BY MARK GODFREY

This week in Brazil, Atlético Mineiro are taking centre stage as they fight with Olimpia of Paraguay for the Copa Libertadores crown. They face an uphill struggle to win the trophy however, after their 0-2 first leg defeat in Asunción. The second leg will take place in Belo Horizonte on July 25th. Meanwhile, back in Serie A, Mineiro’s crosstown rivals, Cruzeiro, eased themselves smoothly into the top three league positions with a convincing 3-0 win at São Paulo. A second half hat-trick by striker, Luan, sealed the three points and condemned São Paulo to a fourth consecutive league defeat.

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Champions, Fluminense, find themselves in the middle of a similar run of poor form as they slumped yet again at home to Vasco da Gama. Last year’s Brasileirão winners now find themselves hovering just above the drop zone. Also struggling are Flamengo, who after a recent upswing in results, bumped into the league’s current form team, Internacional. An injury time winner by Juan snatched the victory for Internacional, their third in a row.

Elsewhere, Botafogo leapt back into top spot after their wholly expected win against bottom club, Náutico. The 2-0 win meant that the lead in the standings swapped yet again from Coritiba to Botafogo. Last week’s leaders were heading for their first loss of the season at Santos before a late, late equaliser by Alex, his second of the game, shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw, thus preserving their unbeaten start to the campaign.

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This coming weekend has several juicy match-ups to look forward to. Cruzeiro host Atlético Mineiro in the Belo Horizonte derby. It remains to be seen whether Atlético will be suffering or enjoying a Copa Libertadores hangover for that one. Leaders, Botafogo, also face a local dust-up when they take on Flamengo in one of Rio’s big clashes. Coritiba and Vitória meet each other in what promises to be one of the most entertaining games of the week and it’s Internacional’s turn to play this year’s whipping boys, Náutico. The likely three points in that game could mean a place at the top of the pile for them if other results go their way.

STANDINGS
1 Botafogo 8 5 1 2 12 7 5 16
2 Coritiba 8 4 4 0 11 7 4 16
3 Cruzeiro 8 4 3 1 18 7 11 15
4 Internacional 8 4 3 1 17 12 5 15
5 Vitória 8 4 2 2 13 8 5 14
6 Esporte Clube Bahia 9 3 4 2 8 9 -1 13
7 Santos 8 3 3 2 12 9 3 12
8 Grêmio 8 3 3 2 9 8 1 12
9 Goiás 8 3 3 2 7 10 -3 12
10 Atlético-MG 7 3 1 3 7 7 0 10
11 Vasco da Gama 8 3 1 4 11 15 -4 10
12 Criciúma 8 3 1 4 10 14 -4 10
13 Corinthians 8 2 4 2 6 5 1 10
14 Fluminense 8 3 0 5 12 13 -1 9
15 Flamengo 8 2 3 3 8 8 0 9
16 São Paulo 9 2 2 5 11 13 -2 8
17 Ponte Preta 7 2 1 4 8 10 -2 7
18 Atlético-PR 8 1 4 3 13 15 -2 7
19 Portuguesa 8 1 4 3 8 12 -4 7
20 Náutico 8 1 1 6 4 16 -12 4

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