Atlético Mineiro and Sport at home, SPFC and Coritiba away: these were our last four games, all of them 2-0 defeats. Palmeiras have not scored a goal in three weeks. The astonishing drop in productivity might have correlation with the leaking of a list early this month supposedly naming a hefty number of players to be negotiated at the end of the season. Valdivia serving his national squad, then injuring himself for the nth time, is another factor: we all know how dependent Palmeiras have become on the Chilean playmaker. Dorival Juniors’ limitations as a coach is a third factor: he insists on repeating the same unsuccessful formations, players and philosophy, never bringing novelty to the mix.
Nothing indicates Palmeiras will win any of two remaining games this season: Internacional (away, this coming Saturday) is a victory away from securing their spot in next year’s edition of the Libertadores Cup, while Atlético Paranaense (at home, the following Sunday) might still be looking at securing theirs in the South America Cup.
Palmeiras are first out of the relegation zone, only one lousy point ahead of Vitória, who lost 2-0 to Figueirense yesterday. The second team from the state of Bahia, namely, er, Bahia, trails another five points behind Palmeiras, with Botafogo and Criciúma even further down. I consider the bottom three already relegated, while the fourth relegation spot is reserved for Vitória or Palmeiras.
Again: I do not believe Palmeiras will bag any additional points this season, meaning Vitória can be allowed but one draw in the last two rounds. The baianos will play Flamengo away and Santos at home. Flamengo has opted for taking their game to the Arena da Amazônia in Manaus, looking at cashing in on the large crowds of local flamenguistas hungry for some action. I hope it means Flamengo’s players will come motivated enough. As for Santos, there is no telling. They might be locking their sights on a spot in next year’s South America Cup. Or they might be enjoying the prospect of help sinking their local rival Palmeiras in the mud.
Since always, Brazilian football has seen the practice of “malas brancas”, i.e. “white briefcases”. A “mala preta” is offering someone money to lose, and is of course illegal; a “mala branca” is offering someone money as an incentive to do their very best. Rest assured Palmeiras are studying suitable, white briefcases for Flamengo and Santos.