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Preview: Sao Paulo vs. Atletico Mineiro - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Brasileiro clash between Sao Paulo and Atletico Mineiro, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Campeonato Brasileiro leaders Atletico Mineiro travel to Sao Paulo on Saturday, as they seek to continue their dominance of the Serie A standings.

Coming between their two-legged Copa Libertadores semi-final tie with Palmeiras, the Alvinegro meet Hernan Crespo's side having recently gone 11 games without defeat.

Match preview

Atletico Mineiro's Hulk celebrates scoring their third goal on May 26, 2021© Reuters

The top two teams in the Brasileiro commenced battle in the semi-finals of South America's premier club competition in midweek, as Atletico Mineiro visited reigning champions Palmeriras in the first leg at Allianz Parque.

The Belo Horizonte-based outfit were denied an advantage to take into next week's return when Hulk missed a first-half penalty, but they remain favourites to progress to the final of the Copa Libertadores, having continued a lengthy unbeaten run.

Scorer of seven goals already in this season's tournament, the former Porto forward's spot-kick cannoned off the post and away to safety, as Atletico failed to capitalise on their supremacy - having managed 11 shots to their hosts' four.

Just days previously, both Hulk and ex-Chelsea striker Diego Costa scored before the interval and Eduardo Vargas added a late penalty to give Cuca's side a 3-0 win over Sport, which extended their lead over Palmeiras at the top of Serie A to seven points.

In the league, the Alvinegro can boast the best defensive record - conceding just 13 goals - and have not let in even a solitary strike in their last four fixtures in all competitions. Not only that, but they have proven their resilience away from home of late, going unbeaten in their last seven matches on the road.

Furthermore, ahead of the weekend's action, Atletico can reflect upon June's victory in the reverse fixture against Sao Paulo - a close-fought 1-0 win courtesy of Jair's early goal.

Sao Paulo's Luan celebrates scoring their first goal against Palmeiras, pictured on August 10, 2021© Reuters

A recent revival may have seen struggling Sao Paulo rise up to 12th spot in the Serie A standings approaching Saturday evening's game, but they remain precariously placed in relation to the relegation zone - sitting just four points above 18th-placed Gremio, who have a game in hand.

Having held title-chasing Palmeiras to a goalless draw before picking up three successive wins, under-fire coach Hernan Crespo could have been forgiven for thinking his team had turned a corner, but they then lost to Fluminense and exited the Copa do Brasil within the space of a few days.

Nonetheless, the Tricolor Paulista - who recently parted ways with versatile veteran Dani Alves over a pay dispute - got themselves back on track with a 2-1 win over Atletico Goianiense on Sunday. Luciano Neves and Emiliano Rigoni were the scorers in a decisive 20-minute spell either side of the break, as Crespo's men now focus all their energies on the league following a double cup elimination during the last few weeks.

A lacklustre 0-0 result against America in midweek hardly helped Sao Paulo's cause though, and there remains much ground to recover on similarly-sized clubs above them - with the jury still out on their high-profile manager.

With a modest win rate as a coach since taking his first senior role at Modena six years ago, Crespo has yet to prove he will manage one of Brazil's most feted sides for the long haul - so a win against the best side in the country right now would go a long way to establishing his credentials.

Sao Paulo Brasileiro form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D

Sao Paulo form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • D

Atletico Mineiro Brasileiro form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • W

Atletico Mineiro form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Team News

Atletico Mineiro coach Cuca reacts on August 23, 2021© Reuters

Atletico coach Cuca will be without Venezuelan midfielder Jefferson Savarino (groin) again at the weekend, but he has no other significant absences to contend with after Guilherme Arana overcame a knee injury sustained against Sport to feature in the Copa Libertadores semi in midweek.

The visitors will also have both Mariano and Jair back in the squad on Saturday, after the pair served suspensions last time out in the league.

Matias Zaracho is likely to start on the right flank, with Hulk and recent signing Diego Costa - who made his first start for his new team on Saturday; scoring his second goal - up front. However, Eduardo Vargas may be selected to start if Cuca decides to rotate ahead of the semi-final second leg in just a few days time.

Meanwhile, Sao Paulo have seen their ongoing injury problems diminish of late - ironically at a time when they have only the Brasileiro to concentrate their resources on.

Only Luis Orejuela, with a thigh strain, and midfielder William (knee) are certain to be sidelined on Saturday, while right-back Igor Vinicius (eye) and goalkeeper Thiago Couto (nose) are also doubtful.

Robert Arboleda, Marquinhos, Emmanuel Rigoni and Welington have all recently recovered from injury and could start for the home side, with Rigoni should again lead the line with the supported by any two from Pablo, Eder or his Argentinian compatriot Jonathan Calleri.

Sao Paulo possible starting lineup:
Volpi; Arboleda, Miranda, Leo; Vinicius, Sara, Nestor, Reinaldo; Benitez; Rigoni, Eder

Atletico Mineiro possible starting lineup:
Everson; Dodo, Silva, Alonso, Guilherme; Tche Tche, Allan, Fernandez; Zaracho, Costa, Hulk

SM words green background

We say: Sao Paulo 1-2 Atletico Mineiro

Even away from home, Atletico Mineiro are in fearsome form and will be hard to stop again on Saturday.

Only the possible resting of some of their star-studded front line could cause the hosts to lose momentum, but they should still have enough in reserve to beat a Sao Paulo side lacking in both confidence and coherence.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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1Atletico Mineiro26175442192356
9America MineiroAmerica Mineiro2881192729-235
11Athletico ParanaenseAthletico PR27104133236-434
12Atletico GoianienseAtletico GO2681082224-234
13Sao Paulo2771372226-434
18Sport RecifeSport2769121422-827

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