One of the most bitter rivalries in the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A will take place on Monday as Sao Paulo host Palmeiras at Cierco Pompeu de Toledo in the first Choque-Rei derby of this domestic campaign.
Verdao are top of the table, unbeaten in their last 18 matches in all competitions, while Sao Paulo fell further behind in their quest to catch them on Thursday, dropping a 1-0 decision to Botafogo.
A failure to win on the road in this domestic campaign has kept Sao Paulo from contending for the title, currently seven points back of first place following their defeat this week.
Unlike their rivals Palmeiras, Tricolor Paulista like to be in possession and build from the back, though it has not always produced the desired results, as they only managed two efforts on target versus Botafogo, despite having the ball for 68% of the match.
With their road record hampering them, Rogerio Ceni’s men have had to be nearly perfect at home to remain near the top of the table, and they have achieved more favourable results in Morumbi, unbeaten in this domestic campaign, winning four of their five fixtures played there.
A crucial part of this team’s success at their famous stadium has been an ability to start quickly and get their fans into the game, scoring first in all but one of their home matches, with three of their opening goals coming before the 20-minute mark.
Sao Paulo have not beaten their cross-town rivals at home in this competition since 2017, though they are unbeaten in their last four domestic encounters against them.
The backline of this club are depended upon heavily to cover a lot of open space out wide, while adding an extra dimension to their counter-attacking play, making them a dangerous team to contend with in transition.
Since a surprise 3-2 defeat to Ceara in their opening Serie A encounter this year, Abel Ferreira and his side have been on the warpath, aiming to destroy everyone who stands in their way.
They have only allowed multiple goals in one contest since that blemish, though Palmeiras still won comfortably on Thursday against Atletico Goianiense, 4-2.
Ferreira likes his players to sit back with a more passive approach, waiting until the halfway line before defending with much more urgency.
While that tactic might make it easier for their opponents to get into the Palestra third of the field, rarely are there many great scoring chances in their box, with Verdao allowing the fewest goals after 12 matches in this domestic campaign (seven).
Their compact mid-block system has been a handful for other teams to adjust to, with Palmeiras creating their share of turnovers, while they have been particularly effective at pressuring goal-kicks.
They are not a heavily possession-based team, instead aiming to get the ball up the field as quickly as possible, often catching their opponents off guard with that style, scoring the most goals domestically in 2022 (23).
Gabriel Sara and Luciano scored the only goals in their previous domestic encounter against Palmeiras, winning 2-0 as their former first-choice goalkeeper Tiago Volpi made four saves to collect the clean sheet.
Sara and Nikao are out of the lineup with ankle injuries, Alisson has a sprained knee and Andres Colorado is nursing a thigh issue.
Jandrei has picked up two clean sheets at home for Sao Paulo so far this year, and Jonathan Calleri still leads Serie A with nine goals, despite failing to find the back of the net in his last two games.
A brace from Gustavo Gomez and goals by Ze Rafael and Gustavo Scarpa helped them get past Atletico Goianiense earlier this week as the Paraguayan skipper is now just one tally behind Rony for first on the team.
Marcos Rocha and Raphael Veiga are out with thigh injuries, Jailson will not return this season after tearing his ACL and Jorge is not expected back until next month at the earliest because of a problem in his knee.
Weverton saw his six-game shutout streak snapped on Thursday when his teammate Luan scored an own goal in the 29th minute, although he still leads the league when it comes to clean sheets with six.
Sao Paulo possible starting lineup:
Jandrei; Leo, Arboleda, Costa; Reinaldo, Nestor, Gomes, Nikao; Patrick; Calleri, Luciano
Palmeiras possible starting lineup:
Weverton; Gomez, Luan, Murilo, Piquerez; Danilo, Ze Rafael; Lopes, Scarpa, Wesley; Rony