Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Campeonato Brasileiro 2011 preview: Round 14 (part one)

We are rapidly approaching the half-way point already in this year's Brasileirão and the league table is really starting to take shape. Round 14 is another midweek round and we have all twenty teams in action in some potentially fantastic match-ups.

Corinthians x América-MG (Wednesday 3rd - 19h30 Pacaembu)

League leaders Corinthians kick-off Round 14 with a home game against bottom-side América. Playing at home in São Paulo, Corinthians will be widely expected to dispatch of o Coelho rather easily and pick up another three points, but things may not be that simple. On Sunday, Corinthians suffered their first loss away from home this season against 19th placed Avaí and that has definitely left an air of doubt and uncertainty around the Timão squad.

On the other hand, América are going through some tough times of their own. With one win from thirteen games and a goal difference of -14, this is a side that has really struggled since their promotion this year. Fan's favourite Givanildo Oliveira has taken over as manager to try and steady the ship, but he will only be watching from the stands on Wednesday night. With the return of Corinthians captain Chicão, and the obvious gap in quality between the two sides, I would expect nothing less than a convincing win for the home side in this one.

Grêmio x Atlético-MG (Wednesday 3rd - 19h30 Estádio Olímpico)

Over in Porto Alegre, we have a battle between two underachievers as Grêmio host Atlético-MG. Both of these sides are traditionally big clubs in Brasil, but at this stage of the championship they both find themselves hovering precociously above the relegation zone. Without a win in their last three games, Grêmio go in to this one absolutely desperate for points. Manager Julinho Camargo has only been in charge for a month and already he is under pressure. Grêmio will more than likely be without forward André Lima, who is suffering from a muscle strain, young Leandro should replace him.

Atlético have actually been making some progress over the past few weeks under new coach Dorival Junior, but they have been hurt by some very unfortunate defeats, particularly Saturday's 3x2 loss to Palmeiras. O Galo have Dudu Cearense and Toró back from suspensions, and it is expected that ex-Santos and Dynamo Kiev striker André will get his first start for the club alongside Magno Alves. This is certainly going to be a close match, with goals from both sides expected. It is very hard to pick a winner here, but if I was a betting man my money would be on a score draw.

Figueirense x Botafogo (Wednesday 3rd - 19h30 Orlando Scarpelli)

Despite a fabulous start to the season, newly promoted Figueirense appear to be in freefall. Figueira are without a win in their last six league games and are dropping down the league table at an alarming rate. On Wednesday night they host Botafogo, who appear to be on the opposite trajectory after winning their last two games.

Botafogo should field the same side that defeated Cruzeiro at the weekend, the only change being Fábio Ferreira returning to the centre of defence. Talismanic Uruguayan striker Sebastián 'Loco' Abreu leads the line alongside Argentine Germán Herrera, and they will both be looking for goals against a fragile Figueirense side.

Ceará x Avaí (Wednesday 3rd - 19h30 Presidente Vargas)

In the last of the early evening games on Wednesday, Ceará host southerners Avaí in a match which sees both teams looking to get their respective campaigns back on track. Ceará started superbly this year, having a great run in the Copa do Brasil and achieving some excellent results in the first few rounds of the Brasileirão. Recently, things have gotten considerably tougher for the Vozão, underlined by their heavy 4x0 defeat at the hands of Fluminense on Sunday.

Avaí have been in trouble ever since the season started. A terrible defence and less than impressive attack sees them firmly in the relegation zone, but they have started to get things together with their only two wins of the season coming in the last two weeks. However on Wednesday night they will have an extra obstacle to overcome, as the climates in the north and south of Brasil differ greatly, especially at this time of year. Today in Avaí's home town Florianópolis, the temperature reached a maximum of 16 degrees celsius, while in Fortaleza, where Wednesday's game will be played, the temperature reached 28 degrees celsius. This is often very taxing on players from the south, and it gives Ceará a clear advantage on Wednesday night.

Vasco x Santos (Wednesday 3rd - 21h50 São Januário)

Going on to Wednesday's late games, Vasco face Santos in what is a truly mouthwatering tie for the neutral supporter. Vasco are in superb form of late and are unbeaten in their last five matches, whilst Santos come in to this game off the back of two consecutive defeats.

The home side will be without a few important players, star man Juninho Pernambucano will miss out through injury, and left-backs Julinho and Márcio Careca are both suspended. Jumar should continue to deputise at left-back, and Eduardo Costa will come in to replace Juninho. Santos have no new selection worries and should play the same side that lost to Atlético Paranaense on Sunday, which means starts for Neymar and Ganso.

Oddly enough, both of these sides are already guaranteed a place in the 2012 Copa Libertadores - Vasco through winning the Copa do Brasil and Santos as reigning Libertadores champions - and in Brasil this sometimes leads to complacency throughout the remainder of the league season. No such complacency should be expected in this match however, and we should see plenty of action and excitement.

Without wanting to overload you with information, that will be all for today. I'll be back tomorrow with the second part of the Round 14 review, covering the rest of Wednesday's games and the three ties on Thursday.


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