Serie A latest

Marquinhos Gabriel tries to find a way through for Cruzeiro against Avai at the Mineirao
Marquinhos Gabriel failed to inspire Cruzeiro to a much-needed win (Pic: Vinnicius Silva)

Flamengo take another big step towards the title, while the relegation battle heats up with just five games to go.

Flamengo continue to march towards the title and just in case there was any doubt left in anyone’s mind that they are the best team in Brazil and thoroughly deserve to win the league, they went and won at Gremio this last weekend.

Of course, they thrashed Gremio in the second leg of their Copa Libertadores semi final recenly, but at home, Gremio are a fantastic team and since their elimination from South America’s premier competition their home form has been excellent. Flamengo had to absorb some pressure but they still won one of the most difficult games on their calendar 1-0, thanks to a penalty from top scorer Gabriel.

Flamengo are now getting ready for the Copa Libertadores final, which they play against River Plate, in Lima (the match has been moved from Santiago due to ongoing social unrest there) this coming Saturday. Given their large advantage at the top of the domestic league table, their Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus named a slightly weakened starting line up, with this Saturday’s final in mind. Diego Alves, Arrascaeta and Gabriel were the three players who started the match against Gremio that can expect to be in the starting line up against River Plate this weekend.

With Palmeiras only managing a 1-1 draw against Bahia, Flamengo have now opened an 11 point lead at the top of the table. They have four games left to play, while Palmeiras have five. Palmeiras will reduce the deficit to 8 points this coming weekend if they beat Gremio. But even if they do – the title is almost certainly going to Flamengo. Palmeiras will do well to hold on to second place with Santos snapping at their heels.

With the title virtually in the bag for Flamengo, things are getting very interesting at the bottom. Avai were relegated last night, after they failed to beat Cruzeiro. Chapecoense and CSA also look like they will be joining them in the Serie B next year. But there are four teams, seperated by just a point, trying to keep their place in the top flight, including Cruzeiro: Fluminense have 35 points, while Cruzeiro, Ceara and Botafogo all have 36.

It looks like one big name might be going down. Cruzeiro’s form has been better since they changed their coach 12 matches ago, but they still find themselves in big danger and missed a real opportunity to pull away from the drop zone by failing to beat Avai at home. There were similar frustrations for Fluminense who went in front against Atletico Mineiro, but they got nervous and conceded a late equaliser in that game.

The only good news for Cruzeiro and Fluminense was that their relegation rivals, Botafogo and Ceara both lost this last weekend, going down 1-0 away from home to Athletico-PR and Chapecoense respectively.

The next round of games take place this coming weekend. CSA host Fluminense, a match that will be key to determining the fate of both teams (CSA are six points behind Fluminense and need to win to keep their slim survival hopes alive). Ceara host the inconsistent Sao Paulo, who are fighting for a place in next season’s Copa Libertadores. Botafogo host Corinthians, who have been in poor form, but also harbour hopes of Libertadores qualification. Cruzeiro have a difficult-looking match away to Santos.

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