Palmeiras on course to throw title away

After the much-celebrated successful World Cup qualifying campaign and the ecstasy following the choice of Rio de Janeiro as the 2016 Olympic host city, Brazil turns its attention once again to the good old National Championship.

And, more than everyone else, fans of Palmeiras, São Paulo and Internacional hope their teams do too, urgently.

With only eight games to go, the three major title candidates seem to be in an endless siesta, failing to perform and thus inviting others into the title-chasing race, as we can see in the table below:

Palmeiras 54Atlético-MG 50Internacional 49São Paulo 49Flamengo 48Goiás 46Cruzeiro 45

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Yes, Palmeiras’ advantage is still comfy. But talk to any Big Green fan and you’ll see he’s on the verge of a breakdown.

Palmeiras could have almost secured the title by now if they hadn’t, in the last three games, been involved in three fiascos.

Muricy Ramalho’s outfit were hammered 3-0 by Náutico, drew 2-2 at home with Avaí and then lost at home to Flamengo 2-0.

The four-point lead could easily be 10, but now the suffering will remain until the end.

Even star performer Diego Souza confessed: “I fear losing this title.”

It has never been so easy, yet is seems so hard.

São Paulo, who were hot on Palmeiras' heals a couple of weeks ago, dropped to 4th place after taking just six points from a possible 18 – one win, two losses, three draws.

This mediocre math won’t lead to a fourth title in a row. Likewise, Internacional seemed to have checked into slumberland, without setting a departure date.

Due to the toppers’ torpor, Atlético-MG and Flamengo are closing in fast.

Coached by Celso Roth, Atlético started the tournament on fire, but by mid-season had dropped out of the top four.

(It usually happens to Roth’s squads, which led the mean Brazilian football fans to compare him to a 2-liter soda bottle – when it reaches half-full, all the gas is gone).

But with the club's new signings – midfielders Correa and veteran World Cup champ Ricardinho – and the fantastic form of striker Diego Tardelli, Atlético have bounced back.

Flamengo fans, who at not long ago were happy with mid-table obscurity, are now eyeing a Libertadores spot – the top four qualify for the continental tournament – and even the title.

With Adriano happy and scoring again, and 37-year old Serbian grandpa Petkovic playing like the old days, why not?

Week 31 begins on Wednesday, with a crucial game – Palmeiras facing relegation-bound Santo André.

If the Boys in Green win, they’ll open up a seven-point lead on the second place side, and put a truckload of pressure on the hunters ahead of Saturday and Sunday's games.

On the other hand, if they pull another flop and their pursuers do well at the weekend, the gap could be cut to just one or two points.

Then the championship really will be up for grabs.

To be continued…

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