Gremio have two matches remaining to try and salvage this season and keep their place in the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A next year as they head to Tatuape to face Corinthians on Sunday at Neo Quimica Arena.
Timao can assure themselves at the very least a place in the 2022 Copa Libertadores qualifiers with a win, while Immortal Tricolor are in real danger of falling into the second tier of Brazilian football currently three points below the relegation line.
It was just another day at the office for Corinthians to end the month of November, with a solid defensive showing against Athletico Paranaense, an eighth straight victory on home soil and a second consecutive clean sheet at the fortress once known as Arena Corinthians.
We are used to seeing them perform that way at home, but it is on the road where they have had their struggles, failing to win a match as the visitors since the end of August when they defeated Gremio 1-0.
Countless times it has been said that possession means nothing unless you can do something with it, and Sylvinho has seen his team not only limit the number of opportunities that opposing sides have had, but his team have not been shut out at home since a 0-0 draw with Sao Paulo on June 30.
They have been lights out at Neo Quimica Arena for most of this domestic campaign, but when Gremio come to town, it seems to be a different story, as Todo Poderoso have not beaten the team from Porto Alegre at home since 2014.
This is one of the most structurally sound teams in Brazil, with some athletic wide forwards who come back and defend well, and their game management has been exceptional of late.
On Friday, Gremio did what they had to do to keep pace in the race to avoid relegation, beating Sao Paulo 3-0, although there is still plenty of work for them to do.
Now Vagner Mancini and his team face a tall order to remain in the top flight for another year, needing a win and some help to have any hope of Serie A survival.
This week we witnessed something from Gremio that many of us have rarely noticed throughout the campaign, a solid team effort with the holding midfielders coming back to help the defenders cover the gaps between the attacking and defensive lines.
Should this team be relegated into Serie B, it is clear that their defensive structure needs improvement, having conceded the third-most goals in the league in 2021 (47), seven more than they allowed in 2020 when they finished sixth.
When playing on the road this year, it seems as though their flow and creativity is invisible, even though they have had more than 60% possession in each of their previous four fixtures, Rei de Copas have only won once (against Chapecoense) as they struggle to pick out their forward players and their ball movement is just a little too predictable.
Cassio has not conceded a goal since Pepe and Paulao both found the back of the net for Cuiaba in a 3-2 win for Corinthians back in mid-November as the Timao keeper only had to save two efforts from El Paranaense for his 11th clean sheet of the campaign, two behind Joao Paulo and Mailson.
Diogo Barbosa notched a goal and an assist for Gremio in their 3-0 victory over Sao Paulo, his first of the season in each category, while Thiago Santos moved into third in goals for the team with his fourth of the campaign, one less than Miguel Borja, who picked up his third assist of the year.
On Friday, Rafinha started at right-back rather than Vanderson, Barbosa played on the opposite side instead of Bruno Cortez, Lucas Silva was one of the two holding midfielders, replacing Victor Bobsin, Douglas Costa was preferred as a winger over Alisson, Jaminton Campaz took the place of Mathias Villasanti, as the Colombian played just in behind Diego Souza, who was put in as the lone striker over Miguel Borja.
Corinthians possible starting lineup:
Cassio; Fagner, Victor, Gil, Santos; Willian, Xavier, Augusto; Luan, Jo, Guedes
Gremio possible starting lineup:
Grando; Rafinha, Geromel, Kannemann, Cortez; Darlan, Bobsin; Robert, Villasanti, Ferreira; Borja
We say: Corinthians 1-0 Gremio
All year long, the Corinthians back four have almost always been in the right place at the right time to make timely challenges and are usually in the perfect position, and it helps when they only have to contend with a few attacks each game because Timao traditionally have the majority of the possession.
Despite a good bounce-back performance on Thursday, Gremio are often caught out of position at the back, especially away from home, having conceded seven times in their previous three away matches.
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