Atlético Go! Dragão to keep up their great start
The second gameweek of the nascent Brazilian Série A season gets underway, and the domestic league will continue throughout the Copa América 2021 tournament, which was moved at the last minute to the same country. Atlético GO have started strongly, enjoying an unexpected triumph away at Corinthians in the opener, following it up with a 2-0 win against the very same opposition in the Copa do Brasil. They will play their first match of the term at the Estádio Antônio Accioly on Saturday evening, facing off against São Paulo. Legendary Argentinian striker Hernán Crespo has been in the dugout for several months, and will be hoping to improve on the giants' fourth place finish in the main league last year before he was appointed. A draw on opening day was followed up by a humiliating 3-2 loss at 4 de Julho, an encounter in which the minnows from three tiers below came from behind to national shock. Immediate improvement will be demanded, but it might have to wait another game. Read our preview here:
Both sides are replete full of veteran performers to help bring on the younger players within their ranks. The hosts possess 36 year old Fernando Miguel between the sticks. The stalwart custodian, on loan from Vasco da Gama, was instrumental in their surprise league victory over Corinthians, dominating in the air just as their adversaries had the lion's share of the ball and the openings for shots. He was also excellent in the Copa Sudamericana, conceding just twice in six group games, although ultimately his team's propensity to draw 0-0 (three times) cost them a place in the final stage. Having only taken over at the end of May, new head coach Eduardo Barroca has led his charges to a perfect start, and has the added bonus of a full squad from which to choose from for the evening's fixture.
To Miguel and back
Crespo does have the Copa Libertadores to look forward to next month, however, and will face off against countrymen Racing Club in mid-July. Before then though, he must ensure things improve domestically in the Brasileirão, and will be looking to no-nonsense centre back Miranda to ensure the central defensive trio are sharper than they've been hitherto. Legendary wing-back Dani Alves, at a sprightly 38, is out of contention for the match, and finds himself on the treatment table. More must be gleaned from the forwards, who have only turned in perfunctory displays up until now. Martín Benítez will be missing from midfield; the versatile attack-minded player offers plenty of thrust and endeavour, something which São Paulo could really do with at the moment.
Earning their first Campeonato Paulista (the state championship) in 16 years will have bought Crespo time to turn things around in the bread and butter of Série A, in a country that not only lives and breathes the game, but one in which managers are generally seen as dispensable the minute lofty expectations aren't being met. He has every reason to be wary of Saturday's clash, especially as he'll have further players absent through international duty. There is an opportunity for Atlético GO to make it three from three, and bet365 have generous odds of 3.50 for them to do just that.