We are heading into the final two games of the season. There is still some excitement at both ends of the table – Gremio and Athletico-PR are battling it out for the final automatic place in the Copa Libertadores, while at the other end, Ceara and Cruzeiro are tussling to avoid relegation to Serie B. Here are six picks from the midweek action:
Ceara SC CE vs SC Corinthians
There’s no question Ceara will be well up for this one – they can take a huge step towards securing their place in Serie A next season with a win here, and if Gremio do the job against Cruzeiro on Thursday night they will have survived relegation.
Ceara let a precious win slip away in the 94th minute against Athletico-PR at the weekend – a win would have all but sealed their survival – but Ceara fans and players alike will certainly be buoyed by Cruzeiro’s misfortunes.
Corinthians have only lost once at home all season, but their away form makes for rather different reading. They have won just one of their last 10 away games, losing 6 of those, and with a distant possibility of a Libertadores qualifying place all they have to play for, I think Ceara will get over the line.
Gremio FB Porto Alegrense vs Cruzeiro EC MG
Cruzeiro’s misery just keeps being piled on. Winless in 7 games (and having scored just 2 goals in that period), they are now firm favourites for their first ever relegation to Serie B – an astonishing turn of events given their success in the last 6 years, a period which saw them win two league titles and two cups.
As mentioned previously on this blog, Cruzeiro are seriously struggling financially, with the players effectively playing for free for the last two months. A tame 1-0 defeat at Vasco on Monday night is certainly not what the doctor ordered, and the suspension of left winger Marquinhos Gabriel won’t help matters at Gremio other.
Gremio, on the other hand, could seal an automatic place in next year’s Copa Libertadores – provided they beat Cruzeiro and Athletico-PR fail to beat Santos. The reverse of this fixture saw Gremio hammer Cruzeiro 4-1 at the Mineirao stadium, and I foresee a similar outcome here. The Cruzeiro players have all but given up and I think Gremio will hammer the final nail in their coffin on Thursday night.
CR Flamengo RJ vs Avai FC SC
This is Flamengo’s final home game of the season, and the fans will be in full party mode to celebrate their success this season. Flamengo have had the best league season in the history of the 20 team round robin format: with 87 points to their name, they have already beaten the record of 81 points set in 2015 by Corinthians.
The fans will also be celebrating their dramatic Copa Libertadores win over River Plate, in which they won 2-1 despite being 0-1 down on 88 minutes. Avai’s league campaign has been at the other extreme – a woeful effort that has seen them pick up just 3 wins all season. For this reason I’m all aboard the Flamengo handicap here.
Atletico Mineiro MG vs Botafogo FR
A dead rubber between two mid-table sides. Both have had a similar campaign this season, with just 3 points separating their sides, and both are on identical form – 9 points from their last 6 matches.
Atletico-MG will be at full strength for this midweek match, while Botafogo are missing defensive midfielder Alex Santana through suspension. Despite this, I think Atletico-MG are far too short here. I simply cannot see why they are -1 favourites.
SE Palmeiras SP vs Goias Esporte Club
Palmeiras have gone from losing 3 games all season to having lost 3 games in a row, though losing to Gremio and Flamengo is no disgrace. Fans will be much more disappointed with their 1-0 loss to Fluminense, which has overshadowed an otherwise good campaign, though they were by no means outplayed there.
Goias have done very well in their first ever season in Serie A. They find themselves in 10th place, and a 2-1 win away at Internacional cements their Serie A credentials. What really seals the deal for me here is that Goias are missing left-winger Michael through suspension. The tricky ace has scored 9 goals and provided 5 assists this season, and his absence will be a huge miss for Goias. For this reason, I’m getting with Palmeiras here.
Chapecoense SC vs CSA AL
This match is a dead rubber between two already relegated sides, and given their goalscoring form, readers might be scratching their heads as to why I am leaning towards overs here; both sides have only found the net 3 times in the last 6 matches.
However, conditions are ripe for overs here. CSA will have to play with a pretty much new back 4; they are missing right-back Apodi, left-back Euller and centre-back Alan Costa to suspension, and Chapecoense might have more luck in front of goal against this makeshift defence.
Chapecoense will also have to make a change at the back; centre-back Douglas is suspended, which also favours the Overs line, as does the fact neither team has anything to play for other than pride. I can see them both playing a lot more freely here.
*Odds subject to change
Things are starting to take their final shape in Serie A. Flamengo have secured the title and three of the four relegation places are virtually filled. The battle to avoid the last relegation spot looks like it will go down to the wire, and the fight for the final places in the Libertadores next year also looks to be close-run race.
From a betting perspective, the weekend just gone was a successful one - 5 out of 6 tips came in. Here’s hoping we can repeat that on the midweek action!
Chapecoense SC v Botafogo FR
Chapecoense have put together back-to-back wins, but this is surely too little too late. Given their number of wins and goal difference, they are effectively 10 points from safety with 4 games to go and so almost certainly will be playing in Serie B next season. Botafogo impressed last time out with a 1-0 win over Corinthians, and I think they can continue this away at Chapecoense.
CR Flamengo RJ v Ceara SC CE
After their dramatic Copa Libertadores win over River Plate at the weekend, Flamengo will be in party mode. Results at the weekend meant that they have sealed the Serie A title too, so expect a hungover Flamengo team, or even the B team. Ceara could do with picking up a result here given Cruzeiro’s fixture - I fancy them to get something at a depleted Flamengo.
SC Corinthians v Avai FC SC
Though the jump from Serie B to Serie A is tough, Avai fans will have expected their side to put up a bit more of a fight than they have this season. It has been an atrocious season for them by virtually every measure. With only 16 goals scored all season (less than 1 in 2 games) and just 3 wins, this is set to be one of the worst ever seasons of all time in this league.
Avai can’t stop losing - they have lost 12 of their last 14 matches and drawn the other two - and the players’ minds are no doubt on going on holiday at the end of the season. Although Corinthians’ form has hardly been impressive (W1 D2 L3), they are far superior to Avai and will be looking to run riot against them in front of their home fans. I’m all aboard the Corinthians handicap here.
Athletico-PR v Gremio FB Porto Alegrense RS
4th meets 5th in a battle for an automatic Copa Libertadores spot. Even with a win, it is unlikely Atletico-PR will overtake Gremio (they need to win by 4 goals or more to do so), but Gremio will be looking to keep it tight at the back to ensure they maintain their 3 point cushion. Expect a cagey affair here - neither side here ships many. All of Atletico-PR’s last six games have finished with binary scores, so I fancy unders here.
Fortaleza EC CE vs Santos FC SP
It’s fair to say neither side is struggling to find the net of late - Fortaleza and Santos have scored 13 and 15 goals in their last 6 matches respectively. This fact, in combination with the fact that neither side really has anything to play for (Santos are guaranteed an automatic Copa Libertadores place and Fortaleza will almost certainly stay up) means that both sides will play with a lot of freedom here, which favours goals.
Cruzeiro EC MG v CSA AL
With their 0-1 defeat at home to Fluminense, CSA’s relegation is all but confirmed. This is a must-win fixture for Cruzeiro and there is a substantial gulf in quality here. This combined with the “nothing to play for” factor leads me towards a Cruzeiro handicap here, despite their thrashing at Santos.
*Odds subject to change
The Brazilian Serie A season is rapidly drawing to a close. Although Flamengo almost certain to win their sixth title (barring a spectacular collapse) and three of the four relegation spots are all but settled, it wouldn’t be fair to say that most teams are playing for pride.
There is an interesting four-way battle between Athletico-PR, São Paulo, Inter and Corinthians for the last two Libertadores places, and at the bottom end of the table, only one point separates Botafogo, Ceará, Cruzeiro and Fluminense who are fighting to avoid the last relegation spot.
Here are our top picks for this weekend’s fixtures:
Santos FC SP v Cruzeiro EC MG
Santos are a much improved side under Jorge Sampaoli. They are currently sitting in third place – a far cry from their 10th place finish last season – but their title challenge early in the season has faded away and, with a place in the Libertadores almost guaranteed, they have almost nothing to play for.
Cruzeiro, on the other hand, are having a very different season. The 2017 champions are in serious financial difficulty and are facing the prospect of their first ever relegation to Serie B. They are going about things the right way, as their impressive 11 game unbeaten run shows, but they will be seriously disappointed to have drawn 0-0 at home to virtually relegated Avaí.
Cruzeiro’s last 3 matches have finished 0-0, and I can’t see them ending their barren scoring run away at Santos.
Atletico Mineiro MG vs Athletico-PR
Atletico-MG fans will be disappointed with the season they’ve had - unable to build on last season’s 6th place finish, they sit in 13th place and are in poor form, with just 1 win in the last 6 matches. They will have to make some changes for this fixture, with centre-back partnership Rever and Igor Rabello both suspended, as well as defensive midfielder Jair.
Athletico-PR are continuing their march towards a Libertadores place, having taken 14 points from their last 18 available. They have a couple of defensive suspensions of their own, but this isn’t putting me off them here. Beg, borrow, steal, but get on Athletico-PR!
SE Palmeiras SP vs Gremio FB Porto Alegrense
This should be an entertaining clash between two top sides, both of whom are in great form. Palmeiras have claimed 14 points from their last 6 games, while Gremio put together a run of 5 wins in a row before losing 1-0 at home to champions-elect Flamengo last time out. That is understandable though, given Flamengo have been almost unstoppable this season and sit 13 points clear at the top of the table.
Between them they boast the second and third best attack in the league - behind Flamengo of course - so I can see plenty of goals happening here.
Avai FC SC vs Chapecoense SC
Though you couldn’t really call this a derby - Figueirense are Avai’s biggest rivals - this should nevertheless be a feisty battle between two teams from Santa Catarina state.
Although Avai managed an impressive point away at Cruzeiro last time out, this was not enough for them to avoid relegation. Strangely, the Avai players celebrated at full time, which led to suspicions from fans that they had been offered a financial incentive by one of Cruzeiro’s relegation rivals not to lose the match.
Chapecoense earned the love of football fans around the world after the tragic plane crash in 2016 which killed most members of their first team squad, and have done remarkably well to stay in Serie A since then.
Sadly, however, it appears that their time in Serie A is finally up. They are 11 points behind Cruzeiro in 16th with just 5 games to play, so it would truly take a miracle for them to avoid relegation this time. Both teams are truly awful in front of goal - they have scored just 16 and 26 goals this season respectively – so my money is on unders here.
SC Internacional RS vs Fortaleza EC CE
Fortaleza have exceeded expectations this season. They have achieved back to back promotions from Serie C in the last two years and won Serie B last year by a considerable 9 point margin. Serie A was tipped to be a bridge too far for them this season, but they have adjusted well to life in Serie A and have probably already done enough to ensure their presence there next year.
Their form makes for impressive reading - a narrow 3-2 loss at Corinthians is their only reverse in the last 6 matches - and they will be buoyed by their last two results, a 1-0 win against arch-rivals Ceara and cantering to a 3-0 win against strugglers CSA.
Inter, on the other hand, have been a mixed bag of late. A 2-0 loss at relegation candidates Ceara has hindered their quest for a Libertadores place, though they have remedied this somewhat with a win over Fluminense and a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Corinthians. I think Inter are overvalued here, so my money is on the Fortaleza handicap.
CSA AL vs Fluminense FC RJ
CSA’s rise through the leagues in recent years has been nothing short of remarkable, earning three consecutive promotions to take them from Serie D to Serie A. It appears that they have found their first season in Serie A too difficult, and will almost certainly be relegated.
This match is an absolute must-win for Fluminense, who are facing relegation themselves. They are one point behind Cruzeiro, who have a tricky fixture away at Santos, so Fluminense will see this as an opportunity to exit the relegation zone. They have picked up some impressive results on the road this season, including a 2-0 win away at Sao Paulo earlier this month, and so I think they have enough quality to see off CSA here.
*Odds subject to change