With just a month remaining of the Brazilian season, Abel Ferreira’s Palmeiras head into the international break top of the Campeonato Brasileiro for the first time since matchday two of the campaign.
Long-standing leaders Botafogo have finally been displaced from first place, albeit the faltering surprise challengers still have destiny in their own hands having played one game fewer. Yet there is a growing sense that Abel’s experienced Verdão now have the momentum to defend their crown.
Palmeiras have won six of their last seven Brasileirão matches following a 3-0 weekend victory over International. Meanwhile, Botafogo threw away another lead to concede a last-gasp equaliser to Pedro Caixinha’s RB Bragantino in a 2-2 draw on Sunday evening. It was the third time in a fortnight that Botafogo – now winless in six matches – have failed to see out a winning position.
Despite Palmeiras’ ascent to the head of the table, manager Abel Ferreira has cast doubt over his future in the country with another angry tirade against the national football schedule. Upon their return from the international break, Palmeiras will hastily wrap up the season with their final four league matches played across just ten days, culminating on 5th December.
Abel’s frustration led to him discussing his future at the club where he has achieved phenomenal success across three seasons. “I’m fed up. Really!” he told reporters. “I’ll have to wait and see [about the future] but I’m fed up with these constant games, constant travel. They schedule games, then take the games away. The championship is to end on one date, then on another. Pay attention to the words of every coach who comes through here, be they Portuguese, Brazilian or Argentine. Whoever is in charge doesn’t listen.
“If it’s necessary to change whoever is in charge so that decisions are better, then change them. It’s a shame that the CBF allows eight games in a row with just two or three days rest. It’s a shame. This is insane.
“If you want to know how worried I am about the Brasileirão title permutations, I didn’t even do the maths. I am worried about my team. It’s a lot of games in a row; a lot of press conferences in a row; a lot of travel in a row. It’s getting back to the camp at 4am and deciding whether to sleep there or at home. That’s not what I want for myself.”
Finally, Abel left a word on supposed criticism from supporters of his team. “Who are you talking about? Those who come here to support us or those who sit on a computer, criticise and blog about us to influence others? I tell my players: don’t let yourselves be influenced by these fans, who are often not members. That’s why we have a very strong group spirit.”
Palmeiras lead Botafogo by two points with four matches remaining, although the out-of-form Rio de Janeiro side have one game in-hand over Abel’s men. Defending champions Palmeiras’ final four matches see them play Fortaleza (a), America Mineiro (h) and Fluminense (h) before a final-day trip to relegation-battlers Cruzeiro.