By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Just three days after the conclusion of the international football (soccer) spectacle 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Brazilian national tournament, the Campeonato Brasileiro is ready to get underway again. Tonight (July 16th), three Carioca clubs are in action after a five-week hiatus for the FIFA tournament.
Fluminense, who sit second in the Brasileirão table with sixteen points from nine games, travel to play Criciúma at the Heriberto Hulse Stadium. Criciúma are thirteenth, having collected eleven points.
Flu’s preparations during the World Cup break have been positive. The Laranjeiras outfit have made five signings to bolster the squad, including experienced central defender Henrique from French club Bordeaux, and midfielder Cícero from Paulista outfit Santos.
Cícero was his team’s leading scorer last season, with fifteen goals, and should add to Fluzão’s attacking prowess alongside Darío Conca, busting forward from midfield. If Seleção striker Fred leaves for Turkish club Beskitas, as has been reported in the Brazilian press, then Fluminense will urgently need to find a new goal outlet.
Botafogo have made a disappointing start to this year’s Brasileirão but will be looking to get their season back on track, and travel to the Northeast to face newly promoted Sport Recife at the Ilha do Retiro Stadium. Coach Vagner Mancini hopes to be able to count on goalkeeper and captain Jefferson.
The 31-year-old was part of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s World Cup squad, but didn’t play a single minute during the entire tournament. There was also good news regarding recent acquisition Carlos Alberto. The playmaker, who has also had spells at fellow Rio clubs Vasco da Gama and Fluminense, should be fit to start the game after recovering from an injury to his left thigh quicker than initially expected.
On Saturday the 29-year-old took part in a training game against São Gonçalo and opened the scoring for Botafogo in a 4-1 win for the Alvinegro. Botafogo have only collected nine points from as many games so far and desperately need a win to kick-start their national campaign.
The Rio club in most trouble at this early stage of the league season is Flamengo. The Rubro-Negro have made a dreadful start to this year’s Brasileirão, and sit next to bottom in the league with just seven points.
Fla play Atlético-PR tonight (July 16th) at the Maracanã. The club gave their players a two week holiday during the opening rounds of the World Cup as the players escaped the pressure of their fans’ disgruntlement, which had previously threatened to boil over.
The club subsequently spent a week training in the secluded area of Atibaia, in São Paulo state, in preparation for the upcoming marathon of games. The club’s time away from Rio de Janeiro seems to have done them some good. In five training games prior to the restart of the Brasileirão, Flamengo have won all five matches.
There was a 4-2 win over Tupi-MG on June 29th, before a 5-0 thrashing of a Rio Athletic XI. That was followed by a 2-1 win over Carioca club Madureira, a 2-1 win over Campo Grande, and, last Saturday, a 1-0 win over Rio side Nova Iguaçu. Now Mengão are scheduled to play three games in just thirteen days.
Campeonato Brasileiro Round 10 Fixtures:
Sport Recife v Botafogo
Coritiba v Figueirense
Grêmio v Goiás
Flamengo v Atlético-PR
Bahia v São Paulo
Criciúma v Fluminense
Corinthians v Internacional
Santos v Palmeiras
Cruzeiro v Vitória
Chapecoense v Atlético-MG