Brazileirao Serie A 2009

By Tim Vickery in Rio De Janeiro
Six titles in all and three in a row, but hopes of another took a blow when talismanic captain and keeper Rogerio Ceni broke an ankle in training and is now likely to miss the entire competition. If excellent midfielder Hernanes leaves when the transfer window opens there will be even greater problems for coach Muricy Ramalho. However, he has come through some tricky spells in the past three years and still emerged to win the title. A fourth consecutive championship win might be expecting too much, but the club will be very disappointed if they miss out on a Libertadores place.

Twice champions – the last time in 1996 – with ambitions of a third this year. Relegated after a sudden collapse in 2004, but straight back with a vengeance, they were runners-up in both the 2007 Libertadores and last year’s championship. A strong start to this year’s Libertadores competition makes the sacking of coach Celso Roth something of a mystery. Have strong centre-backs in Leo and Rever, talented midfielders in Tcheco and Souza, and a potential star in Douglas Costa.

The champions in 2003 are now firmly established as one of the best-structured clubs in the country. The current squad looks strong – keeper Fabio, midfielders Fabricio, Ramires and Wagner, striker Kleber – though a question mark hangs over the defence. Coach Adilson Batista can blow hot and cold. If he gets it right then the club, fifth and third in the last
two years, could continue to climb.

Traditionally the club of Sao Paulo’s large Italian community, they have won the title four times – twice in the early 1970s and twice in the early 1990s, the later two when trained by Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who is in charge once more. A deal with sports marketing company Traffic means the former Real Madrid boss has a squad at his disposable that look capable of bettering last year’s fourth place. With 2002 World Cup-winning keeper Marcos to prevent the goals and centre-forward Keirrison to score them, Palmeiras look like contenders.

A national institution and five times champions – though not since 1992 – the club lives in perpetual chaos, destabilised either by unpaid salaries or political in-fighting. After some poor campaigns they have done well in the last two seasons, finishing third and fifth. But that model would seem to be coming to an end, with key midfielder Ibson due to return to Porto in Portugal and centre-back Fabio Luciano retiring on the eve of the championship. Coach Cuca will have to find a new formula under pressure.

Should have finished higher than last year’s sixth place. The club have an intelligent, charismatic coach in Tite, a superb youth policy and a squad as strong as anything in the country. Stand-outs are the Argentina midfielders Pablo Guinazu and Andres D’Alessandro, and the front pair of Nilmar and ultra-rapid revelation Taison. This is the club’s centenary year and great things are expected.

Champions in 1995 and some will hope for a repeat performance, based on the combination of the tranquillity of coach Ney Franco and the attacking speed of Maicosuel, Reinaldo and Victor Simoes. However, the need to cut costs has left the club with a squad lacking the strength in depth for a serious challenge.

The Goiania club are a provincial club that flit between first and second divisions, but have a reputation for playing attractive football. Will surely continue in the same manner this year under Helio Dos Anjos. Best performance was third in 2005. Suffered a blow when key attacking midfielder Paulo Baier left to join Sport.

Surprise champions in 1985, they came a creditable ninth last year after spending two seasons in the second division. But coach Ivo Wortmann might not find it easy to repeat that performance this term after losing centre-forward Keirrison to Palmeiras. Hopes will be pinned on the strike duo of Argentinian Ariel Nahuelpan and new arrival Marcelinho.

Traditional club from Salvador whose best performance was second in 1993. Were early challengers last year, only to fall away to 10th, and have since lost coach Vagner Mancini and star players Marquinhos and Williams Santana to clubs in Sao Paulo. Recently appointed Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani – a coach who once looked bound for greatness, but who has done little of note in recent years.

The lions of the north who took the title to Recife in 1987 – though that is disputed as the big clubs staged a breakaway league that season. Otherwise their best performance is fifth. Were out of the first division from 2002 until 2006, but won the Brazilian Cup last year and have acquired a reputation for fearsome home form. Coach Nelsinho Baptista who will need all his experience to keep them doing well both domestically and in the Libertadores.

First winners in 1971, but are still waiting for a second title. Have traditionally been consistent performers, but financial problems have led to a difficult few years, with 2006 spent in the second division. Current coach is the ever-controversial Emerson Leao, who has an excellent track record working with youngsters. Could be the right choice to develop an interesting generation of youth products.

First division stalwarts since 1996, and champions in 2001, this ambitious club are anxious to be more than provincial also-rans. Coached by Geninho, who favours the three-centre-backs system, they can usually count on a good home record in their modern stadium. More open to question is whether they have enough quality to do well on their travels.

Won the title in 1984 under Carlos Alberto Parreira, who a decade ago steered the club out of the chaos of the third division and recently took charge once again. Also back in Brazil is Fred, who should prove to be one of the best centre-forwards in the championship this season, following his move from Lyon. The rest of the squad, though, looks some way short of the group that reached the Libertadores Final last year. The club will hope that a crop of promising youngsters come through.

The club from the port an hour’s drive from Sao Paulo have an extraordinary history, all the more so since they represent a relatively small city. As well as their heyday with Pele – even though the great bulk of his glorious career came before the start of the Brazilian Championship – they have won two titles this decade…and a third should not be discounted. Promising coach Vagner Mancini has plenty of quality to choose from with keeper Fabio Costa, centre-backs Fabiano Eller and Fabao, Leo at left-back and the front combination of veteran marksman Kleber Pereira and 17-year-old talent Neymar.

Traditional Recife club who came second in a forerunner to the Brazilian championship in 1967 but have made little impression since this competition began in 1971. Best finish was sixth in 1984. Were out of the first division from 1995 until 2006 and only goal difference kept them up last year. Coach Waldemar Lemos will need to be at his calm and studious best.

Sao Paulo’s giant and often chaotic club are back in the first division after a year away. Mano Menezes is a calm but firm coach for such a turbulent side, and the presence of Ronaldo has the club’s notoriously fanatical fans believing that the momentum of last year’s promotion campaign can be maintained. A fifth title is the aim, but most fans would settle for a place in the 2010 Libertadores – a tournament they have never won. Such
an achievement would be the ideal way to celebrate the club’s centenary next year.

Newly promoted club from Sao Paulo’s industrial outskirts who won the Brazilian Cup in 2004. Have lost some of the players from their promotion campaign, while 42-year-old midfield anchor Fernando and attacking midfielder Marcelinho Carioca, 37, might feel the pace in the first division. Survival will be the aim of coach Sergio Soares.

Promoted club from the beach resort of Florianopolis whose previous four years
in the first division came in the bloated 1970s (best performance was 36th in 1976, worst was 90th three years later). Coached by ex-Brazil midfielder Paulo Silas, they will be content with survival after losing some important players.

Relatively new team (founded in 1989 but only professional since 2001) who are backed by the local council in the region of greater Sao Paulo. Were promoted from the third division in 2006, and after two seasons in the second they now debut in the top flight. After briefly experimenting with a team of three coaches, Estevam Soares is now in sole charge and survival will be his objective.