Paulista semi-finalists ready to do battle

April 11, 2008 at 18:06 Leave a comment

After 19 games in the group stage, the Campeonato Paulista moves on to the semi-final first legs, this weekend.

 

On Saturday, we’re at the estádio Moisés Lucarelli for the clash between Associação Atlética Ponte Preta and Guaratinguetá Futebol Ltda. Sunday, we head to the estádio Morumbi as giants São Paulo Futebol Clube and Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras go head to head.

 

Ponte Preta have not won a major trophy since they were formed in 1900. They have come close though when they reached the finals of the Paulista in 77, 79 and 81. Potential relegation candidates before the campaign kicked off, Ponte got off to a good start and never looked back. Pundits predicted a slump but it never came and Ponte deserve to be in the semis.

 

When Ponte met Guaratinguetá in the first phase in February, the Campinas side came away with a 3×0 win in the Ninho da Garça. Sergio Guede’s team would be more than happy if they could repeat that score in this first leg match.

 

Ponte have an excellent home record this season winning 7, drawing 2, and losing just 1 (Corinthians 0x1). Their 36 goals makes them the league’s joint top scorers alongside Palmeiras. But Ponte’s frontline will have to be at their best against the Paulista’s meanest defence.

 

Guaratinguetá have let in just 14 goals and this is reflected in their very impressive away form. 5 clean sheets, 7 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss (Corinthians 0x2) means that even a packed Moisés Lucarelli will hold no fear for Guilherme Macuglia’s men. Guará though, will have their own support as around 2000 fans are expected to travel to Campinas.   

 

While Ponte’s history stretches back over 100 years, Guaratinguetá only came in to being in 1998. Even more remarkable is the fact that this is only Guara’s second season in the top flight of the Paulista. It has been a dream season for Guaratinguetá so far and they are another side who fully deserve to be in the playoffs.

 

Home team news: Sergio Guedes has a full squad to choose from.

 

Away team news: Guilherme Macuglia also has a full squad at his disposal.

 

Fixture goal average: 2 (only two previous meetings)

 

Ones to watch: Ponte’s Elias is sure to be moving on after this campaign comes to an end. Guara’s Michael (pronounced Michel) is likely to follow suit. 

 

My prediction: this one is very difficult to call. If Ponte sit back as they did against São Paulo and Corinthians in the group stage, Guaratinguetá will almost certainly come away with something. But if Ponte attack from the start, they may get something to defend in the second leg.

 

¬

 

São Paulo went out to São Caetano at this stage last year. They finished runners up in 2006 and won the competition in 2005, so the Morumbi side has seen it all before. However, the current Campeonato Brasileiro champions have not been at their best this season and it was something of a slog for them to make the semis.

 

Muricy Ramalho’s boys will still be smarting from the 4×1 thumping they suffered against Palmeiras last time out. But São Paulo should be confident at home as they are yet to lose in front of their own fans this season. 7 wins and 3 draws may look good but the tricolor had better add to their win total on Sunday or they will be heading out of the tournament.

 

Palmeiras not only have a formidable attack, they also have a pretty solid backline that has conceded just 16 goals. The Palestra Itália outfit have now gone 14 games unbeaten (Copa do Brasil & Paulista). But what is more impressive is the fact that they come into this game having won their last 10.

 

Six wins, 2 draws and 1 loss (Noroeste 0x1) away from home is a good record. Confidence is sky high and if Palmeiras perform to their capabilities, this could be another embarrassing afternoon for São Paulo.  

 

After winning with Santos in 2007 & 2006, coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo is on the verge of making it three Paulista titles in a row. When it comes to tactics and making those crucial changes, Luxemburgo is head and shoulders above anyone else in Brazil.

 

One more thing to mention is Sunday’s referee, Paulo César de Oliveira. The official was touted as one of the best in Brazil. But the last time we saw him (Bragantino 2×5 Palmeiras) he dished out 11 (eleven) yellows and 3 reds and was absolutely diabolical. See the related post here. I’m all for giving people another chance, so let’s hope Oliveira is back on his game.

 

Home team news: top scorer Borges is suspended. Fábio Santos and Carlos Alberto will also be missing following a clash of handbags during training.

 

Away team news: former São Paulo man, Kléber, is back from suspension and should start up front. André Dias watch out!

 

Fixture goal average: 2.67 (all competitions)

 

Ones to watch: São Paulo’s Hernanes has been a bit up and down this season but has still produced some magic moments. Palmeiras’ Alex Mineiro could finish as the league’s top scorer if he can add to his 11.

 

My prediction: São Paulo will be very wary of Palmeiras after the pummelling they received the last time they met. The Morumbi side may also be low on confidence after going down 1×0 away at unfancied Audax Italiano in Chile in the Libertadores on Thursday. There can only be one winner on Sunday and that has to be the boys in the Day-Glo green.

  

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The man who came up with: Messi carrying Argentina. Neymar carrying Brazil. British Airways carrying England. My name is Jon Cotterill. I am an English football commentator for TV Globo in São Paulo, Brazil. Currently we're broadcasting two live Campeonato Brasileiro or Campeonato Paulista games per week plus our magazine show, Footbrazil to 180 countries. + Eu trabalho como narrador na TV Globo em São Paulo, Brasil. Atualmente, nos transmitimos dois jogos ao vivo do Campeonato Brasileiro ou Campeonato Paulista por semana e nosso programa de futebol semanal, Footbrazil.

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© Jon Cotterill and Pitacodogringo's Brazilian football site, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Cotterill and Pitacodogringo's Brazilian football site with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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