2019 Brazilian Série A season preview

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Can Diego inspire Flamengo to their first Serie A title win in 10 years?

If I was Leonardo Da Vinci, this would be my Mona Lisa.

Since I started blogging again over two years ago, I’ve made it a habit to preview each of the 20 clubs ahead of the Série A season. This year is no different, although with each passing year I feel like I’m getting a better handle on things.

As it turns out, my predictions last year weren’t too shabby. But this year, as well as predicting where the teams will finish in the league, I give a slightly longer blurb on the team’s prospects and delve into the major talking points. I also provide a list of the key ins and outs in the transfer market for each team.

20 – Goiás

My prediction: 20th

Position last year: 4th (Serie B)

Coach: Claudinei Oliveira

Talisman: Sidão – he has the experience and is going to be busy

One to watch: Kevin Peterson – not the cricket player, a young right back keeping Daniel Guedes out of the team

The lowdown:

Really without much hope in my opinion. They were thumped by their rivals Atletico-GO 4-0 on aggregate in the Goiano state championship final, which was enough to prompt some swift action from the men at the top who duly blamed Maurício Barbieri for the team being completely rubbish and gave him the boot.

I’m not sure that Barbieri was the problem to be honest, but the club have swifty appointed Claudinei Oliveira as the new man in charge. Goias have signed a few players with top flight experience – like Sidão, Renatinho, Rafael Vaz, Marlone and Daniel Guedes – but it remains to be seen how quickly they will gel. For me, the omens don’t look good having sacked their manager so close to the start of the season. The best they can probably hope for is for Claudinei to make them hard to beat and for them to scrap their way to safety.

Major ins:

Daniel Guedes (Santos), Sidão, (São Paulo), Giovanni Augusto (Vasco), Marcinho (Sao Bernardo), Yago (Corinthians, loan), Brenner (Internacional, loan), Renatinho (Mirassol, was on loan at Botafogo), Marcelo Hermes (Cruzeiro, loan), Giovanny (Athletico-PR, loan), Kevin (Tombense, loan), Júnior Brandão (Ludogorets), Brenner (Internacional, loan), Leandro Barcia (Nacional), Marlone (Corinthians, loan), Rafael Vaz (Flamengo), Geovane (Vila Nova)

Major outs:

I haven’t heard of any of these guys and they are not in my database, so I’m passing on this one I’m afraid.

19 – Avaí

My prediction: 19th

Position last year: 3rd (Serie B)

Coach: Geninho

Talisman: Betão

One to watch: Getúlio

The lowdown:

Like the other promoted teams, I don’t know too much about Avaí’s squad. But after suffering relegation from the Serie A in 2017, they have bounced straight back at the first attempt – most of their squad has changed since then, although veteran defender Betão, and young striker Lourenço are still around. They have a limited budget and don’t have too many well-known players but Geninho, their coach, is an experienced campaigner and if they don’t fire him too soon (eight out of 20 Serie A clubs have already fired their coaches this year) they might stand a chance of avoiding relegation.

Major ins:

Glédson (América de Natal), Alex Silva (Atletico-MG, loan), Iury (Uniclinic-CE), Lucas Frigeri (São Caetano, loan), João Paulo (Tombense, loan), Gegê (free), Mosquera (CD América de Cali)

Major outs:

João Paulo (CRB)

18 – CSA

My prediction: 18th

Position last year: 2nd (Serie B)

Coach: Marcelo Cabo

Talisman: Apodi

One to watch: Matheus Sávio

The lowdown:

CSA surprised a few people in the Serie B last season and will be hoping to turn a few heads in Brazil’s top competition this year. They have added some experienced and well-known names to their squad with the likes of Apodi, Manga Escobar and Pablo Armero, while the have also signed prospect Matheus Sávio on loan from Flamengo for the year. Their recruitment has been better than Avai and Goias, and the team seems to have a bit more stability.

Major ins:

Régis (Sao Paulo), Manga Escobar (Vasco), Matheus Savio (Flamengo, loan), Apodi (Ohod), Ronaldo Alves (Sport), João Carlos (CRB), Luciano Castán (free), Gerson (free), Carlinhos (free), Pablo Armero (free), Mauro Silva (Bangu-RJ), Manga Escobar (FK Liepāja/Mogo), Robinho (Fluminense)

Major outs:

Not too sure to be honest – if you really want to know Transfermarkt is your friend.

17 – Botafogo

My prediction: 17th

Position last year: 9th (Serie B)

Coach: Eduardo Barroca – Eduardo who?

Talisman: Diego Souza

One to watch: Igor Cássio

The lowdown:

Botafogo had a rubbish state championship campaign and I’m expecting this poor form to continue into the national championship. They were the only one of the four Rio big guns who did not make it into the semi finals of either leg of the two-legged competition; the first half to their league campaign was poor, and things didn’t get any better in the second half.

Diego Souza is a big signing and could inspire the team – but he isn’t getting any younger and they have lost some of their best performers from last season, including Igor Rabello (Atletico Mineiro), Jefferson (retired), Rodrigo Lindoso (Internacional) and Matheus Fernandes (Palmeiras). The latter was one of Botafogo’s best players last year, and he can’t even make the squad for Palmeiras at the moment. Expert trolling from Palmeiras, but not a happy situation for Botafogo.

The worst thing of all is that the club are struggling to pay their players wages – how and why they managed to fork out money to bring in Diego Souza in these circumstances is beyond me. Their one saving grace is that they have a few young players coming through the ranks, although it remains to be seen just how good they are.

Like many of Brazil’s poorly run clubs, Botafogo decided that it was the coaches fault that the team is rubbish, that the players are not happy and that things were not going very well – so they recently fired Zé Ricardo and gave the hot seat to the the little-known 39 year old Eduardo Barroca.

Major ins:

Gabriel (Atlético-MG), Diego Souza (Sao Paulo), Cícero (Gremio), Diego Cavalieri (free), Gabriel (Atlético-MG), Gustavo Ferrareis (Internacional, loan)

Major outs:

Igor Rabello (Atlético-MG), Moisés (Corinthians, end of loan), Jefferson (retired), Saulo (Vila Nova, loan), Luis Ricardo (Ponte Preta), Yago (Corinthians, end of loan), Yuri (Figueirense, loan), Brenner (Internacional, end of loan), Aguirre (Udinese, end of loan), Pachu (Boavista, loan), Ezequiel (Sport, loan), João Pedro (Athletico-PR, end of loan), Leandrinho (Sport, loan), Matheus Fernandes (Palmeiras), Rodrigo Lindoso (Internacional), Renatinho (Mirassol, end of loan), Marcelo Santos (Maccabi Tel Aviv, end of loan), Dudu (free)

16 – Vasco

My prediction: 16th

Position last year: 16th

Coach: none

Talisman: Yago Pikachu

One to watch: Tiago Reis

The blurb:

The fans aint happy. The players aint happy. And the recently-fired Alberto Valentim isn’t happy. Nobody being happy on the eve of the season is not the way to get the ball rolling, but this is exactly the situation that Vasco find themselves in. They survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last year, and if they are not careful, they won’t be so lucky this time around.

They are flirting with the idea of appointing ex Sporting coach Jorge Jesus as their new manager, but why he would want to go to the club given their situation, I don’t know. They need to pay their players and get things settled down.

Thiago Galhardo had a thing or two too much to say about the not getting paid on time issues and was released by the club. They better hope that the likes of Maxi López and Yago Pikachu don’t decide that enough is enough and pack their bags too.

Major ins:

Danilo Barcelos (Atlético-MG, loan), Ribamar (Ohod), Lucas Mineiro (Chapecoense, loan), Rossi (Shenzen, loan), Raúl Cáceres (Cerro Porteño), Bruno César (Sporting Lisbon)

Major outs:

Martín Silva (Libertad), Lenon (Guarani, loan end), Rafael Galhardo (Gremio, loan), Desábato (Cerezo Osaka), Bruno Cosendey (Criciuma), Giovanni Augusto (Goias), Rildo (Chapecoense), Kelvin (Porto, end of loan), Manga Escobar (CSA)

15 – Ceará

My prediction: 15th

Position last year: 15th

Coach: Enderson Moreira

Talisman: err… Thiago Carleto

One to watch: Matheus Matias

The blurb:

They’ve lost four of their best players: forward Arthur has gone to Palmeiras (who, by the way, are just trolling teams by signing their best player and leaving them in the reserves), their defensive midfielder Richardson has signed for a Japanese club, while left back Felipe Jonathan and goalkeeper Éverson have gone to Santos. It is said that Santos coach Jorge Sampaoli likes a keeper that can use his feet and this guy takes free kicks! So boom.

I’m not expecting big things from Ceará this year, but they did at least keep Leandro Carvalho, and added two experienced names in Roger and Thiago Carleto. And only this week they wrapped up the signings of Bergson (from Athletico-PR) and Mateus Gonçalves (Fluminense), who will help.

For a long time last year it looked like Ceará were dead meat in the league, but they managed to turn around their fortunes once they appointed their third coach Lisca, who successfully pulled off the massive task of keeping them up. But, nevermind that impressive feat, after losing the final of the state championship against Fortaleza last weekend, Lisca was fired. Keep a team expected to be relegated in the league. Good. Lose against your main rival. Fired. Its going to be a long and hard season for Ceará – they can probably thank their lucky stars that Vasco and Botafogo are in such a mess.

Major ins:

Roger (Corinthians), Matheus Matias (Corinthians, loan), Thiago Carleto (Al Ittihad), Richard (Parana), Fernando Sobral (Sampaio Corrêa), Chico (Pohang Steelers), Felipe Baxola (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), João Paulo (Criciuma), Mateus Gonçalves (Fluminense), Bergson (Athletico-PR)

Major outs:

Arthur (Palmeiras), Rafael Pereira (Chapecoense), Éverson (Santos), Felipe Jonathan (Santos), Patrick (Vila Nova, loan), Arnaldo (Botafogo, end of loan, now Ponte Preta, loan), Rafael Carioca (RBB), Romário (Santos, end of loan, now RBB, loan), Richardson (Kashiwa Reysol), Jown Cardona (Deportivo Pasto), Felipe Azevedo (America-MG), Eder Luis (Sao Bento), Javier Reina (Once Caldas), Romário Rodrigues (free), Calyson (Sao Caetano)

14 – Bahia

My prediction: 14th

Position last year: 11th

Coach: Roger Machado

Talisman: Gilberto

One to watch: Ramires

The blurb:

Far from ideal preparation for the new season from Bahia what with sacking their coach Enderson Moreira and all (one of the eight coaches fired by Serie A clubs during the state championships this year). Moreira has now made his way to Ceará as the managerial merrygoround continues. At Bahia, Moreiras has been replaced by the likeable Roger Machado. I don’t think he is the best coach and his record at Palmeiras last year was poor, but he gives you the impression that he has something up his sleeve and that if it clicks, then you could be onto a winner. The Bobby Martinez of Brazil, perhaps? Would the real Roger Machado please stand up.

The change in coach isn’t the only problem for Bahia this year though – just look at the names on the list of outs: Edigar Junio, Junior Brumado, Ze Rafael, Léo Pele, Douglas Grolli – these guys are were important first team players last year! The good news is that they managed to keep Gilberto, who scored a bucketfull of goals after arriving midway through the season last year. Bahia have also kept hold of Ramires, the young attacking midfielder, who is an exciting prospect.

Major ins:

Shaylon (São Paulo – loan), Artur (Palmeiras – loan), Rogério (Sport), Fernandão (Al Wehda), Guilherme (Corinthians, was on loan at Athletico-PR), Douglas (Corinthians, loan), Moisés (Corinthians, was on loan at Botafogo), Arthur (Al Shabab), Fernandão (Al Wehda)

Major outs:

Léo Pele (São Paulo), Vinícius (Atlético-MG), Régis (Corinthians), Rodrigo Becão (CSKA Moscow, loan), Douglas Grolli (Maritimo), Tiago (Lanus), Luiz Henrique (Nautico), Edson (Ponte Preta), Zé Rafael (Palmeiras), Flávio (Santo Andre), Edigar Junio (Yokohama Marinos, loan), Junior Brumado (FC Midtjylland), Agustín Allione (Palmeiras, end of loan, then to Rosario Central)

13 – Chapecoense

My prediction: 13th

Position last year: 14th

Coach: Ney Franco

Talisman: Douglas

One to watch: Bruno Silva

The blurb:

It has been a tough few years for Chapecoense since the tragic plane crash in November 2016 which killed most of their first team squad. But given those extremely difficult circumstances, the club has performed admirably, keeping their place in Brazil’s top flight in each of the last two seasons.

Last season was a little more difficult than the first one after the tragedy and the club only maintained their top flight status right at the end. They have managed to recruit a number of experienced pros and loan solid players from other Serie A clubs, but the heavy turnover of players is taking its toll on the team, who have been struggling to develop a clear style of play. Unfortunately, I’m not expecting great things this year, and the team has already been knocked out of the Copa Sulamericana – losing to Union La Carrera back in February.

There may be a bright side though. Bruno Silva is a promising young player that broke into the team last year, and he is still only 19. They also have a few other young lads breaking through (striker Régis and goalkeeper Tiepo). Their coach Ney Franco has a reputation for working well with young players so the combination could just work out. Here’s for hoping anyway, if you’re a Chapecoense fan.

Major ins:

João Ricardo (América-MG), Rafael Pereira (Ceará), Augusto César (Queretaro), Lourency (Brasil de Pelotas), Everaldo (Queretaro), Renato (Avaí), Rildo (Vasco), Gustavo Campanharo (Ludogorets), Aylon (Internacional)

Major outs:

Jandrei (Genoa), Leandro Pereira (Matsumoto Yamaga FC), Osman (RBB), Capixaba (Atletico-MG, end of loan), Doffo (O-Higgins), Marquinhos (Atletico-MG, end of loan), Canteros (Ankaragücü), Luiz Antônio (Al Shabab), Rafael Thyere (Gremio, end of loan), Fabrício Bruno (Cruzeiro, end of loan), Wellington Paulista (Fortaleza)

12 – Fortaleza

My prediction: 12th

Position last year: 1st (Serie B)

Coach: Rogerio Ceni

Talisman: Edinho

One to watch: Matheus Alessandro

The blurb:

It didn’t work out for Rogerio Ceni managing his hometown club São Paulo last year, but after getting fired there, he picked himself up quickly, packed his bags and headed north to Fortaleza, to manage the club in the Serie B. It worked a treat and the club raced away to the Serie B title. Ceni. Genius.

But Ceni seems to be keen to move on to bigger and better things. After wrapping up the state championship, Ceni was approached by Atletico-MG to become their new manager. He spoke to them, but turned it down, with rumours alleging that he may have taken the job were it not for his father’s illness, which has put him off a move. So he is staying with Fortaleza, for now.

Assuming that everyone is happy by that news, and the confidence within the squad remains high, Fortaleza could turn a few heads in the Serie A this year. I didn’t follow their Serie B campaign too closely I must admit, so I cannot comment on the style of play or individual players. But I do know that they lost their top marksman Gustavo (aka Gustagol) who returned to his parent club Corinthians, where he is now their main striker. That is a big blow, but they club has added a few players with top flight experience such as Edinho, Paulo Roberto and Wellington Paulista.

Major ins:

Edinho (Atlético-MG), Paulo Roberto (Corinthians, loan), Felipe Alves (Athletico-PR), Matheus Alessandro (Fluminense), Quintero (Deportivo Cali), Araruna (São Paulo, loan), Roger Carvalho (Tombense), Wellington Paulista (Chapecoense), Carlinhos (America-MG), Gabriel Dias (Internacional), Osvaldo (Buriram United),

Major outs:

Gustagol (Corinthians)

11 – Atlético-MG

My prediction: 11th

Position last year: 6th

Coach: none

Talisman: Ricardo Oliveira

One to watch: Alerrandro

The blurb:

It hasn’t been a good few months for Atlético – they lost out to their main rivals Cruzeiro in the Minas Gerais championship final; they have been humiliated in the Copa Libertadores, losing four out of their first five matches in the group stages and making an early exit; some of their players have been booed by their own fans; and the coach has been fired.

Their reliance on the 38 year old Ricardo Oliveira highlights the deficiencies that the team has, even if Oliveira is in great shape for his age. At least the emergence of young goalscorer Alerrandro will give them hope that they might now have somebody to ease the burden on their ageing number 9.

Guga looks like a good prospect at right back, although it will be hard to live up to the space left by Emerson, who has signed for Barcelona and is now on loan at Real Betis. They have tinkered with the squad and the signings of Igor Rabello, Geuvânio, Jair and Réver will improve the team a little, but it is unlikely to be enough to get them into the Libertadores qualifying places come the end of the season.

Major ins:

Igor Rabello (Botafogo), Jair (Sport Recife), Réver (Flamengo), Vinícius (Bahia), Maicon (Antalyaspor), Guga (Avaí), Geuvânio (Tianjin Quanjian, was on loan at Flamengo)

Major outs:

Denilson (Al-Faisaly, Saudi Arabia, loan), Thomas Andrade (River Plate), Edinho (Fortaleza), Gabriel (Botafogo), Matheus Galdezani (Coritiba), Emerson (Real Betis), Yago (Al-Qadsiah), Papaguaio (Palmeiras, loan), Danilo Barcelos (Vasco, loan), Juninho (Palmeiras, end of loan)

10 – Fluminense

My prediction: 10th

Position last year: 12th

Coach: Fernando Diniz

Talisman: Pedro

One to watch: João Pedro – 17 year old attacker who has burst onto the scene

The blurb:

The good news is that there are a few promising young players coming through to keep an eye on. The bad news is that they get a chance because poor financial management mean that Fluminense need to continually sell their first team players. This year is no exception and they have lost Richard, Sornoza (both to Corinthians), Júlio César (to Grêmio), Jadson (to Cruzeiro), Mateus Norton and Marcos Junior (both abroad).

But despite letting almost an entire team full of good players go last season they still finished in a respectable 12th position. Credit must go to their recruitment team who have managed to find cheap, but good, players to replace those that depart. And a lot of the credit must go to the coach Abel Braga, who has now left and is in charge of Flamengo.

The worry for Fluminense, is that they might not continually be able to replace these players and still play at a high level. And their form was also a concern after Braga left last year. But this season, Fluminense have a few reasons to be quietly optimistic: Pedro is back, having recovered from his serious knee injury; the club have signed Ganso, who may not have set Europe alight, but he has already shown that he can dominate games in Brazil, where the pace of the game is slower; they have added promising youngsters Leo Santos (Corinthians), Caio Henrique (Atletico Madrid) and Allan (Liverpool) on loan for the season; right back Gilberto was in fine form in the carioca state championship; they’ve found a pacey attacking trio of Everaldo, Luciano and Yony González (although it remains to be seen who will make way for Pedro); and some exciting young players are on the fringes (the likes of 17 year-old João Pedro and 18 year-old Lucas Macula).

There is a question mark about the capabilities of coach Fernando Diniz. The 45 year old turned heads with his insistence on playing the tipi tapa game at Athletico-PR last year – one of their veteran players said he was learning new things all the time with Diniz and was really impressed – but while it was admirable that he stuck to his principals, it didn’t really work: their defence was poor and they struggled to score goals, and it wasn’t long before Diniz was fired. The team’s fortunes improved once he left, but that’s not to say Diniz isn’t a good coach. Its a high risk strategy he adopts and if it clicks, Flu fans will be delighted – let’s see how it pays off.

Major ins:

Marcos Paulo (Fluminense youth), Fernando Diniz (free),  Yony González (Atlético Junior), PH Ganso (Sevilla), Matheus Ferraz (America-MG), Léo Santos (Corinthians), Caio Henrique (Atlético Madrid, loan, at Parana last season), Bruno Silva (Cruzeiro), Allan (Liverpool, loan), Ezequiel (Cruzeiro)

Major outs:

Júlio César (Grêmio), Sornoza (Corinthians), Richard (Corinthians), Léo (free transfer), Ibañez (Atalanta), Gum (Chapecoense), Ayrton Lucas (Spartak Moscow), Fernando Neto (STK Samorin), Mateus Norton (Zorya Luhansk), Jadson (Cruzeiro), Bryan Cabezas (Atalanta, end of loan), Júnior Dutra (Corinthians, end of loan), Marcos Junior (Yokohama Marinos), Matheus Alessandro  (Fortaleza), Mateus Gonçalves (Ceará)

9 – Athletico-PR

My prediction: 9th

Position last year: 7th

Coach: Tiago Nunes

Talisman: Nikão

One to watch: Robson Bambu

The blurb:

As discussed under the Fluminense section, Athletico’s form improved considerably last year following the sacking of Fernando Diniz. 39 year-old Tiago Nunes did a great job after being appointed as the head coach 12 league games into last season: not only did they finish an impressive 7th in the league (even better considering their poor start), but they also won the Copa Sulamericana and thereby qualified straight to the group phases of this year’s Copa Libertadores. And so far this year, their excellent intercontinental form has continued and they top their Liberadores group, which is no mean feat since it contains last year’s finalists Boca Juniors.

The team has lost last year’s top scorer Pablo, who has moved to São Paulo, and 7 goal midfielder Raphael Veiga has returned to his parent club Palmeiras. They will therefore need to find new sources of goals, and quick. And hope that Marco Ruben, signed from Rosario Central, will be the man to do that. They will also need one of their new midfield signings – Léo Cittadini or Thomas Andrade – to step up to the plate on the goals front too.

It would be quite a feat to match last season’s achievements, particularly with a Libertadores campaign to manage; although some of their first team may be rested though since they played mainly their reserves in the Paranaense state championship this year.

Major ins:

Thomas Andrade (River Plate, was on loan at Atlético-MG), Robson Bambu (Santos), Marco Ruben (Rosario Central, loan), Madson (Grêmio, loan)

Major outs:

Guiherme (Corinthians, end of loan), Raphael Veiga (Palmeiras, end of loan), Felipe Alves (Fortaleza), Wanderson (Shimizu S Pulse, loan), Marchinho (São Bernardo, end of loan), Bergson (Ceará)

8 – Internacional

My prediction: 8th

Position last year: 3rd

Coach: Odair Hellmann

Talisman: Edenílson

One to watch: Brenner

The blurb:

Like Athletico-PR, Internacional may find it difficult to juggle Libertadores and league commitments. But so far so good: they have won four out of their first five group games and gauranteed top spot in group 1, ahead of last season’s winners River Plate. They have added some depth to their attack too: Paulo Guerreiro is now eligible to play for them after his transfer last year and his drugs ban came to an end and they have added Rafael Sobis and Tréllez to their ranks. They have also kept in tact the base of their team that did so well in the league last year – in particular, the defence, which conceded just 29 goals in 38 league games.

Major ins:

Matheus Galdezani (Atlético-MG), Tréllez (São Paulo, loan), Rafael Sobis (Cruzeiro), Bruno (São Paulo, was at Bahia on loan), Rodrigo Lindoso (Botafogo)

Major outs:

Fabiano (Palmeiras, end of loan), Charles (Sport, loan), Rossi (Shenzen, end of loan), Leandro Damião (Santos, end of loan)

7 – Grêmio

My prediction: 7th

Position last year: 4th

Coach: Renato Gaúcho

Talisman: Everton – their best player, but will he stay?

One to watch: Jean Pyrerre and Matheus Henrique

The blurb:

Grêmio have been one of Brazil’s most impressive teams over the last few seasons. But their league campaigns have been hindered by their progress in the Copa Libertadores and their coach’s insistence on prioritising cup competitions over the league (and fielding reserve teams in the league when important cup matches are around the corner).

The team has lost their talismanic goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe who has moved to Arabia; aged 32 and having spent his whole career with the club, few Grêmio fans will begrudge him that move. Júlio César was brought in from Fluminense to replace him but so far last year’s reserve keeper Paulo Vitor has kept his place. Grêmio have also added vaunted front met Diego Tardelli and Felipe Vizeu, but André has kept his place so far this year.

In midfield, Ramiro has gone to Corintians and Maicon isn’t getting any younger although 20 year olds Jean Pyerre and Matheus Henrique have both emerged and have been tipped for bright futures (their emergence has been compared to that of Arthur, who is a few years older and now a starter for Barcelona and the Seleção).

The bad news is that Luan, the best player in Brazil just two seasons ago, is out of sorts, and has found himself relegated to the bench in recent weeks, while Everton continues to improve and has probably taken that mantle rom Luan as the best player in the country.

Overall though, while Grêmio haven’t really weakened this year, I just don’t expect them to do as well as they have done in recent seasons. Part of that is the due to improvement of some of their rivals.

Major ins:

Júlio César (Fluminense), Felipe Vizeu (Udinese), Montoya (Cruz Azul), Rafael Galhardo (Vasco, loan), Rômulo (Flamengo, loan), Diego Tadelli (Shandong Luneng)

Major outs:

Marcelo Grohe  (Al Ittihad), Ramiro (Corinthians), Madson (Athletico-PR, loan), Cícero (Botafogo), Lima (Al Wasl, loan), Bressan (FC Dallas), Jael (FC Tokyo)

6 – Santos

My prediction: 6th

Position last year: 10th

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

Talisman: Jean Mota

One to watch: Soteldo

The blurb:

Santos have not been run very well in recent years and have been forced into selling some of their best players due to financial pressures (they lost their star man Lucas Lima on a free transfer a year ago and Bruno Henrique went to Flamengo for big bucks). They have managed to land a high profile coach in Jorge Sampaoli, although the word on the street was that the manager was shocked to find that there was a very small budget to work with and that the club’s financial situation was worse than he thought.

As it happens, the coach seems to be enjoying life on the São Paulo coast and apparently he goes for runs on the beach and will stop to take photos with fans and has even joined in the odd game of footvolley – ahh the good life on the Brazilian coast! On the field, things have been going okay too. Santos were knocked out of the Copa Sulamericana early on, and they were beaten by Corinthians in the paulista semi finals – but performances have been decent and it seems that Sampaoli’s style is beggining to rub off on the team, and there have been signs of progress.

On the player front, although they have lost some important players in recent seasons, Santos still manage to assemble a good squad – with some depth and with some promising young players coming through, as usual.

The position where they are lacking is up front. Derlis González and Eduardo Sasha aren’t out and out strikers but have alternating at number 9. 18 year old sensation Rodrygo (who will be moving to Real Madrid for 45 million euros at the end of the season) hasn’t been too prominent so far this year – he has started a number of games on the bench and he didn’t impress for Brazil at the u20 South American championship – but he is still a kid and its only reasonable to expect his form to have ups and downs. Vinicius Junior’s form was erratic at times ahead of his move to Real Madrid.

Not playing in intercontinental competition will help Santos and I’m expecting a decent season, which could be a good or a very good season if they can land a top class number 9. Sadly, I don’t think they have the cash.

Major ins:

Éverson (Ceará), Jean Lucas (Flamengo, loan), Felipe Jonathan (Ceará), Felipe Aguilar (Atlético Nacional), Cueva (Krasnodar, loan)

Major outs:

Bruno Henrique (Flamengo), Gabigol (Flamengo), Robson Bambu (Athletico-PR), Dodô (end of loan, now signed for Cruzeiro on loan from Sampdoria), Daniel Guedes (Goiás), David Bras (Sivasspor), Renato (retired), Léo Cittadini (Athletico-PR)

5 – Corinthians

My prediction: 5th

Position last year: 13th

Coach: Fabio Carille

Talisman: Cássio

One to watch: Pedrinho

The blurb:

Corinthians are an impressive outfit under Fabio Carille. You may remember the fuss last season, when he jumped ship and left Corinthians for the Middle East (and the promise of two truck loads of money). The team really suffered in his absence and finished 13th in the league.

But that was all soon forgotten when Carille decided that he didn’t like it in there, the trucks weren’t for him and that he couldn’t live without Corinthians. So he is back and doing what he does best – winning trophies and making Corinthians hard to beat. He is also fraying the nerves of fans because a victory, even against a poor team in a Cup competition, is never straight forward. But nervy fans are happy fans when their team wins trophies.

While Corinthians really impress me with their big game temperament and capacity to find ways to win, like they did in the final of the São Paulo state championship last weekend, I am not convinced by their quality up front. Gustagol has been a revelation since his return to the club this season after his loan spell with Fortaleza came to an end, but I am not convinced that he has the quality to keep it going consistently this year. Vagner Love has been brought in; he is a willing runner, skillfull and has experience, but he isn’t the same player that he used to be given that he is now 34 years old. Mauro Boselli has been brought in from Mexican football, but isn’t a spring chicken either, at 33 years of age. The midfield and defence are solid, but will Corinthians find the goals to win matches on a consistent basis, particularly against the weaker sides in the league who will sit back and defend? I’m not so sure.

Major ins:

Richard (Fluminense), Sornoza (Fluminense), Ramiro (Grêmio), Gustagol (Fortaleza), Carille, Vagner Love (Besiktas), Boselli (Leon), Michel (Las Palmas), Manoel (Cruzeiro), Régis (Bahia)

Major outs:

Emerson Sheikh (retired), Roger (Ceará), Danilo (Vila Nova), Jair Ventura (fired), Marquinhos Gabriel (Cruzeiro), Douglas (Bahia, loan), Matheus Matias (Ceará, loan), Rodrigo Figueiredo (Joinville, loan), Paulo Roberto (Fortaleza, loan), Mantuan (Ponte Preta, loan), Léo Santos (Fluminense, loan)

4 – Palmeiras

My prediction: 4th

Position last year: Champions

Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari

Talisman: Ricardo Goulart

One to watch: Arthur – if he gets a game

The blurb:

Palmeiras have the most complete squad in the league – I don’t think many would argue with that. And they will have the depth to compete on all fronts this season – league, Brazilian Cup and Libertadores. But for some reason, things have gone off the boil this year. And I’m wondering whether they will get it back. It will be a long season so there is plenty of time for Big Phil Scolari to get things right and for things to click again.

But like many sides, they are struggling to find the player that they want, to fill the number 9 position. Colombian international Borja has been annoying the coach and fans with his inconsistent form, while Deyverson is admired, but also does stupid things from time to time – like spit at opponents and get banned. Behind the number 9 though, Palmeiras and blessed with riches. Gustavo Scarpa is finding good form following his protracted move from Fluminense last year; Dudu is class; and Ricardo Goulart is very good attacking midfielder. Lucas Lima, not long ago a Brazil international and considered one of the best players in Brazil, can’t even get a game right now. Palmeiras will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season; I’m taking a punt and saying thereabouts this year.

Major ins:

Arthur (Ceará), Raphael Veiga (Atheltico-PR, end of loan), Zé Rafael (Bahia), Carlos Eduardo (Pyramids FC), Felipe Pires (Hoffenheim, loan), Juninho (Atlético Mineiro, returns from loan), Matheus Fernandes (Botafogo)

Major outs:

Artur (Bahia, loan), Papaguaio (Atlético-MG, loan)

3 – São Paulo

My prediction: 3th

Position last year: 5th

Coach: Cuca

Talisman: Hernanes

One to watch: Antony

The blurb:

Unless you are a São Paulo fan, it is probably quite bold to predict that they will finish 3rd and above Corinthians and Palmeiras. But without a Libertadores campaign to take their attention and a new coach, some big signging and some excellent young players coming through, this feels like it could be a good campaign for São Paulo. Although they lost in the state championship final against Corinthians (by a very fine margin), there is a sense of optimism in the air at São Paulo right now.

This is a big turnaround from the start of the season, when the club were struggling to beat the local sides in the state championship and lost their Copa Libertadores qualifying fixture. I hate how Brazilian clubs constantly fire their managers without giving them a proper chance, but I never really felt that Andre Jardine was the right man for the job in the long term and it wasn’t a surprise to see him go after such bad results earlier this year.

The new management set-up with Cuca inspires a lot more confidence. Pato, Hernanes, Pablo, Vitor Bueno and Tchê Tchê are all exciting signings. Add to them the quality of the young players coming through – Igor Gomes, Helinho, Luan, Léo Pele and Antony (the pick of the bunch) – and they have a team that can be very competitive in the league this year.

Major ins:

Pablo (Athletico Paranaense), Tiago Volpi (Queretaro), Hernanes (Hebei China Fortune), Willian Farias (Vitória), Léo Pele (Bahia), Biro Biro (Shanghai Shenxin), Alexandre Pato (Tianjin Tianhai), Tchê Tchê (Dynamo Kiev), Vitor Bueno (loan from Santos, but was at Dynamo Kiev)

Major outs:

Rodrigo Caio (Flamengo), Sidão (Goiás), Shaylon (Bahia – loan), Régis (CSA), Diego Souza (Botafogo), Tréllez (Internacional, loan)

2 – Cruzeiro

My prediction: 2th

Position last year: 8th

Coach: Mano Menezes

Talisman: Dedé

One to watch: Alejandro

The blurb:

Cruzeiro haven’t made many signings, but they probably didn’t need to given the stability at the club. Yes, they lost Arrascaeta to Flamengo, but they have replaced him with the very capable Rodriguinho (albeit older), while they have added Marquinhos Gabriel to the ranks for good measure in the creative department. They have some depth in their attack with the likes of David, Raniel and Sassá normally on the bench, and their key attacker Fred has returned from injury and was the top scorer in the Minas Gerais state championship. There is also strength and depth to the midfield and defence too. In particular, it was a massive boost for the club to keep hold of Dedé, who was being quite aggressively pursued by Flamengo. The club also now has some stability with coach Mano Menezes having been at the helm for more than two years.

Although I expect them to finish second, there are a few limitations to this team. In particular, their two most important attacking players are both in their mid thirties: Thiago Neves is 34 and showed signs of slowing down last year, while Fred is 35 and has come back from a serious injury. Cruzeiro have the squad to rotate these players when needed, but there will be some question marks about the pace of the team’s attack and how they will fare against the best defences.

Major ins:

Jadson (Fluminense), Marquinhos Gabriel (Corinthians), Dodô (loan from Sampdoria, was at Santos), Rodriguinho (Pyramids)

Major outs:

Arrascaeta (Flamengo), Manoel (Corinthians), Bruno Silva (Fluminense), Vitinho (Cercle Brugge), Ezequiel (Fluminense), Patrick Brey (Coritiba, loan), Marcelo Hermes (Goias), Mancuello (Toluca), Laércio (Ipatinga, loan), Hernán Barcos (Atlético Nacional)

1 – Flamengo

My prediction: 1th

Position last year: 2nd

Coach: Abel Braga

Talisman: Diego

One to watch: Lincoln

The blurb:

The biggest problem facing Abel Braga is how to manage the weight of expectation and find a formula to get the best out of Flamengo’s expensively-assembled squad. There has been some criticism of the coach for leaving Arrascaeta on the bench and favouring Diego and Everton Ribeiro for the attacking midfield roles. But I was shocked to read this morning that Abel Braga’s position as the coach is under serious scrutiny and that the Flamengo boardroom have considered changing him. Madness: the team won the Rio state championship, battering Vasco 4-0 in the final; they are top in the Copa Libertadores group (although admittedly, their last group game is away at Peñarol, and they will need a point from that match in order to qualify for the next phase); and Abel Braga’s record at Fluminense over the last few years was excellent. Give the man a chance!

As for the playing staff, Flamengo have made some very good signings this year. Gabigol was the most important acquisition and is probably the best number 9 playing in Brazil right now. Bruno Henrique was an upgrade on Vitinho, who now regularly has to make do with a place on the bench, while Rodrigo Caio brings some good ball playing skills to their backline and is an upgrade on Réver. Lucas Paqueta will be sorely missed, but Arrascaeta was as good a replacement as you are likely to find in Brazil.

The biggest threat to my prediction that Flamengo will win the league is the possibility that the club loses patience with Abel Braga, jerks their knee and fires the coach.

Major ins:

Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Bruno Henrique (Santos), Gabigol (Santos), Rodrigo Caio (São Paulo)

Major outs:

Réver (Atlético-MG), Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan), Jean Lucas (Santos, loan), Marlos Moreno (Manchester City, end of loan), Geuvânio (Tianjin Quanjian, end of loan), Matheus Savio (CSA, loan), Rômulo (Grêmio, loan)

Other articles of interest:

The Brazilian Série A in numbers: all of the key figures you need from last season’s Série A.

Felipão guides Palmeiras to another league title: how the maestro worked his magic

Brazilfooty’s 2018 Série A team of the year: Dudu was the star player, but who else made the team of the year?

2018 Brasileirão predictions – how did I do? not too bad if I can say so myself

Série A: how the last weekend unfolded: the clue is in the name

Brasileirão 2018 preview: preview of the league last year

Dedicated Série A page: keep track of this page for the latest league table, fixtures and results

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One thought on “2019 Brazilian Série A season preview

  1. According to some bloke on Twitter my analysis of Athletico-PR is completely wrong.

    “The talisman of the club it’s definitely not Nikão and the one to watch it’s also definitely not Robson Bambu. Last year T. Nunes finished P7, and this year the team is much stronger so I believe they’ll be on top 5…
    There’s 2 players that european clubs desire a lot, Bruno Guimarães and Renan Lodi. They’re also the best players on their position in Brazil right now. The ones to watch are the young players from Athletico’s U20 team that played the PR State Championship. Khellven for example.
    And Athletico also found sources of goals. Marco Ruben it’s miles better than Pablo and besides the goals, Raphael Veiga had terrible appearances last year.”

    So there you go. Fair shout on Ruben goals, Guimarães and Renan Lodi (as top youngsters, but not best in their position in Brazil). Sounds like a slightly partial Athletico fan if he expects them to be top 5. It could happen, and they have had some rave reviews from others for their performances so far this year, but there are a lot of good teams in the Serie A this year. I’m sticking with 9th.

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