A year ago last week, Fluminense beat Palmeiras to lift their fourth Brazilian title. If the occasion felt a little flat, it was only because the success had long had an air of inevitability about it: spurred on by the relentless goalscoring of Fred and guided by Abel Braga’s steady hand, the Tricolor simply ground down their closest rivals, Atlético Mineiro and Grêmio.
“They're a good team, an organised team,” said former Brazil striker Tostão, now a respected newspaper columnist, at the time. “Flu know how to win. They don't lose focus and they don't try to be better than they are.”
But things have gone pear-shaped this year. As the end of the season approaches Fluminense sit just one point above the relegation zone, a winless October having plunged them from midtable mediocrity into a frantic battle for survival. They have three games to avoid becoming the first club to be demoted a year after winning Série A.
Read the rest of my latest Yahoo! Eurosport column here.