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Thursday, 6 May 2010

Brasileirão Preview Part 2

So, onto the remaining 10 clubs competing in this season's Série A...

Botafogo (nicknamed O Glorioso - the glorious one)
Players to watch - 'Loco' Abreu, Herrera, Caio.
Despite winning the Carioca this term, Botafogo will be hard pushed to mount a title challenge in Série A. Last time out, they only pulled away from the relegation zone late in the season, so a comfortable mid-table finish will probably satisfy them. Coach Joel Santana is adept at managing relatively modest sides to moderate success, and this is undoubtedly his remit at the Engenhão; 'Loco' Abreu is the one player who comes close to star status. Youngster Caio made a big impact earlier this year, and is expected to provide some spark to Botafogo's functional side.

Carlos Alberto; when fit, Vasco's driving force.

Vasco da Gama
(nicknamed Gigante da Colina - the giant of the hill)
Players to watch - Carlos Alberto, Philippe Coutinho, Élton.
Vasco have bounced straight back to Série A after a season in the second tier, but will likely struggle this term. The team relies to a great extent on the energetic Carlos Alberto, who has knuckled down after his career in Europe came off the rails. His fitness problems, however, mean that more responsibility is likely to be placed on young Philippe Coutinho, who is scheduled to join Italian giants Inter in June. If Vasco manage to keep the skilful playmaker until the end of the campaign, it will go some way to easing fears of a relegation dogfight; only pacy left-back Ramon and strikers Élton and Dodô stand out in the rest of the team.

Goiás (nicknamed Esmeraldino - the emeralds)
Players to watch - Felipe, Rafael Moura, Deyvid Sacconi.
This team profile would have featured heavily the name of Fernandão, but the big forward has today been sold to São Paulo. In return comes Carlinhos Paraíba (and some money), a decent midfielder, but hardly one to disguise the fact that Goiás's squad is rather low on talent. Striker Felipe managed 13 goals last term, and should be the team's focus up front. Rafael Moura is a recent acquisition from Atlético-PR, and will be the man to fill Fernandão's boots; albeit probably only in a physical sense. Loanee Deyvid (lovely spelling, that) Sacconi has shown moments of quality for his parent club Palmeiras, but perhaps the most important signing is disciplinarian coach Émerson Leão. If he can organise the meagre resources at his disposal, the top half is possible.

Grêmio Prudente (nicknamed Abelha - the bees)
Players to watch - Tadeu, Leonardo, Paulo César.
The club formerly known as Barueri return this year under a new name, having upped sticks and moved to a new city and stadium. The Milton Keynes Dons of Brazil, if you will. Despite an impressive first season in Série A (they finished the 2009 campaign in 11th), the club has lost its star performers in Val Baiano and Fernandinho, and are expected to struggle to repeat the feat. Experience has been brought in in the shape of full-back Paulo César, centre-back Leonardo, and striker Tadeu, who have had spells in France, the Ukraine and Turkey respectively. If they adapt to the new surroundings, Grêmio Prudente should secure a mid table finish.

Free-kicks? Yes. Penalties? Yes. Hair care? Not so much. Atlético-PR's Paulo Baier

Atlético Paranaense (nicknamed Furacão - the tornado)
Players to watch - Paulo Baier, Alan Bahia, Alex Mineiro.
The single representative of the city of Curitiba this year, Atlético-PR will again be aiming to avoid a relegation dogfight. The team is built around experience; Alan Bahia anchors the midfield, while the balding Paulo Baier provides dead-ball expertise further up the pitch. Veteran striker Alex Mineiro has also been added, but it remains to be seen if he can reproduce the prolific goalscoring that his record suggests he's capable of. The signings of the considerably younger attacking pair of Javier Toledo and Tartá (on loan from Fluminense) are gambles, but could inject some much needed pace into the side.

Avaí (nicknamed Leão da Ilha - the lion of the island)
Players to watch - Sávio, Batista.
The surprise package of last season (they finished 6th), Avaí will again rely on quietly going about their business. A team of no real stars, the team from Florianópolis is unlikely to hit such dizzy heights again. Recalling Batista from a spell at Botafogo last year should lend their midfield some extra steel and energy, after the sale of Léo Gago to Vasco. Ex-Real Madrid winger Sávio has also joined, fresh from (or possibly, given his age, tired from) some good performances in the Champions League with Cypriot team Anorthosis. I doubt that these modest reinforcements will be enough to secure a finish in the upper reaches of the table, but Avaí should steer clear of relegation concerns.

Vitória (nicknamed Leão - the lion)
Players to watch - Júnior, Uelliton.
The team from Salvador came 13th in last season's championship, and will be aiming for a similar finish this term. Having lost pacy winger Apodi to Bahia, young midfielder Uelliton will shoulder greater responsibility in midfield. Elsewhere, journeyman striker Júnior (who has had spells at Watford, Walsall and Derby) has been brought in to improve the attack. Neto Berola and the gloriously named Schwenk should also contribute.

Ceará (nicknamed Vovô - grandad(!))
Players to watch - Geraldo, Bóvio.
Newly promoted, the team from Fortaleza in the North of Brazil will surely be embroiled in the relegation battle this year. Their captain Geraldo managed 13 goals from midfield in Série B last season, and his efforts will be crucial. Bóvio, a Brasileirão winner with Santos in 2004, should bring some experience to the side, having had spells in Spain and Greece.

Roger; Guarani's one-man plan to stave off relegation?

Guarani (nicknamed Bugre - the Indians)
Player to watch - Roger.
Hailing from the city of Campinas in São Paulo state, Guarani secured promotion from the second division last season. The signs are, however, that their stint in Série A will be a short one; the side is a very limited one. Somehow, the club has managed to pull off the loan signing of Roger from São Paulo; a striker who proved last season with Vitória that he could plunder goals even precious little support. Expect him to be the brave captain on this sinking ship.

Atlético Goianiense
(nicknamed Dragão - the dragon)
Players to watch - Marcão, Márcio, Rodrigo Tiuí.
The minnows from Goiânia have shot to prominence recently, gaining promotion to Série A and reaching the semi-finals of the Copa do Brasil. Some achievement for a club with a stadium that hold only 5,000 people. Last season's leading scorer Marcão is the talisman upfront, but contributions too should come from new signing Rodigo Tiuí, who briefly played for Sporting Lisbon, and Márcio; a goalscoring 'keeper in the great South American tradition. Realistically, anything other than relegation would be miraculous.

So, there you have it! Action gets underway on Saturday, but the big games of the opening weekend are on Sunday, with São Paulo hosting Flamengo, and Cruzeiro travelling to Porto Alegre to face Inter. Stay tuned for a round-up on Monday!

(Photo credits; (1) Agência Lance, (2) Gazeta Press, (3) Unknown.)

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