Flamengo go into derby with boot on other foot
Fluminense are bracing themselves for another potential blow when the sides clash in the big Rio "Fla-Flu" derby on Sunday, having lost 2-1 at home to second-placed Corinthians in midweek.
The leaders have dropped 13 points in six matches, a worrying slump that has seen a once big advantage whittled away. They are now ahead of Corinthians only on goal difference.
"All teams wobble but we've paid our dues," Flu coach Muricy Ramalho told reporters. "We stopped winning points and that's complicated this championship.
"Now we've got to pull the team together again, lift the players' morale and look again for the road to victory."
The roles are reversed from last season when Flamengo won their fourth championship while Fluminense avoided relegation on the final day in December.
Flamengo boosted hopes of climbing away from danger with a 2-1 win over 10-man Gremio Prudente in midweek, their first victory in eight matches, thanks to a goal by midfielder Toro four minutes into added time.
They are 14th, five points above the relegation zone.
Toro said Sunday's derby could be decided by which team wanted victory most.
"We know how difficult the match against Fluminense will be, they're not leaders for nothing," he added.
"We know the quality players they have but it's a 'clasico' and that involves a lot of things, details. Whoever has a bit more heart will win."
The match has been deprived of its big Maracana venue, closed for 2014 World Cup refurbishments, and will be played for the first time at the Enganhao.
Built for the 2007 Pan American Games, it is the home of fourth-placed Botafogo who are at home to third-placed Cruzeiro on Saturday.
A victory for Cruzeiro, one point behind the leading pair, would put them top at least until the Fla-Flu derby.