Friday, 20 May 2011

Brasileirão In Focus: Cruzeiro

One of the really serious contenders for the national title this season, Cruzeiro are looking for another successful season in their long, proud history. Runners-up in the Brasileirão last season, Campeonato Mineiro champions for 2011, they are widely regarded as the best team in South America.

Generally dominant so far in 2011, they strolled through the Campeonato Mineiro, dropping only four points in the regular stage and cruising through the knockout round. However, they suffered a surprise exit from the Copa Libertadores at the hands of Colombians Once Caldas, despite playing absolutely brilliantly in the group stage.

Since last year they have made some useful tweaks to the squad, some fringe players have been cut, youngsters have been sent out on loan, and useful additions have been recruited in the shape of defensive midfielder Leandro Guerreiro, Paraguayan forward José Ortigoza and Uruguayan centre back Mauricio Victorino.

They have some wonderful talents in their squad, goalkeeper Fábio is another awesome Brazilian talent in that position, great shot-stopper, and wonderful at facing penalties. In the midfield, Argentine playmaker Walter Montillo orchestrates the attack and shows week-in-week-out why he is one of the best midfielders in the league. He is such a fabulous player to watch, he dictates the tempo of the match, creates chances with wonderful through passes, and can carve open opportunities for himself with fantastic darting runs through the opposition defence.

Another huge talent in the squad is 21 year old attacker Wallyson. He has really made the step up this year with dazzling performances in the Libertadores and state championships, after he was restricted to playing a peripheral role in the team last season. Traditionally a supporting striker, he has adapted to playing as a right winger and has fitted in perfectly to the attack. One to watch for this season, and a possible candidate for top scorer if Cruzeiro performs as expected.

Wallyson is looking forward to his best season yet. (Photo: Valeska Silva)

Similar to the likes of Barcelona, they are a rather predictable side. Manager Cuca never makes too many alterations to their formation or squad selection, which has helped them form a unit of players who are able to build consistency every week. Their system is a 4-2-3-1, the aforementioned Wallyson and Roger in attacking midfield roles with the former drifting out right, and Montillo as the playmaker. Thiago Ribeiro should be preferred up front coming back from injury, but they have some other useful options for that spot like José Ortigoza and former l’OM striker Brandão.

They really have a very good chance for the title this season, as long as the team stay motivated and do not lose confidence. Alongside their strong starting XI, they have decent depth in their squad which is absolutely integral to a title challenge in the Campeonato Brasileiro. Their Libertadores exit is a worry, but over the course of a league season they should perform very well.

Expected formation:
football formations

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