International Break Preview: Colombia
With two big fixtures this week, Colombia look to climb up the table.
The return of Radamel Falcao highlights a big week for Colombian football.
Colombia, who currently sit in fourth place in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, face Chile and Argentina this week, who sit in fifth and sixth place respectively.
The top four teams in the group qualify for the World Cup while the fifth place team will head to an inter-confederation playoff against a team from the OFC.
Colombia have already caught a break as Alexis Sanchez suffered an injury during a Chile training session and will be unavailable for the game in Barranquilla.
Colombia will hope to get three important points at home against the back-to-back Copa America champions before facing the struggling Argentina, whose recent form includes draws against Venezuela and Peru as well as a home loss against Paraguay.
Despite the tough competition, this may be the strongest Colombian squad since their World Cup run in 2014.
Falcao has returned to AS Monaco and will be looking to break the Colombian goals record at some point during the week.
James Rodriguez is fully fit and returns to the team after receiving death threats. Rodriquez received threats for leaving the team to return to Real Madrid, even though he was not fit to play.
Even the young Colombian players, such as Edwin Cardona, Santiago Arias, and Jeison Murillo, all have more than 20 caps for Los Cafeteros.
Despite none of the trio being over the age of 24, they have proven their worth for the national side.
If there is one weakness in the squad it is the left side of their defense. With Christian Zapata still injured and Juan Camilo Zúñiga mysteriously not being selected despite playing well for Watford, Colombia will have to turn to more youngsters in Stefan Medina and Farid Diaz.
It is hard to tell which formation Colombia will come out in as their midfield depth allows manager Jose Pekerman to have some flexibility.
Their standard 4-2-3-1 is always an option but that would likely limit the time Falcao and Carlos Bacca have on the pitch together.
Don’t be surprised to see Colombia utilize a 4-4-2 with deep lying midfielders and Juan Cuadrado and Rodriguez attacking from the wings, allowing Bacca and Falcao to share the pitch.
Another option that Colombia could use is a 4-1-3-2. Carlos Sanchez is an excellent defensive midfielder and this would allow the team to play a very attacking formation if Pekerman so chooses.
Despite the tough fixtures, Colombia should be in relatively good shape considering their players recent run of form and good health.
These are by no means must-win games, but four or even six points would put Colombia in excellent position to qualify for their second straight World Cup out of a very tough CONMEBOL group.