The last minute draw with Nacional at estadio Metropolitano meant the end of Junior’s winning spell with the Aguila League. After the 3-3 match against the paisas, the Sharks tied first with Once Caldas, 0-0 in Manizales, and last Saturday with Chicó 1-1 in Barranquilla. These three draws in the past three games have left Junior far from the fight for the lead. Now at the fourth position on the table and with season-defining matches to come they need to get back on the horse if they’re going to secure an early classification in the playoffs.
The last game against the fifteenth team on the table resulted in injuries of three key players. Guillermo Celis, selección Colombia midfielder, suffered a cut on his eyebrow so severe it required reconstructive surgery, and for this he will miss at least 15 days of action, forcing Junior to play without one of their most talented men on Wednesday night. The starting goalie, Sebastian Viera, had a trauma on his right leg; and the goal scorer vs. Boyacá Chicó, Leiner Escalante, had a cut on his scalp; both of them are getting medical attention, and there is confidence that they will be available for upcoming games.
The next challenge in Juniors schedule will be April 27th in Bogotá against Millonarios. This is a crucial game for Coach Mendoza and his squad because it will face them against the third team of the table. Both teams have 28 points, and the winner would not only gain a position on the podium but also assure that a direct rival won’t add any units to their standings. In addition to that, if there is a winning side, it will reach 31 points, which has been the minimum but magic number of units needed to qualify for the playoffs.
After a 1-1 draw vs. Bucaramanga, the Blues are hoping to take advantage of the Sharks’ inexperience in playing at altitude and get the three points at home. Although in history, Millonarios has had a huge lead over Junior playing in Bogota, recent games have shown that the Barranquilla team can get valuable results from El Campín.
The good news for Junior is that the Aguila League top scorer, Vladimir Hernandez, will return to the starting eleven after the one-match sanction he received for the red card. His nine goals in the tournament make him an indispensable player in the manager’s strategies, and as Coach Mendoza said after the match vs. Chicó, “he was certainly missed, not only for his goals but also for his part in the team game and performance.”