Two sides with contrasting aspirations clash in the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A on Thursday, as relegation-battlers Cuiaba welcome in-form America Mineiro to Arena Pantanal.
While the hosts are winless in their last five games, the high-flying visitors are looking to extend what is now their longest unbeaten run in the top flight of Brazilian football.
With just nine goals scored and eight goals conceded at home this campaign, Cuiaba are building their bid to avoid relegation around a stingy defence and clinical finishing, particularly in front of their own fans.
Often looking to frustrate and pounce on the counter, just three of their 27 league fixtures have been decided by a margin greater than one goal.
Despite winning just once in their last 11 league games, Dourado have only lost one of their nine home outings since early June, including a 1-1 draw with Sao Paulo in their last such match.
Their last outing further underlined the fighting spirit of a side that senses that they might be in danger, coming from behind to draw 2-2 with Copa Libertadores finalists Athletico Paranaense.
Playing 45 minutes with 10 men after the dismissal of Paulao, former Deportivo Alaves forward Deyverson lashed into the top corner to rescue an unlikely point.
Promoted to the top flight for the first time in their history in 2021, becoming the first team from the state of Mato Grosso to play in Serie A since 1986, each result goes a long way for a club who are not used to such lofty heights.
With just seven points separating Cuiaba in 18th and Botafogo in 11th, another narrow win here could make all the difference.
Visitors America Mineiro, however, provide stubborn opposition, which Cuiaba will know all too well having fallen to defeat to them four months ago.
Since a narrow 1-0 defeat to runaway leaders Palmeiras, the club from Belo Horizonte are undefeated in nine league games, with six wins and three draws constituting the best unbeaten run in the side’s Serie A history.
In addition, with five clean sheets across their last seven appearances, Coelho boast one of the meanest defences in the division, a statistic that bodes well with a visit to the league’s lowest scorers to come.
In his 25th stint as a manager, his second at America Mineiro, coach Vagner Mancini will be taking charge of his 445th game of Brazilian league football on Thursday, having managed just one top-10 finish in the top flight.
Nonetheless, currently sitting in eighth place, just one point behind city rivals and last season’s champions Atletico, a push for Copa Libertadores qualification would represent a hugely successful campaign for a club who were promoted to the top division, alongside Cuiaba, just two seasons ago.
After suffering a thigh injury at the beginning of the month, Cuiaba’s starting goalkeeper Walter will be out for the rest of the season, opening the door for stand-in Joao Carlos to make his third consecutive start.
Wide player Felipe Marques is still out with a knee problem, while midfielder Camilo and centre-back Paulao are both suspended.
Both Pepe and Andre Luis are back from yellow card suspensions, and should find themselves back in the starting lineup, while star attacking players Deyverson and Rodriguinho should both start further forward.
For the visitors, new signing Emmanuel Martinez is out after fracturing his foot against Botafogo, after having made a bright start to his America Mineiro career.
Felipe Azevedo limped off against Corinthians last time out, but has been training normally after twisting his foot, and should be straight back into the starting eleven, particularly after the departure of star winger Pedrin ho to Lokomotiv Moscow this month.
Lucas Kal could return to the midfield after suspension, while Henrique Almeida looks set to lead the line once again.
Cuiaba possible starting lineup:
Joao Carlos; Marllon, Joaquim, Empereur; Sidcley, Gava, Pepe, Joao Lucas; Rodriguinho, Deyverson, Andre Luis
America Mineiro possible starting lineup:
Cavichioli; Lopes, Eder, Silva, Caceres; Juninho, Kal; Azevedo, Benitez, Matheusinho; Almeida