BY MARK GODFREY

It’s been several weeks since we last dropped in on the Serie A championship in Brazil and in our absence, two clubs have pulled clear at the head of the race. And this week, leaders Cruzeiro and second place Botafogo go head-to-head in a game that could a long way to deciding the destiny of the 2013 Brasileirão title.

Cruzeiro have shot into top spot in the last month off the back of a run of seven consecutive league victories, while Botafogo’s four wins on the trot have elevated them into the position of the main and most likely challengers given the inconsistency of the other pursuers. A win for the Blues of Belo Horizonte would put them seven points clear of Botafogo as the season heads into it’s closing third, and while the gap would be difficult to pull back, it is not insurmountable. It must also be remembered that Botafogo defeated Cruzeiro 1-0 in the reverse fixture on June 1st. Two veterans and former Real Madrid men could hold the key to this match and ultimately the title race. Julio Baptista has scored twice in three games for Cruzeiro since his move from Malaga while 37-year-old Dutchman, Clarence Seedorf, continues to defy Old Father Time as Botafogo’s main influence.

Elsewhere, early season pacesetters, Coritiba, have slipped back into mid-table with the likes of Flamengo, Santos, Copa Libertadores winners Atletico Mineiro and reigning champions Fluminense. Down at the bottom, Nautico have continued in their guise as whipping boys and are 15 points from safety with just over half of the season completed and surely only a miracle can help them. More intriguingly in the relegation battle is the presence of two of Brazil’s traditional big clubs, São Paulo and Vasco da Gama. Both will be thankful however, that the league is so tight – just six points covers the team in sixth place, Corinthians, and the two aforementioned strugglers in 16th and 17th. They will be hoping for a much improved second half of the year to pull them clear of trouble.

At the head of the goal scoring charts Ederson leads the way with 13 league goals, two clear of his nearest rival, William. The 24-year-old striker is in his first season of top flight football having previously played in Serie C and Serie B for Ceará and ABC FC. Ederson’s club, Atletico Paranaense, have been one of the surprise packages of the campaign to date, finding themselves in fourth spot on the back of his scoring exploits and challenging for a Copa Libertadores qualification place for next year.

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