— ooo —
Life goes on. Only six games separate Palmeiras from the Brazilian Cup title, a national championship that gives one entry ticket to the next edition of the Libertadores Cup. If Palmeiras reach the Brazilian Cup finals, the opponent could very well be São Paulo, giving the event epic proportions, as we first need to eliminate Flamengo in the penultimate stage. Flamengo and São Paulo: together with Corinthians the three Brazilian teams that tend to enjoy certain referee priviliges the most… It won’t be easy.
However, before thinking about Flamengo and São Paulo, Palmeiras need to overcome Coritiba. The team from Paraná last week beat the national record of most consecutive wins (23), surpassing Palmeiras running suite of 22 victories from 1996. Coritiba has perhaps not played against the strongest of teams so far this season, but one mustn’t forget that Coritiba have won most games with great ease, including the derby against Atlético (3-0) at the stadium of the opponent. That’s impressive, whichever way you look at it.
Scolari has one good reason to be happy about the elimination in the Paulista: he will finally be able to coin the team based on a new scheme – featuring a fixed center forward (Wellington Paulista) – without risking creating confusion. Thus, expect some changes in Palmeiras’ style of play in the games to come.
João Vítor, who deserves all our support, will replace Cicinho on the right flank while the latter recovers from injury. His alternations in position with Márcio Araújo – today (who would have thought!) a given in every starting eleven – is an interesting feature that tends to confuse the opponent. Valdivia’s absence (El Mago will be in treatment for at least a month, meaning that he might become available only in the very last stages of the Brazilian Cup if at all) will be covered by Lincoln, thus forming a lineup with Kleber and Wellington Paulista up front and with Patrik back on his usual position. The team should come together nicely even without the genius of our magician.
Despite of initial post-elimination depression added to injuries on important players, the team remain strong. We need to emphasize this: two of Palmeiras’ best players are out, and the team remain very competitive. Scolari has given the team stability, recovered players who seemed to be slipping (like Rivaldo and Márcio Araújo) and in addition helped bringing interresting new players to strengthen the squad.
Our way to victory in the Copa do Brasil, in falling order of difficulty: a) Coritiba and the referees, b) Flamengo and São Paulo. Bring it on.