Preview: Atletico Junior vs. Botafogo – prediction, team news, lineups

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Preview: Atletico Junior vs. Botafogo – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s Copa Libertadores clash between Atletico Junior and Botafogo, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Neck-and-neck in the Copa Libertadores Group D standings, Atletico Junior and Botafogo vie for first place in Tuesday’s finale in Barranquilla.

Both sides are already guaranteed to advance to the knockout rounds of South America’s premier tournament, but it is the hosts who are currently on course to qualify in first position.

Match preview

Still unbeaten in the Copa Libertadores since the 2024 edition commenced, Colombian outfit Junior are one of just five teams across the eight groups with zero defeats on their record heading into matchday six, where a point would suffice for a first-placed finish.

Despite only prevailing in two of their five battles so far – including a 1-0 victory over LDU Quito in their penultimate game thanks to a Jose Enamorado effort – a trio of consecutive 1-1 draws against Universitario (two) and Quito has Junior sitting pretty at the summit with nine points on their record.

While their points tally is identical to that of Botafogo, their superior goal difference means that Arturo Reyes‘s men simply have to hold out for another stalemate to advance to the last 16 as group winners, which would also stretch their eye-catching unbeaten Copa Libertadores streak to 10 matches across two tournaments.

However, Junior’s Colombian Primera A results since their last Libertadores encounter have been the true definition of a mixed bag – one defeat, one stalemate and one victory – although that sole triumph came on Saturday, a 1-0 triumph over Atletico Bucaramanga.

Reyes’s troops are only fifth in the aggregate table domestically, though – good enough for a place in the Copa Sudamericana – but the 10-time Colombian champions are still in with a shot of Libertadores glory as they gear up for their first knockout appearance since 2010-11.

© Reuters

Similarly, Botafogo come bouncing into their final Group D fixture riding high on the back of their own 1-0 success on matchday five, sinking Peruvian powerhouses Universitario courtesy of a 77th-minute winner from substitute Jeffinho.

The narrow beating of Universitario marked a third Copa Libertadores success on the spin for the Brazilian side, who had to come through two qualifying battles against Aurora and Red Bull Bragantino to even reach the group stage, which began in humbling fashion with back-to-back losses.

However, the Lone Star’s revival means that they will be playing knockout football in South America’s top tournament in August, and victory at Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez on Tuesday would send the two-time Brazilian champions through as group winners.

Botafogo’s continental improvements have not come at too much of a cost domestically either, as they earned a 3-1 aggregate success over Vitoria in the third round of the Copa do Brasil and now boast a praiseworthy eight wins from their last 10 contests across all tournaments.

Before belatedly coming good in Group D, though, Botafogo were condemned to a 3-1 home defeat by Atletico Junior in April’s Copa Libertadores tie, although Fabio Matias was the man at the helm at that stage; Artur Jorge took control of the reins almost immediately afterwards.

Atletico Junior Copa Libertadores form:

Atletico Junior form (all competitions):

Botafogo Copa Libertadores form:

Botafogo form (all competitions):

Team News

Braga coach Artur Jorge reacts on December 12, 2023© Reuters

Atletico Junior’s third-choice goalkeeper Sebastian Araujo is still on the long road to rehabilitation from a herniated disc, but no fitness concerns have arisen for the hosts in their last two matches.

Striker Marco Perez and winger Enamorado are available again after Primera A suspensions, and the former could now join forces with a recognisable name and a man four years his senior in captain Carlos Bacca.

The 37-year-old – formerly of European giants AC Milan, Villarreal and Sevilla – already has three goals and one assist to his name in the Libertadores this term, and it was his winner that sunk Bucaramanga in the weekend’s top-flight battle.

In contrast, Botafogo must now make do without one of their integral attackers, as since striking the winner against Universitario, Lyon loanee Jeffinho has sustained a thigh injury which could sideline him for a couple of months.

The winger joins Rafael (knee), Fernando Marcal (calf), Pablo (unspecified), Tiquinho Soares (thigh) and Matheus Nascimento (thigh) in the Lone Star’s infirmary, although his absence would have had little effect on Jorge’s starting lineup.

Indeed, Jefferson Savarino and Luiz Henrique have been favoured from the first whistle out wide, supporting focal point Junior Santos, by far and away the leading scorer in the 2024 Copa Libertadores with nine strikes to his name.

Atletico Junior possible starting lineup:
Mele; Pacheco, Olivera, Pena, Fuentes; Enamorado, Moreno, Cantillo, Chara; Bacca, Perez

Botafogo possible starting lineup:
Victor; Ponte, Halter, Bastos, Hugo; Freitas, Barbosa; Henrique, Tche Tche, Savarino; Santos

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We say: Atletico Junior 1-2 Botafogo

The arrival of Jorge has triggered a serious upturn in fortunes for Botafogo, who boast the tournament’s most potent centre-forward in Santos and have hit a rich vein of form domestically and continentally.

Atletico Junior have tended to keep their games close in Group D and should not deviate from that trend here, but it should be the Lone Star celebrating a narrow triumph at full time, one which will see them through in first place at their hosts’ expense.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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