Palmeiras Getting Back Where They Belong In Brasileirao’s Upper Echelon
Photo: Renato Gizzi, CC by 2.0
When you think about the top teams in Brazilian football, the usual suspects come to mind. We talk about Gremio, the reigning Copa Libertadores champions (until Boca Juniors or River Plate say otherwise, though). We mention Corinthians, Flamengo, Santos, Cruzeiro, Sao Paulo, Vasco da Gama... and several other teams that could fit into the criteria. But one that has not been getting enough recognition is Palmeiras.
Under the tutelage of former World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, O Verdao – as they are called in Brazil – have returned to the top echelon of Brazilian football. Led by an impressive collection of talent where the names of Bruno Henrique, Felipe Melo, Dudu and Miguel Borja stand tall above the rest, Palmeiras have had an impressive 2018 season; both at the domestic and continental level.
When it comes to the league itself, Palmeiras sit at the top spot with 71 points, six above Flamengo and three above Internacional with only three matches left to be played. They might be coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw to an already-relegated Parana side, but things are simple. Palmeiras only need two more wins in the final three matches to lift their second league title in the last three years... after ending a 22-year trophy-less drought in 2016.
Their upcoming matches are against America MG (home), Vasco da Gama (away) and Vitoria (home). But all signs point towards Palmeiras winning the trophy before the season finale.
If Palmeiras win the title, then they would be completing an impressive run of local success that saw them finish in second place in 2017. But their success hasn’t been limited to the Brasileirao only...
They reached the 2018 Copa Libertadores semi-finals, where they lost to Boca Juniors, and were eliminated on the same stage in the Copa do Brasil against Cruzeiro.
And as if that wasn’t enough, they also reached the finals in the Paulista, but lost to Corinthians. The season might only end with one title, but Palmeiras finished in the Top 4 in every single tournament they competed. That’s a luxury no other Brazilian team accomplished this season.
Credit should be delivered where it’s due. Scolari deserves praise for his leadership and management skills, but he wasn’t alone in this quest. Along with the players we mentioned earlier, we can’t forget about other players that have been fundamental to the team’s success.
For example, we have William, who has filled the void left by Keno and Roger Guedes upfront. We have Moises, who has emerged as one of the best playmakers in the Brasileirao – which says a lot given the league’s quality. And Thiago Santos has played a vital role in midfield as a defensive specialist next to – or replacing – Felipe Melo. Santos was at his best in the Copa Libertadores, specifically in the quarterfinal tie against Colo Colo, where he practically erased Jorge Valdivia off the pitch.
In fact, don’t be surprised if Bruno Henrique returns to Italy during the January transfer market. Or if other players such as Borja, Moises or defender Gustavo Gomez head to a more competitive environment. Such is the nature in Brazil that those top players never last in the country, and are often headed to better leagues in Europe.
Even if they leave, everyone has contributed to return Palmeiras to a place the club should have never left in the first place. And this impressive 2018 season could be crowned with a league title as soon as this Wednesday, providing they defeat America MG and neither Flamengo nor Internacional win their respective matches.