(Ben W) #1

season, Flamengo. With their finances in
good order, they have spent plenty in the
transfer market and brought in Abel Braga

  • an experienced, charismatic coach.
    Like Scolari, he is a physically imposing
    figure who will be expected to handle the
    egos in the dressing room. With more
    pace at the back and up front, Flamengo
    look much better equipped than they
    were in 2018. And for both them and
    Palmeiras, 2019 will be a flop if they fail
    to land a major title. The Libertadores
    is the dream – both have won it once
    before – but the league would be a
    satisfactory consolation.
    The leading challenge to the two
    favourites may not come from their

neighbours in the traditional strongholds
of Sao Paulo and Rio, but from the two
other big centres of the Brazilian game.
Last year, Internacional and Gremio
from Porto Alegre finished third and
fourth respectively. Still under Renato
Portaluppi, Gremio’s possession-based
style has made them the most attractive
team to watch over the past couple of
years. Although they cannot call on the
depth of resources of Palmeiras and
Flamengo, it will be interesting to see
whether they can sustain a challenge.
Internacional under Odair Hellman
were a surprise last year, bouncing back
well after a season in the second division.
This year they have the Libertadores as

an added distraction, and a title bid may
be beyond them.
Cruzeiro from Belo Horizonte cannot
be ruled out. Eighth place in 2018 might
seem a disappointment, but the season
was saved by triumph in the domestic
cup and coach Mano Menezes has a
squad deep enough to fight on multiple
fronts. They can go into the campaign
with a swagger of confidence – perhaps
more so than their local rivals, Atletico
Mineiro. A leaky defence left them down
in sixth last year and the early indications
are that Levir Culpi has not been able to
improve matters.
Corinthians should avoid a repeat of
last year’s battle against relegation. Fabio

Once seen as a future striker
for the national side, his career
blew off course in Europe, but
he was the top scorer back in
Brazil last year with Santos and
is now at Flamengo.
(Atheltico Paranaense)
Box-to-box central midfielder
with lung power, talent and
poise. Breaks up opposing
attacks and also breaks into
their penalty area with an
eye for goal.
Left-footed midfielder on loan
from Atletico Madrid and the
influence of Spanish football
is obvious. He rarely wastes a
pass and is already a key part
of his new team.
“Gusta-goal” is a burly centre-
forward whose career found
momentum last year in the
second division on loan to
Fortaleza, earning a recall
to Corinthians this term.
Another from the Gremio
production line. Tall, elegant
playmaker with a refined touch
who is being brought along
slowly but surely by coach
Renato Portaluppi.
Paranaense with the
Sudamericana Cup
last year