Just in case my predictions go horribly wrong, I am writing my excuses now. The Brazilian Serie A is the hardest league in the world to predict (no sitting on the fence here) and here are the reasons why:
Firstly, pressured by boardroom politics and fickle fans, club directors change their coaches more often than Anne Hathaway changed her outfit at this year’s Oscars. Among the big teams, the longest serving coach is Cuca, at Cruzeiro (11 months). The Big 12 clubs’ in Brazil – Cruzeiro, Corinthians, Palmeiras, São Paulo, Internacional, Flamengo, Fluminense, Santos, Gremio, Botafogo, Atletico Mineiro and Vasco – have ALL changed their coach AT LEAST once in the last twelve months.
The second reason is that player turnover is huge. The reasons are multiple: Pressure to sell players to balance the books; talented young players and their agents forcing moves to Europe; high coaching turnover; behind the scenes politics; creative and unscrupulous football finance gurus negotiating transfers and pressure from fickle fans. Most teams’ starting 11 on the first day of the season is completely different from the starting 11 on the last day. That also makes playing fantasy football in Brazil a nightmare!!! For example, when choosing my strikers this year, I hedged my bets by excluding Neymar and Leandro Damião. If they stay, they’ll be two of the league’s top marksmen, no doubt. But unfortunately, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of one or both them both leaving this year. I played it safe by going for Liedson, Luis Fabiano and Fred. Two hours after submitting my team (which cannot be changed), news broke that Luis Fabiano would be undergoing knee surgery. Shit!
The third reason for such an unpredictable Championship is the financial differences between clubs are generally not that big in Brazil as it is in say, England or Spain. Most clubs are totally and utterly bankrupt which makes it a much more level playing field. No Arab Sheikhs here. Another reason that no longer exists is that previously, once all league matches had been played, the top eight teams went into a knockout competition. The team with the highest number of points won nothing and the team that won the knockout competition took the title. The key was finishing in the top eight and reaching top form at the end of the season. Perhaps not as fair but really exciting and many people in Brazil preferred the old ways. Santos, with a 17-year-old Robinho in their ranks, won the last edition of the Championships in this format in 2002. And I think I’m correct in saying that they finished eighth in the league that year!