Palmeiras could and should go after every title, every year. The Paulistão is gone (as a trophy, but not as a fight to be fought for transparency and fairness in Brazilian football), with the Libertadores Cup, Brazil Cup and Brazilian Championship still up for grabs. And it’s the latter that kicked off last weekend.
The Brasileirão is the competition Palmeiras are most likely to win this year. Why? Primarily, because of the quality and depth of the squad, crucial in a long and tiring championship as the Brazilian national, played all over this continental-sized country.
The Brazilian championship is one, if not the hardest to predict in the world, as many football betting sites will tell you. There are normally 7-8 teams seriously in it to win, sometimes more. However, this year, I´d say the usual suspects have been slightly decimated. Current champions Corinthians, heavy-spenders Flamengo, stable Grêmio, well-coached Cruzeiro: any champion other than the aforementioned four and Palmeiras would be quite the surprise. Yes, I am ruling out Santos, São Paulo, Internacional, Atlético Mineiro, and all the carioca teams except Flamengo.
Obviously, Palmeiras are not yet close to peak performance, neither is every position rock solid, with an as-good option on the bench. But things seem to be moving in the right direction and, at least on paper, the Palmeiras squad is clearly ahead of the competition. Add to that an ever-increasing revenue gap, the excellent attendance levels at the Allianz Parque, apparently solid club management, player’s paychecks deposited on time (not a given in Brazil, mind you) and Palmeiras quickly becomes the favourite. The obvious downside to this, the added internal and external pressure.
Below, the 20 teams in this year’s edition, in alphabetical order:
América Mineiro (up from 2nd division)
Ceará (up from 2nd division)
Internacional (up from 2nd division)
Paraná (up from 2nd division)
The round kicked off with three games on the Saturday, five on the Sunday and the last two yesterday Monday, which included Palmeiras’ 1-1 debut away against Botafogo. Although Palmeiras missed a great opportunity to return home with the three points, the result was no disaster: out of the ten visiting sides in the first round, none but Grêmio came out victorious, and only Palmeiras and Flamengo managed a draw. That being said, Palmeiras urgently need to address the squad’s apparent lack of zest and concentration, especially at the end of matches – these last two draws, against Boca Juniors and Botafogo, being clear examples of this. Machado and the squad now have a few days to rest and train ahead of the clash with Porto Alegre’s Internacional on Sunday.
Finally, things are getting serious.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!