Corinthians v Palmeiras preview

Corinthians v Palmeiras preview

One of the fiercest rivalries in the Brazilian domestic game takes on extra significance this coming weekend. Paulista giants Corinthians and Palmeiras will lock horns this Sunday afternoon (5 November) at the Arena Corinthians in a contest which could go a long way to deciding who lifts the league title in December.

At the halfway stage of the Brasileirão campaign, it already looked like Corinthians had the league crown safely secured. Under coach Fábio Carille, who had been one of Tite’s assistants previously, the side were playing an organised if unadventurous style of football which was proving efficient in the extreme.

However, Corinthians appear to be doing all they can to throw away the title as a series of disastrous results has allowed the likes of Grêmio, Santos and Palmeiras to make up ground on them as the season enters its final stretch. For the first time this past weekend, Carille looked rattled as he tried to explain away just what had gone wrong with his players and their game plan.

The side still sit five points clear at the top of the table and, with just seven rounds left to play, the ball remains very much in their court. However, Corinthians have also lost three of their last four outings, and right now show little sign of arresting what has become a worrying slide.

This past weekend, the league leaders lost 1-0 away to Ponte Preta in what was another insipid performance at a crucial part of the season. Any more slip ups, and Palmeiras, their biggest rival in an area saturated with football clubs, will be ready and waiting to pounce.

Indeed, it is Palmeiras who sit second in the league, having recovered wonderfully well since a change of personnel in the dig-out. Former boss Cuca, who led an expensively assembled squad to the Brasileiro title last December, was brought back after Eduardo Baptista’s short spell at the helm of the ship, but it was a doomed reunion.

Alberto Valentim is now in charge of team affairs and a sudden upturn in fortunes has seen the team straight back in the hunt for domestic glory. Cuca, perhaps unnecessarily, sidelined established talents such as holding midfielder Felipe Melo and Colombian striker Miguel Borja, to the severe detriment of the team as a productive unit.

Valentim, by way of contrast, has employed a back to basics approach and thus far it is paying rich dividends. The side won three games in a row before a huge game against Cruzeiro on Monday night at the Allianz Parque.

A win would have put them just three points Corinthians, which in turn meant that, should Palmeiras have won all of their remaining league games they would have been crowned champions for the second successive season. As it is, they could only muster a 2-2 draw after twice falling behind and, while they still have some catching up to do, there is no doubting that the momentum is now very much with the green side of the city.

Corinthians’ only league win in their last six came against a relegation threatened Coritiba outfit, and they have been far from convincing in recent weeks. The side has scored just one goal in their last four matches – that’s over six hours of football, including injury time – and former Brazil international striker Jô is looking profligate in front of goal, starved of service from the midfield.

Palmeiras, by way of comparison, have scored 12 goals in their last five outings at a rate of 2.4 goals per game, and are unbeaten in that period. In addition, Valentim’s men can come into this encounter absolutely full of confidence having won their last three matches on the road, including a hugely impressive 3-1 triumph at the Arena do Grêmio in Porto Alegre.

In fact, as excellent as Palmeiras’ recent form has been, it is their record away from their Allianz Parque home which has really stood out. The side are unbeaten in their last eight games on their travels, and have won their last three on the bounce.

Even more encouragingly, they have scored at least one goal in their last 11 away games, and given Corinthians’s wretched recent run of form, not to mention their brittle confidence, and you would have to say that Borja and Palmeiras will fancy their chances of extending that run. This game looks to have come at the perfect time for Valentim and his players, while the opposite is true for Carille.

The wind has changed direction in dramatic fashion at the summit of the Brazilian table. Corinthians look like they couldn’t hit a barn door at five paces and, with Palmeiras on the ascent, expect the visitors to take all three points at the Arena Corinthians on Sunday afternoon.

Odds: Corinthians (2.37), Palmeiras (3.30), draw (3.00)