Santos favored to win Brasileirao
The Brazilian league begins this weekend with Santos favored to
win the title thanks to the experience of coach Muricy Ramalho and
the young talent of striker Neymar and playmaker Paulo Henrique
Neymar and Ganso are touted as the future stars of Brazil’s
national team, while Ramalho has won four of the last five league
titles, giving Santos a clear edge heading into the eight-month
competition that starts Saturday.
Defending champion Fluminense again will have playmaker Deco,
Argentine midfielder Dario Conca and striker Fred in the squad, but
it lost Ramalho after winning the title last year.
Flamengo will challenge with Ronaldinho, who will be playing in
the Brazilian league for the first time since leaving for Europe
more than 10 years ago.
”I’m sure it will be a great championship,” Flamengo coach
Vanderlei Luxemburgo said. ”Flamengo is one of the favorites, but
we have several top teams with chances again this year.”
In 2010, three teams arrived in the final round with a chance of
winning the title – Fluminense, Corinthians and Cruzeiro. Four
teams had a chance in the last round in 2009.
Ronaldinho arrived at Flamengo as one of the greatest
acquisitions by a Brazilian club. He helped Flamengo win this
year’s Rio de Janeiro championship, but he will be starting the
Brazilian league season under pressure after a series of poor
performances that prompted jeers from fans of Brazil’s most popular
Several other former national team players are back from Europe
to play in this year’s competition, including Adriano with
Corinthians, Juninho with Vasco da Gama, Elano with Santos and Luis
Fabiano and Rivaldo with Sao Paulo.
International players will also be present again. Cruzeiro will
have Argentine playmaker Walter Montillo and Uruguay defender
Mauricio Victorino, Botafogo will enter the competition with
Uruguay striker Sebastian ”El Loco” Abreu and Argentine striker
German Herrera, while Palmeiras will have Chile midfielder Jorge
Copa Libertadores champion Internacional has four Argentine
players on its roster – Mario Bolatti, Andres D’Alessandro, Pablo
Guinazu and Fernando Cavenaghi.
Ramalho left Fluminense after last year’s title saying that club
directors were unable to improve the club’s conditions as promised.
He took over Santos about a month ago and was able to lead the club
to the title of the traditional Sao Paulo state championship.
Santos won’t start the Brazilian league at full strength,
however. Ramalho will have to rest the regular starters in the
first few rounds because the team is focused on the Copa
Libertadores, Latin America’s most important club competition.
Santos is the only Brazilian team left in the competition and will
face Paraguay’s Cerro Porteno in the semifinals.
In addition, Ganso injured a muscle in the first leg of the Sao
Paulo state final and won’t return to action for several weeks.
”I can’t start the Brazilian league with my best players, I
need to rest them, there is no alternative,” Ramalho said.
”Otherwise everyone will be getting hurt for the rest of the
season and we can’t afford that.”
Corinthians also won’t be able to count on Adriano for several
months because of an Achilles’ injury, and Sao Paulo’s Luis Fabiano
likely won’t play in the team’s opener because of a lingering knee
ailment. World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari won’t have
Valdivia available for Palmeiras’ debut because of a muscle injury,
while Internacional coach Paulo Roberto Falcao will be without
D’Alessandro because of a thigh problem.
Brazil does not follow the European football calendar and teams
play regional tournaments in each of the country’s 26 states in the
first few months of the year. The Brazilian Cup is played in the
first half of the year and the Copa Sudamericana will take place in
Four of the 20 teams competing in the Brazilian league –
scheduled to end in December – will be demoted to the second
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