Finally the league is back after a month-long break to allow players extended time with the Paraguay national side to prepare for the game with Bolivia at altitude, not that it worked of course.
The games start on Tuesday, league leaders Olimpia face a crunch game with Libertad who are closing in on their rivals in black and white, meanwhile Cerro Porteño round off the games on Wednesday with Jorge Fossati making his competitive debut in his current spell as coach.
Cerro de Franco vs Independiente
Estadio Juan Eudes Pereira
Cerro de Franco have stuck with coach Eduardo Rivera and have kept hold of best striker Rogerio Leichtweis, they have been mixed at home winning at first but have lost their last 2 league games in Presidente Franco. Independiente have lost their coach Alicio Solalinde who has moved down a division for more money – it is a big blow for the club as they were really playing well under the former national team coach. They won their last 2 away matches and are four games unbeaten. If Solalinde was still coach then an away win would have been on the cards but now it is hard to tell how the visitors will react, a draw is a safer option.
Sol de América vs Tacuary
Estadio Luis Giagni
Sol vs Tacuary last five in this stadium: Pld 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 GF 3 GA 4
Sol de América could be missing topscorer José Ortigoza, other than that they have a clean bill of health with striker Lorenzo Frutos back from long-term injury and likely to resume his partnership with Enzo Prono up front. Before the break Sol were on a good run having recorded three consecutive wins. Tacuary needed this break more than any team, just eight points from their first 16 games this it is hard to understand what has happened to the team that qualified for the Copa Sudamericana last year. When these two met earlier in the year Sol won 6-2 having raced to a four-goal lead in twenty minutes, it won’t be as easy this time but they will win.
Carapeguá vs Rubio Ñu
Estadio Juan Canuto Pettengill
Carapeguá are expected to transfer topscorer Eduardo Echeverría to Colombia or Ecuador but the midfielder should still play, he has been a key player since his goals dried up Carapeguá have struggled they haven’t won for nine games now. This is Derlis Gonzalez’s last game for the away side before his move to Benfica so the starlet will hope to make an impact, the albiverde will be struggling in central midfield with captain Acuña still suspended and Eric Ramos doubtful because of the Paraguay game. Rubio Ñu were on a five game losing streak before winning at home to Tacuary in Week 16, they have only won 2 away games all year. In a game between two teams on equally poor form you have to look at the quality of each side and on paper Rubio Ñu can win this although they might be lacking creativity with the absences mentioned.
Sportivo Luqueño vs Guaraní
Estadio Feliciano Caceres
Luque’s last five vs Guaraní at home: Pld 5 W 1 D 1 L 3 GF 4 GA 13
Luque’s new coach Carlos Kiese has had time to get to know his squad in the break and has called up several youth team players because of the lack of quality he’s found. The auriazul have won just one of their last five games. For Guaraní goals have been hard to come by this season but the side have only lost one in their last five games and keep getting better as time goes on under coach Pablo Caballero. They will have five players returning from La Paz none of whom played against Bolivia so they should benefit from having trained intensively at altitude for a month. The aborigen are a better side and historically play well here, so it looks like an away win for them to stretch unbeaten streak away from home to four games.
Olimpia vs Libertad
Defensores del Chaco
Head-to-Head Last five games: Olimpia W 1 D 2 L 2, Libertad W 2 D 2 L 1
Olimpia are very angry at having to play such a big game on Tuesday when their players are returning from international duty. They have struggled since they lost Orteman and Marin though, El Decano have just one win in four games hardly championship winning form. Libertad on the other hand have all their players including the internationals and have been looking very good recently, they know a win will take them just within three points of Olimpia and give them a chance in the title race. They won last week’s game in hand against Nacional despite conceding first, showing both their flair and character. While this could be a draw, the pressure of the game cancelling out any goals, my gut feeling is that Libertad can sneak this.
Cerro Porteño vs Nacional
Estadio Gral. Pablo Rojas a.k.a La Olla
Last 5 Cerro Porteño games vs Nacional all venues: P 5 W 0 D 1 L 4 F 3 A 10
Cerro have got the new manager they wanted – Uruguayan Jorge Fossati, vastly experienced and very well respected. He has commanded a huge salary (US$100k per month) which heaps pressure on him to produce results quickly. Fossati is already looking to change things around by playing a 3-5-2 formation making it difficult to tell how the Cerro players will adapt. Nacional didn’t play too badly against Libertad last week but didn’t have the quality up front to take their chances and ended up losing. They have been very mixed away from home this year winning three and losing four although they’ve been Cerro’s bogey side (see above) recently. Still I expect El Ciclón to keep their good form going and make it five wins from their last six.
By Ralph Hannah