With no less than eight fiercely contested local derby matches to be played in the Serie A this weekend, I can hardly contain my excitement. I am like a kid in a candy shop. It is a truly mouth-watering fixture list. Sumptuous Brazilian club football, tasty tackles, a banquet of goals with the added spice of local pride at stake! I am running out of superlatives and strange culinary metaphors….
First up. There’ll be three games on Saturday night: the often brilliant but unpredictable Coritiba take on their in-form local city rivals Atlético-PR; Fluminense take on Botafogo in Rio while América MG take on Altético GO in one of only two matches this weekend that is not a local derby (the other one is Ceará v Bahia although both of those teams are from the north of Brazil).
On Sunday we’ll have: Palmeiras v Corinthians, Santos v São Paulo, Flamengo v Vasco, Grêmio v Internacional, Ceará v Bahia, Atlético MG v Cruzeiro, Figueirense v Avaí. That’s a bit like a weekend of Premiership football featuring Arsenal v Tottenham, Chelsea v Fulham, Everton v Liverpool, Manchester City v Manchester United, Aston Villa v Wolves, Newcastle v Sunderland, Blackburn v Bolton and Birmingham v West Brom. Throw in Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday in the League One for good measure. Can you imagine that?
Putting all these derby matches together is a new idea and one of the CBF’s better ideas if you ask me (is it their only good idea?). The plan is add more meaning to matches on the last day of the season after the farce of previous years. This weekend marks the halfway point in the Serie A season and the same fixtures (except with this week’s away teams playing at home) will happen on the last day of the season in December. If you’re with me and excited now, can you imagine the last day of the season?
In recent seasons there are many examples of mid table clubs with nothing left to play for throwing in the towel to hurt their city rivals. For example last year Corinthians questioned both Palmeiras and São Paulo after they both lost against Fluminense in the latter stages of the Championship. Their fans celebrated these defeats no end especially when Fluminese beat Corinthians to the title by a margin of three points. Palmeiras coach Big Phil joked about not even knowing there was a game that weekend and a Palmeiras director provoked Corinthians by inviting Fluminense fans to come and watch the “Championship decider” in comfort and “eat pasta in our cantinas”. Vasco fans wanted their team to lose against Corinthians to hurt their rivals Fluminense. Internacional fans wanted their team to lose against Botafogo (a team rivalling Grêmio for a Libertadores spot). Guaraní fans wanted them to lose against Fluminense presumably to hurt Corinthians in the title race although I really don’t think any Corinthians fans give two cents about Guaraní.
All in all, funny that was, this won’t happen this year and it certainly won’t be happening this weekend. I’ll be back with a summary of the action on Monday. And while I’m at it, instead of sitting on the fence, what the heck, here are my predictions for this weekend’s games. Probably all hopelessly wrong. We shall see…