Two of the bottom three teams in the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A will renew their rivalry on Wednesday as Fortaleza search for their first win of the new season when they host Ceara at Castelao.
Leao do Pici are dead last after seven league fixtures with two points, while Vozao are three points below the relegation zone, despite going unbeaten in their previous six matches in all competitions.
After an impressive 2021 domestic campaign where they earned a place in the Copa Libertadores for the first time in club history, Fortaleza are discovering how difficult it can be to remain near the top of the Brasileiro table.
The current campaign has not gone smoothly for them as they sit seven points below the relegation zone, with the fewest goals scored (four) among top-flight teams in Brazil thus far.
Twice this season, they have scored first, only to see that lead evaporate in the second half, losing 2-1 to Internacional and dropping a 3-1 decision to newly-promoted Botafogo.
Inspired by the intense, dynamic playing philosophy of former Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, their current manager Juan Pablo Vojvoda relies heavily on inverted wingbacks to provide width and space, while their centre-backs try to build-up play from the back.
That approach was highly influential in 2021, although their finishing touch so far this season has let them down, scoring only once in their last two top-flight fixtures, despite firing 11 shots on target.
They seem to be struggling with their combination play in between central midfield and on the wing, as opposing teams have limited their ability to create chances through the middle, which is where they did most of their damage a season ago.
Dorival Junior began this campaign in charge of Vovo as good as can be expected, beating the reigning two-time Copa Libertadores champions Palmeiras (3-2), though they have not managed to maintain that strong form, failing to score in two of their subsequent three domestic encounters since then, losing all three of those contests.
They have yet to win away from home this season, despite showing plenty of resiliency of late, fighting back from a pair of one-goal deficits on Saturday to draw Sao Paulo 2-2, the second time in which they were able to do that in this domestic campaign.
That draw over the weekend was also the first time that they had scored a goal on the road in this current league campaign, which should give them a boost, seeing as three of their next four domestic affairs will take place away from home.
Ceara have reacted well when trailing, but it has to be concerning for Junior and his team to see how poorly they have been out of the gate, conceding first in every league contest since beating Verdao, with all of those goals against them coming within the first 20 minutes of play.
Their defensive shape at the group stage of the Copa Sudamericana has been outstanding, collecting six clean sheets so far in that competition, though it has been a different story in the Brazilian top-flight, where they have conceded the second-most goals (11), behind only Juventude (14).
Since switching to a 4-3-3 formation earlier this month, they have looked a lot more dangerous in the final third, with their wingers attacking opposing fullbacks effectively and creating more favourable 1 V 1 situations.
Ze Welison, who is on loan from Atletico Mineiro, scored his first of the season over the weekend as he and Moises are two of only three players to have found the back of the net for Fortaleza after seven domestic fixtures, with Yago Pikachu leading the way with a pair tallies.
Their top goalscorer from a season ago, Robson, has yet to tally this season after netting 10 times in 2021, and goalkeeper Marcelo Boeck has conceded in each of their league encounters so far in 2022.
We saw two changes to the starting 11 of Fortaleza on Saturday compared to the team that began their final Copa Libertadores group fixture against Colo-Colo as Marcelo Benevenuto and Ze Welison replaced Titi and Hercules.
The last time Ceara travelled to Castelao to face Tricolor de Aco, Vina notched a brace, Stiven Mendoza picked up a pair of assists, while Lima scored the winner in a 4-0 triumph, as Joao Ricardo collected a clean sheet.
Mendoza leads them in goals this season with three, while Cleber fired home his first of the year in their draw versus Sao Paulo.
Matheus Peixoto and lury Castilho contributed their first assists in that encounter, putting them in a three-way tie for the team lead in that department alongside Ze Roberto.
We saw wholesale changes to the Ceara lineup that began over the weekend, as Bruno Pacheco, Messias, Michel Macedo, Wescley, Lucas Ribeiro, Richardson, Castilho and Cleber all drew into the starting 11.
Fortaleza possible starting lineup:
Boeck; Landazuri, Benevenuto, Ceballos, Capixaba; Hercules, Welison, Lucas Lima, Pikachu; Romero, Robson
Ceara possible starting lineup:
Ricardo; Luis, Otavio, Messias, Paraiba; Wescley, Vina, Lima; Castilho, Cleber, Mendoza