Round 11 of the Liga Águila has passed and Santa Fe are top of the table. Junior de Barranquilla and Atlético Nacional are following closely and the top eight holds a few surprises.
Independiente Santa Fe are commanding the table by six points. Los Cardenales show little spectacle, but they have been extremely efficient so far despite being plagued by injury problems for most of the season. Their excellent form has seen goalkeeper Leandro Castellanos and centre back William Tesillo earn call-ups to the Colombia squad.
The only fly in the ointment was their elimination on penalties at the end of August in the quarter-final of the Colombian cup against Independiente Medellín. They didn’t have to wait long to take revenge as they met three days later in the league and Santa Fe took the three points with a clinical 0-1 victory in the Atanasio Girardot stadium.
Junior de Barranquilla got off to a flying start this season with Yimmi Chará in outstanding form. The right winger came back from a spell in Mexico and has undoubtedly been the most influential player in the Colombian league so far, leading to his first start for the Colombian national team. Junior seemed to walk to the play-offs without sweating a drop, but consecutive defeats against Once Caldas and Cortuluá put a spanner in the works. Los Tiburones are still second in the league and will easily make the playoffs, but they need to pick up their level.
There are two relegation candidates who have been the surprises of the season up until now. Tigres FC, based at El Techo, are doomed to be relegated to the second division. In the complicated three-year-relegation system that is in place in Colombia they started the season 12 points behind safety. A great run of 14 points in the last seven games see them in both the top eight and a relegation spot at the same time. With the smallest budget in the top division it is expected that they will be relegated and fall out of the play-off spots.
Cortuluá, currently sitting in third place, are doing even better. Not only do they look very close to making it into the final top eight, they also look like they will dodge the bullet of the relegation table. Nestor ‘The Mathematician’ Otero brought in very few new players but managed to mould a side that is feared in El Pascual Guerrero stadium, the stadium they are borrowing while their usual home in Tulua is being remodelled.
Millonarios are struggling this season. They have been very inconsistent and are currently sitting in seventh place, just within the playoff spots. Millonarios lost striker Duvier Riascos to injury and with Ayron Del Valle out of form, Los Embajadores have been relying on 17-year-old striker Jader Valencia, who is still waiting for his first goal.
América de Cali have been the biggest disappointment. Los Escarlatas started well with victories in their first two games, but only one victory in their following nine games cost manager Hernán Torres his job. The manager, hailed for bringing América back to the first division after five years of absence and reaching the semi-finals in his first season, couldn’t keep up the results and made way for Jorge ‘Polilla’ Da Silva from Uruguay. As a player, Polilla won titles with América in 1990 and 1992, but as a manager his first job is of a whole different order: keeping the 13-time champions in the top division.