Série A update: Corinthians still top

Former Man City striker Jí´ has scored 9 league goals in 15 games (Photo: Agencia Corinthians)

The games sure do come thick and fast in Brazil. It’s been just over two months since I published my Série A preview on the eve of the competition and here we are in gameweek 16 already. Did I mention the Copa do Brasil, Copa Libertadores or Copa Sulamericana? Here’s what’s happened since my last Série A update.

Despite dropping points in their last two games, Corinthians are still top of the league, and have a six point gap over their nearest rivals Grêmio, who are in second place. In my last post dedicated to the Série A, I wrote about Corinthians’ impressive victory over Grêmio at the Arena do Grêmio. That win, in gameweek 10, saw Corinthians open up a four point lead over the team from Porto Alegre. The result may have been a bit harsh on Grêmio, but Corinthians displayed the qualities of Champions: mental strength, good organisation and an ability to grind out an important result. They have continued to show these qualities since then, beating Botafogo, Ponte Preta and Palmeiras, and drawing with Atético-PR and Avaí­, to increase their lead at the top of the league.

Grêmio, meanwhile, followed up their loss against Corinthians with defeat against Palmeiras in São Paulo a week later. That match was sandwiched between a Copa do Brasil quarter final and a Copa Libertadores knockout match in Argentina, so Grêmio took to the field with a reserve team. Palmeiras, admittedly, also fielded a weakened side due to their commitments in those two competitions. That both Grêmio and Palmeiras fielded weakened sides in such an important league game highlights three important points: 1/ that Brazilian clubs take cup competitions very seriously; 2/ that the league is not the most important competition for some Brazilian club sides; and 3/ that Corinthians have a big advantage in the league this year since they are not in this year’s Copa Libertadores and have already been knocked out of the Copa Brasil.

Palmeiras are the reigning Champions and after a slow start to the season they belatedly started to find some form. That was until they were beaten at Cruzeiro in gameweek 12 and lost at home to Corinthians in their next match. At the time of writing, Palmeiras are now in sixth place and 14 points off the top of the league. The only other team realistically in with a shot of winning the league are Flamengo. But like Palmeiras, they also made a slow start to the season and have been inconsistent. Indeed, it took at last minute penalty for them to get past struggling Coritiba, at home last night. With that result they are now 9 points behind Corinthians, having played an extra game.

Flamengo and Palmeiras may have the most expensive sides in the league but Corinthians are far more consistent, while Grêmio continue to play the most exciting football, inspired by their classy talisman Luan, a transfer target for Sampdoria. Sport have also started playing very good football under new their new manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo and find themselves in fifth position. Santos, meanwhile, are in fourth position, having also recently replaced their manager. Not much going on there though – they have only scored 15 goals and conceded 10 in their 15 league matches so far this season, a far cry from the free-flowing football they played in the days of Neymar and Ganso.

Elsewhere it’s a bit of a scrap. Four teams fired their managers after gameweek 15. And a few weeks before that, São Paulo got rid of Rogerio Ceni and his coaching team, including Englishman Michael Beale. Despite Ceni being a São Paulo legend and club icon, the team’s dismal form, which has seen them fall into the relegation zone after nine games without a win, persuaded the directors that a change in management was necessary. Dorival Junior, who himself had been fired as the manager of Santos earlier this season, is the new manager of São Paulo.

I’m impressed with the work that Abel Braga is doing at Fluminense. Despite the club being practically bankrupt, facing an injury crisis and relying on young, untried players, they continue to get results and are tenth position. They have been aided in no small part by the form of Richarlison and Wendel, two excellent young players. Watch out for these two in the future. Seleção material I would say.

Gameweek 13 was characterised by an incredible eight wins for away teams in the ten Série A matches in that round. That is unusual for any league in the world, not least in Brazil, where home teams tend to have a bigger-than-usual advantage.

Last but not least, it is with regret that I report that there has been a spate of football-related violence. Gameweek 12 was marred by ugly seen inside the stadium, when Vasco fans throw objects onto the field following their teams defeat at home to Flamengo. The violence continued outside the stadium and one Vasco died in hospital after being shot in the chest by police. A Palmeiras fan was killed after being stabbed following the match between Palmeiras and Corinthians in gameweek 13. And in Recife, a Sport fan was killed after a clash with Santa Cruz fans on the train. All in all, that’s 11 confirmed football-related deaths so far in Brazil this year.

Here is the league table as it stands this morning:

[table id=23-jul /]

And here are the fixtures for gameweek 16 with 7 matches taking place later today:

[table id=16 /]

For full a set of results, upcoming fixtures and the league table, check out the dedicated Série A page.

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