This weekend the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A 2008 gets underway. For the last 3 years – this has been my favourite (and most profitable) league to bet on. For games full of incident (chances, goals, red cards) this league can be quite predictable, and for teams strong at home – Serie A has traditionally been rewarding in recent years. I will try to offer some kind of guidance to who will be the favourites, and who also may struggle this year. One key thing to note is that the second best supported team in Brazil – Corinthians of Sao Paolo, will play this year in Serie B after being dramatically relegated on the last day of the season in 2007. They have a massive support and will be a big loss to the league in general – the recent days of Tevez/Mascherano/MSI/2005 Brasileiro Champions seem a long way off.
SAO PAOLO: Champions for the last 2 seasons, managed by the methodical Muricy Ramalho. Often criticised for their effective – but very non Brazilian style of football. Very tough defensively – and ruthless in attack, almost like an Italian team of the 80's. They have lost key defender Breno to Bayern Munich – but have brought in some useful, but unspectacular replacements – Eder (MF/DF), Eder Luis(MF B), Jancarlos (FW B+) and Joilson(MF B+) – . On loan from Inter Milan they have Adriano until July – but his loan will likely be extended until December. In Dagoberto (A- if he stays fit), Alex Silva (A-), Hernanes (A+) and Aloisio (B+) – they have a depth of forwards who would walk into most other teams in the league. When the Libertadores finishes (July) Hernanes and other stars may leave, but this is the same for any successful team in this tournament.
Prediction: Champions again – organisation, solid management and a fearsome home record at Morumbi make them very hard to beat.
Betting tips – Careful of backing them early as they have Libertadores commitments – but they are ruthless performers regardless.
FLAMENGO: The Rubro-Negro's (red and blacks) are by a mile the best supported team in Brazil – only 2nd to Boca Juniors in the whole of South America. Their torcida (firm/fanbase) is as strong as any. They share the Maracana stadium with the other Rio teams for most of their home games, which they often fill with 50k + insane supporters. After years of underachievement, they finished in 4th last year – qualifying for the Libertadores. However – they are already trying to sabotage their season before it has started. Well-loved manager Joel Santana left two weeks ago to manage South Africa, and his replacement was Caio Junior – a well thought of manager. However - after leading 4-2 AWAY from home against America of Mexico in the Libertadores, this Wednesday they amazingly lost 0-3 at home and went out, a complete shock! They have a strong forward line in Obina (B+ when fit) and Diego Tardelli (A-), and wizadry from wingman Marcinho (A). Signings include Kleberson (MF – former Man Utd- anywhere from A+ to Z- depending on if he can be arsed) Leonadro (CB B+) Bruno (GK – freekick taker - B+) and Jonatas (MF/FW – B+). The squad is solid – but the shock of the Libertadoes exit and new management could effect them early.
Prediction: Notoriously slow starters – top 5 is very possible but the title could be beyond them due to many insane factors that seem to effect this club.
Betting tips: Great team for over 2.5, sometimes poor travellers. Observe them for a week or so.
PALMEIRAS: Sao Paolo residents, with a new manager Vanderlei Luxembergo. They have just won the Paulista (Sao Paolo state) championship – and have brought in many new faces. Perennial underachievers, but this year they mean business. No Libertadores involvement. They have held onto their highly rated Chilean playmaker Valvidia (A), powerful midfielder Pierre (B+) and have old school keeper Marcos (B+) and a potentially solid defence to build upon. They have a raft of new signings – Deigo Souza (FW – A-), Alex Mineiro (FW – B+), Lenny (WG/FW – B+) Henrique (WG/MF – B+) and former Santos man Kleber (MF – A-/B+) - all of who came at a pretty penny. They are backed by company 'Traffic', who intend a run at the title. With a manager who has won 5 of the last 8 Brasileiro's, then they have a chance.
Prediction: Great manager, solid squad and great support from the 'Green Stain' – Palmeiras' torcida. Top three/title challenge a distinct possibility.
Betting tips. Good all round really. Can score goals (and concede!). Should be solid at the Estadio Palestra Italia and should be able to pick up some away wins.
CRUZEIRO: The giants from Belo Horizonte, unfortunately fell to Boca Juniors just this Wednesday in the Copa Libertadores. Traditionally a big power who have been terribly managed in recent seasons. They have brought in supremely talented Bolivian forward Marcelo Moreno (A-) – top scorer in the Libertadores so far, who may however leave for European shores soon. Another recent signing is Eduadorian international Espinoza (MF B+). They have the insanely talented Kerlon (MF/WG – A) who may soon also be sold, as well as creative forwards in Guilherme (B+) and Jadilson (B). All out attack is often their way – the best team to watch last year, but often suspect at the back. Libertadores place contenders – but the title will be beyond them.
Prediction: Top six is feasible, if their chairman Leandro Dominguez doesn't flog all their players- which has happened in the past!
Betting tips: Last year they started slow without scoring, so over 2.5 was a goal(gold)-mine when they found their form. Bookies are wise to their great attack – shit defence – but value is still there for goals goals goals......
INTERNACIONAL: Jeckyl and Hyde team last year – the '06 Libertadores/World Club Champs are a strange bunch. Strong on youth policy – and signing young players. They should do a lot better than last years 11th. In Fernandao (A-) – they have a Trojan-esque forward of genuine quality at this level. They also have promising forward Iarley (B) and midfielder Magrao (B) who a lot is expected of. Their key signing beside promising youths is that of former Corinthians/PSG striker Nilmar (A+ to E- depending on motivation/fitness). He really can be amazing – and if he clicks with Fernandao – Inter' could fly this year. However this club loves to sell their best assets and replace them with youths who take time to gel. No Libertadores to worry about this year – league runners up in '05 and '06, Abel Braga's Inter mean business.
Prediction: Should be very solid and hard to beat – but if Nilmar and Fernandao do not do it for them in attack – who will? Title contenders maybe – but more likely to contest 3-6.
Betting tips: Disciplined home team, a hard place to visit in Porto Alegre. Can be low scorers – unders at solid odds may be worth a look.
SANTOS: The team from Sao Paolo's port city have a great tradition, but will find it hard to satisfy their hardcore support this season. Emerson Leao – who seems to have managed every team in Brazil is their new manager to replace Luxemburgo. 2nd last year seems a distant memory. Many players have gone, with no real signings of note to report- only Douglas (GK C) from Serie C (!) side Sertazinho, and Luiz Henrique (MF C+) from Serie B club Paulista. Much will rely on battle hardened forward Kleber Pereira (A-) who is real quality, but his contract is soon to run out with no new deal agreed. Santos' shining light may be that they are still in the Libertadores, but their squad is lacking in quality/depth – meaning they could struggle this year. The fans are not happy already.
Prediction: Everything suggests a lower top 10 finish for Santos this year – and maybe worse.
Betting tips: Should be solid at home, but could struggle all-round. Bookies will still favour them, so early profit could be made by backing against them in May/June.
FLUMINENSE: Traditionally the 4th team of Rio behind Fla', Bota' and Vasco – but after last season, and this – they may be the No.1! Very solid in defence last year – but not so great in attack. In Thiago Silva (CB A-)– they have one of the best defenders in the league – plus part namesake Thiago Naves (MF B+) who is a cunning midfielder. Through to the last 8 of the Libertadores already – new signing have made them a potent attacking force. Former Botafogo striker Dodo (B +) Washington Paulista (A-) and Dario Conca (MF – B) have all joined to strengthen this already solid unit. Renato Gaucho, their coach is also a real plus point – a real motivator, one of the best in Brazil.
Prediction: Should be very hard to beat – and now they have a real goal threat. Depending on how much the Libertadores effects them, Flu' could be a real contender this year. Top 4 I would suggest.
Betting tips: One of Brazils few under 2.5 teams in recent seasons, which may be worth a look post -Libertadores. Away handicaps may provide value for this hard to beat unit.
VASCO DA GAMA: One of the original 'Rio three'. A club with great history, but not so great in recent times. Historically they are fearsome in Rio, but do not travel so well out of their own habitat. One problem has always been the instability the board hiring/firing managers on a near monthly basis, but how hiring the almost insane Romario is going to improve this situation is anyones guess. They now have ancient former Palmeiras striker Edmundo (B) and tricky wingers Wagner Diniz (A-) and Leandro Bonfim (B+) who must support the talented striker Leandro Amaral (A-/B+) who they will rely a lot on. They are trying to qualify for next years Libertadores through the Copa do Brazil.
Prediction: You tell me! Romario in charge of a talented but small squad – Edmundo involved?!? Crazy shit all round. Most likely lower midtable is their outcome.
Betting tips: Often high scorers/conceders – especially in Rio derbies – with the potential for a strong home record, but not much else.......
BOTAFOGO: Bota' have a talented coach in Cuca, but have unfortunately some of their better players go, including last years top scorer Dodo to rivals Flu'. They seem often to do well in Rio derby games, and last year led the Brasileiro for the first third of the season before badly falling away into midtable. They have gone with youth over experience, and are somewhat an unknown quantity this year. Diguinho (MF B) is a solid defensive midfielder, whereas Ze Carlos (WG B+) is a tricky customer. Strikers Fabio (B) and Jorge Henrique (B+) can be a pain in the backend for any defence. Their defence is also pretty solid – marshalled by giant keeper Renan (B+). Copa Brazil hopefuls for the Libertadores.
Prediction: Solid without being spectacular, Bota' have a good base but no real extra talent up top. Top ten is almost guaranteed, but will not be challenging for anything.
Betting tips: Nothing spectacular, but should beat a lot of the lesser teams comfortably.
GREMIO: '07 Libertadores finalists against Boca, had an indifferent league campaign last year. The second team from the city Porto Alegre, a proud footballing city. Massive fanbase, but have lost some players and found it hard to replace them. Their best striker Diego Souza left, and so far attempts to replace him have been hard. As I write this Gremio are trying to sign Sao Paolo striker Aloisio who would be a good replacement. They have a solid squad – with powerful forwards Soares (B+) and Perea (B) – but they have lost over half of the team that did so well in the Libertadores a year ago.
Prediction: Could be more consistent than last years campaign, but failure to strengthen the squad and a leaky backline could effect them badly. Midtable finish likely, maybe worse.
Betting tips: Footballing team who can easily score/concede, but can be very inconsistent.
ATLETICO PARANAENSE: Manager Nei recently declared (translated):
'The Hurricane is between the favourite for the conquest of the Brasileirão'. Well there is ambition! Atletico Page Ranking seemingly have everything they need for an assault on the Brasileiro, but this has been the same every season- yet they always screw things up. They did reach the final of the Libertadores in '05 where they were blown away by Sao Paolo, and they have not done much since. They are housed in the imtimidating Kayocera Arena, which when full – adds a twelfth man feeling. A very healthy youth policy – they have strong midfielders Danilo (B+) and the speedy Alan Bahia (A-). Upfront they are young and fast with Pedro Oldoni (B+) and Willian (B), but will miss the skillful Alex Mineiro who they sold to Palmeiras.
Prediction: Could get off to a strong start, and may be a surprise package in the top of the table. Minimum top half...
Betting tips: Hard to predict – so not a great team to back – observe them for the first month to see.
ALTETICO MINEIRO (MG): Massive rivals of Cruzeiro, the second team of the city of Belo Horizonte. Massive support, who never seem to be repaid by their team – who even had a spell in Serie B two years ago. Quite solid in defence with a manager who plays 'minimalista' style football. Forwards Marquez (B) and Almir (B) are full of running but nothing out of the ordinary. They have wily midfield veteran Petkovic (B+) who can pull apart any defence on his day – but a lack of quality coming into the club means another season midtable or lower. The derby with Cruzeiro can actually be more important to the supporters than league position.
Prediction: May well struggle. Lower midtable – potential relegation battle could loom for them.
Betting tips: Watch out for potential goals vs Cruzeiro, but not a great team to back – maybe lay them away for safer profits.
FIGUEIRIENSE: Fig are a team who have punched above their weight for a while – often pulling off shock wins against the big boys of Rio/Sao Paolo. From the region of Florianpolis, the small local support is proud of their team – almost like a Bolton Wanderers. They have a solid but small squad. Inspirational captain Cleiton (MF B+) leads the team into battle with a passion, and is backed up by the creative Cesar Prates (B+). Attackers Cleiton (B) and Vanderson (B-) are solid – while Wilson is a safe pair of hands in a league with many comedy keepers. One day the bubble may burst for this team who rely on youth/loans of players, but not yet I think.
Prediction: Always an underdog – so hard not to like. Lower midtable is likely for 'Fig tree'.
Betting tips: Worth keeping an eye on against the big boys, can often cause upsets.
GOIAS: The team of Goiana had a very successful run from for 2 years before last season, including a run in the Libertadores, but they only stayed up on the last day at the expense of Corinthians. They lost many players a year ago, but have tried to consolidate ever since. Like Fig', they are likeable underdogs. They play attacking football, and have a triangle of 3 good strikers. Schwenk (B+), Alex Dias (B+) and young hotshot Rinaldo (B) can cause any defence problems. Keeper Harlei (B+) will have to be on top form, as the defence is often shaky.
Prediction: A relegation battle is a possibility, but they may just make it safely into lower midtable.
Betting tips: Last year they attacked home and away, so can be good for overs/to back against in the second half of the season.
NAUTICO: Promoted in '07 and coped well last year – finishing in lower midtable. Scored and conceded goals by the truck load. From the city of Recife – they have a small but fervent following. Key attacker Welligton (B+) is injured to start the season. A lot will rely on the form of creative midfielder Alceu (B+) and strtikers Tiago (B) and Felipe (A-/B+) who did so well last year. May find it harder this year – but their home ground is a fearsome arena to visit.
Prediction: I think they will find it harder this year – potential relegation candidate here.
Betting tips: Were genuinely great for overs last year – often underestimated by the bookies. Should be good to back against this season.
SPORT FC: Were promoted in the same season as neighbours Nautico, their big rivals- and also held their own – ending up in 14th position. Are the better supported team in the region, and are a well run club. Star of the team is Romerito (MF B+) an attacking midfielder of promise – as well as winger Everton (B). A lot will also rely on striker Roger (B+) who is a dangerous forward, but his fitness can be an issue. A tough team to breakdown, but they have found it hard to find new signings – and second season syndrome could effect them.
Prediction: A small squad could work against them, but they are fighters. A relegation battle is very likely.
Betting tips: Quite solid at home last year, and will need to be again this term. Over team away from home last year.
CORITIBIA FBC: Could be well equipped to stay up due to previous top flight experience. Lower midtable could be a possibility.
PORTUGUESA SP: Small but tough Sao Paolo team. Always tough to beat – and have a good chance of survival after investing well.
IPATINGA: Third team from Belo Horizonte, only 10 years in existence. Have an excellent young coach in Giba, but may well struggle to survive. Will be a scrap for them.
VITORIA SALVADOR: May not be as bad as fall-guys America RN last year, but still bound for a quick return to Serie B. The least equpped team to stay up imo.
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