To reach the group stage Atletico Nacional must turn around a 1-0 first leg defeat against Paraguayan champions Libertad. Nathan Joyes explains how he sees the game unfolding...
"The 20-time Paraguayan champions have qualified for the group stage 17 times out of the last 19."
In 2019, Libertad qualified for the group stages at the expense of Atletico Nacional, winning 2-1 over the two legs. It was yet another year when the "surprise" winners just three years prior were unable to make it past the preliminary rounds of the tournament.
Two years on, Atletico Nacional find themselves in a similar position. They have one match and a one goal deficit to turn around if they are to seek revenge against Libertad and qualify for the group stage.
It's worth pointing out the 20-time Paraguayan champions have qualified for the group stage 17 times out of the last 19. They've already won seven league games this season and sit a point clear in their domestic league. Confidence is high, especially after a 2-1 home win against Guairena on Sunday.
However, this match is on home soil, which will be an advantage for the Colombian giants - but not quite as big a one as it would have been pre-pandemic.
Fourteen wins, five draws and just the one defeat at home in this competition for Atletico since 2015 does make excellent reading. More impressively, only nine goals have been shipped. However, their squad has changed massively since 2015, as well as management, and their recent home results should also concern Libertad.
The Colombian side have only lost one league match at home this season, but that was a 3-0 hammering to America De Cali, one of the stronger sides in recent years in Colombia.
Nacional's "Plan A" can be very effective, liquid football. But when it doesn't work for them, their long-range efforts come into play, which will suit Libertad no end in the second leg.
The longer the game stays in favour of Libertad, the more rash football we will see from the home side.
A key difference for Nacional this time round will be the return of Jefferson Duque, who has already scored seven goals this season. He did not start in Paraguay last week. Nacional's chances of qualification will somewhat rely on him to turn up.
But despite Nacional's home advantage, Libertad's experience of "getting the job done" in these preliminary rounds is clear to see by their constant appearances in the group stage. It will by no means be an easy task for the Colombian's to break this tradition. A minimum of two goals will be required in 120 minutes to qualify, which, whilst possible, is a tall order.
We've already seen in certain fixtures that without fans, the home advantage has decreased. San Lorenzo fell to a 3-1 home defeat to Santos, which is why I'm not as confident on Nacional compared to if there were 45,000 home fans watching on.
With this in mind, the half-time draw at 13/8 looks a good bet. Libertad won't be playing any counter attacking football, unless an opportunity presents itself and as we saw in the first leg, Nacional were limited to long range efforts. The worst possible outcome for the home side would be to concede and have to chase an away goal.
But the main bet I'll stick up features in the bet builder option. Under 3.5 goals and Libertad +2 on the handicap combined pays 1.84/5. There's no doubt that the away side will have to dig in, and although the home side will be on the front foot, Libertad have only lost by a two goal margin to Brazilian sides on two occasions away from home since 2018.