still find it hard to believe that Junior didn’t score more than once (given how the whole 90 minutes went). The Barranquilla side took the lead in the 21st minute thanks to a Teófilo Gutiérrez goal, and had at least three-four decent chances to make it 0-2, as Flamengo took bigger and bigger risks, leaving a lot of open space at the back. Incredibly, Junior not only failed to score a second goal, but… somehow they conceded twice in a matter of six minutes (76′-82′) to lose the game. If I were a Junior player, I would be feeling that my team blew a major-major chance not just to beat Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro, but also to finish the whole thing (qualification for the final) off. Monday night, Junior drew 0-0 at América de Cali, playing with a mixed team, some regulars, some reserves. It was the first leg of a Clausura quarterfinal tie, Junior have the return leg at home in a few days, so it was a big game, but even so, coach Julio Comesaña took the risk to play with several reserves, obviously prioritizing the Copa Sudamericana semis (for good reason). Despite playing with a very alternative lineup, Junior were the much better team, looking serious and well-organized, no matter if they failed to score. Junior have never won an international title, they reached the Copa Libertadores semis in 1994, that’s their biggest international success thus far, bigger than reaching the Sudamericana semis this season, so the motive for these players is huge. They have the chance to write history, reaching the club’s first CONMEBOL final ever, and they’ll have a packed-packed Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez on their side.
The scene at the airport in Rio de Janeiro, when Flamengo’s players arrived to catch the first of the two flights that took them to Barranquilla, was… striking. The vast majority of Fla’s players were well-received by their few fans who were there, but there was one specific player who walked from the airport entrance to the check-in point and then to the gate, escorted by armed police officers(!). They didn’t need to… use their guns (thankfully…), but they did have to put their bodies in between the fans and that specific player, protecting him. They couldn’t protect him from the verbal assaults he received, but… it could have gotten uglier if they weren’t there. The player was Muralha, Fla’s second goalkeeper, who, just last weekend, cost his team three – more – points in the Brasileirão, committing two – more – incredible mistakes (not the first ones this season). Regretfully for Flamengo, Diego Alves is not available in the Sudamericana, so since Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda was planning on playing Muralha again, in Barranquilla, he gave him even more game time against Santos. “Was planning”, “was”, because according to reports in Brazil and Colombia, in the two training sessions in Barranquilla, he had César in the group of players who are expected to start the game. The 25-year-old has played in only 25 professional matches in his career so far, and his last competitive (not friendly) game was two years ago(!). You get an idea how desperate Rueda must be to deal with his goalkeeper problem, turning to a guy who hasn’t played a real match in two years(!!). On another note, right about the same time Fla flew to Manaus and from there to Barranquilla, Paolo Guerrero flew to Switzerland, aiming at defending himself in the hearing of his case. Let me remind you, he was found doped after Peru’s came in Buenos Aires, against Argentina, early October, has been handed an initial ban that kept him from playing for club and country these last weeks, and if found guilty for good, he could get banned for much longer, months, even missing the World Cup finals. At the airport he told reporters he’s done nothing wrong. The test he was subjected to after that game at La Bombonera though, “says” otherwise…
Previous five matches:
América de Cali vs Junior 0-0
Flamengo vs Junior 2-1
Junior vs Deportivo Pasto 1-0
Junior vs Rionegro Aguilas 2-2
Patriotas Boyaca vs Junior 1-0
Flamengo vs Santos 1-2
Flamengo vs Junior 2-1
Flamengo vs Corinthians 3-0
Coritiba vs Flamengo 1-0
Palmeiras vs Flamengo 2-0
Junior’s next game is on Sunday, again at home, versus América de Cali, their second game in a week (both in Colombia’s championship). Same day, Flamengo will be visiting Vitoria (last day of the Brazil Serie A season).
Junior vs Flamengo: Head to head Stats
Junior have hosted Flamengo once before, in 1984, a match they lost 2-1. Same year, they lost in Rio de Janeiro as well, 3-1 (those two were Copa Libertadores matches). Their game last week in Brazil was the third one between these two.
Junior vs Flamengo: Prediction
Junior are considered clear favorites to win the game, their victory pays 2.05, deep down I do expect them to win, but betting-wise, I’m leaving winners and losers aside, and I’m going for goals instead.
Junior vs Flamengo: Betting Tips
“Over 2.5 goals” pays 2.40, and is my only tip. Even if there are no goals by halftime, I’ll still expect the game to have at least three, keeping in mind that Junior must score, and Flamengo will still be in the game even if they’re losing 2-0.