Two of Brazil’s most storied sides will take to the pitch this Sunday afternoon in a renewal of their heated rivalry. Palmeiras will travel to the Arena Corinthians to take on archival Corinthians in the semifinals of the Paulistão this Sunday afternoon, at 3:00 ET.
The match will be shown live in the United States on GolTV. The teams met during the group stage of the Paulistão, with Corinthians winning 1-0 at the Allianz Parque. However, the sides that will take the pitch on Sunday are very different from the sides in that group stage match.
After tearing through the majority of the beginning of their campaign, Corinthians come into the match unbeaten on the season, but unimpressive in their last few matches, winning just one of their last four matches. Corinthians’ best goal scorer Paolo Guerrero will miss this match after being diagnosed with Dengue fever, and Timão have struggled to replace him.
For Palmeiras, the team has struggled through integrating 20 new signings into the squad, as well as the return of Chilean playmaker Jorge Valdivia from injury. While Palmeiras have been inconsistent all year, there is no doubt that they are a better team now then when they struggled against Corinthians earlier in the campaign.
With that said, here are my 3 keys to the match:
1. Corinthians must find a goal scorer:
The loss of Paolo Guerrero is huge for Timão. He is their one consistent goal scorer, and without him on the pitch, Corinthians has struggled to score. Against Ponte Preta last weekend, Renato Augusto was able to find the back of the net, but only thanks to a poor effort in goal by the Ponte keeper Matheus.
Other than that, Corinthians struggled to finish chances, which was again the case on Thursday night against San Lorenzo in the Copa Libertadores. While some of Corinthians’ failure to get a goal on Thursday can be attributed to good goalkeeping by Sebastián Torrico, there were a number of chances that Timão should have been able to take advantage of.
Corinthians are at a bit of a crisis at the top without Guerrero. Vagner Love started against San Lorenzo on Thursday but was less than impressive. Danilo came on as his replacement, but failed to make a major impact on the match. With out Guerrero up top to score goals, the pressure shifts to Elias and Jadson who must create opportunities if Timão are to score.
2. Jorge Valdivia must play well for Palmeiras:
Though he has yet to play a full match since returning, Jorge Valdivia has been his usual playmaking self for Palmeiras. He will be crucial if Verdão are to have success this weekend. Palmeiras have struggled to create plays so far this season, making the return of Valdivia (even though he may leave in a few months due to the expiration of his contract) all the more crucial.
Dudu has failed to impress as a central midfielder, he seems most valuable on the wings, looking to use his speed, rather than technical ability to create plays. Robinho is dangerous on set pieces, but lacks the creative style necessary to fully see an offense go through him. Valdivia, on the other hand, possess the imagination to create plays, as well as the technical ability to execute them.
Corinthians won’t be afraid to punish Valdivia physically, much as they did this past October during a 1-1 draw between the two sides. Corinthians constantly pushed and shoved Valdivia, and were never afraid to come in strong with a tackle. By the end of the match, Valdivia was hobbling and clearly in pain. Expect more of the same treatment on Sunday. Corinthians will certainly pick up a few yellow cards, and Valdivia will certainly pick up a few bruises. I doubt he’ll be able to play all 90 minutes, but 70 strong minutes from Valdivia could go a long way towards Palmeiras claiming all 3 points.
3. Corinthians’ home field advantage:
Since its opening last year, the Arena Corinthians has been a fortress for Timão. Corinthians are undefeated in their last 31 matches at home. The only time Timão have lost in the Arena Corinthians was a 1-0 defeat to Figueirense in May, the fist match at the stadium for the hosts. The unbeaten run is impressive, as is the fact that Corinthians packed 40,000 fans into the stadium on Thursday night against San Lorenzo. Expect the number to be just as high for a clash with their bitter rivals on Sunday.
The atmosphere at the Arena Corinthians can also have an effect on officials. Against Ponte Preta last weekend, it appeared that Ponte had scored in the first half, only to have the goal called back do to an offside call that was shaky at best. Brazilian officials are known to be inconsistent, something that will most likely become a factor on Sunday. Corinthians like to play physical while Palmeiras are more of a finesse team. If the match is called tightly, Corinthians could be giving away a large number of free kicks, as well as picking up yellow cards. However, if Corinthians is allowed to impose a physical style of play, Palmeiras could struggle to keep possession.
Palmeiras-Corinthians Prediction: Any time these two rivals meet, it promises to be a heated affair, with plenty of emotion. No matter where the two are in the standings, there is always motivation to take the full three points from your rival. This meeting also carries the added motivation of the winner advancing to the Paulistão championship, eliminating the loser. Corinthians have struggled to score in recent weeks without Guerrero, and I think that will continue Sunday.
However, Palmeiras’ defense has been shaky enough all year that I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give away a goal in a crucial moment. Palmeiras have enough offensive firepower that they should be able to get a goal, especially if Valdivia is given room to operate by the Corinthians defense. I think this match finishes in a 1-1 draw, with penalties deciding this one. At that point, it’s a coin flip. Regardless, I think we’re in for a fantastic match between two bitter rivals.