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Title hunt Atletico Mineiro continue their quest for Brasileiro on Sunday as they face midfield Juventud at the Estadio Alfredo Jaconi.
After winning seven league games in the spin – and making dramatic progress in the Copa Libertadores – the guests are in splendid shape and will expect to return to Belo Horizonte with maximum points.
Prediction for this match
After seven Serie A wins last Sunday, Atletico Mineiro are still one point behind Palmeiras at the top of the table after beating Athletico Paranaense at home, having won ten of their 14 games so far.
Cucas team moved up to second place, surpassing last week’s attendance and appearing to be facing a tough title challenge this year.
As the unstoppable Alvinegro racked up wins against Cuiaba, Flamengo, Corinthians and America Mineiro – before beating the Boca Juniors on penalties and making their way into the final eight of the Copa Libertadores – a talented team is confident ahead of the trip to Caxias do Sul.
Most recently, they won consecutive leagues and cups against Bahia before suffering their first defeat in late June when they were beaten in the Copa do Brasil second leg. However, the team from Belo Horizonte reached the quarter-finals overall; Bahia’s brief taste for revenge becomes irrelevant in the end.
After a sluggish start to the season, it is unlikely that Cuca and his team will rest until they reach the top of the Serie A match against River Plate at El Monumental in the Copa Libertadores round of 16.
Not only newcomers Juventude are already considered outsiders before Atletico’s visit this week, but also coaches Marquinhos Santos need to solve a major selection puzzle to create a competitive team.
With a growing line of COVID-19 cases in the camp and contract clauses affecting the availability of others, the Juve supremo had to call youth players to the new boys’ top-notch training base during the build-up.
The Rio Grande do Sul side ended at least their winless run of four games last time knocking down fellow Serie B alumni Chapecoense Matheus Peixoto‘s early goal despite giving up two-thirds of possession.
After a 13-year absence in the top division, Juventude has made the Estadio Alfredo Jaconi a stronghold this season. Since they are trying to extend their stay in the elite, they have been unbeaten there since their last five league games and are currently 13th in the table, ahead of several larger clubs.
However, they have fought in the final third all season and have only scored nine goals in their 13 games so far, while the opponents are quite frugal on Sunday – only conceding ten league goals and being able to completely rule out Boca legs in the course of two intense games.
Therefore, a repeat of the result at the last meeting of these clubs – back in 2016, when Atletico were defeated 0-1 in the Cup (although he ultimately progressed on penalties) – would be a dream scenario for Marquinhos Santos and his young team.
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Atletico Mineiro remains without several players due to injury Rafael (dislocated shoulder), Chestnut (Knee) and Keno (Thighs) everyone expected to stay on the sidelines while Chile’s striker Eduardo Vargas must serve a suspension after being dispatched to the place in the minutes of death last weekend.
However, Guilherme Arana could be back in the race having returned from his international match in Tokyo with the Brazilian Olympic squad.
In the absence of Vargas, well traveled forward Hulk will continue to lead the visitors’ attack – having scored six goals and four assists earlier this season – with the former Porto man from Jefferson Savarino and Matias Zaracho in front.
Juventude, meanwhile, are grappling with a growing list of absenteeism as they cannot count on a defender Vitor Mendes and midfield pair Guilherme Castilho and Bruninho, as Atletico is their parent club.
In addition to his loaned trio, coach Marquinhos Santos has been severely handicapped by a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp. To date, six players have returned a positive test for the virus: wingers Michel Macedo and William Matheus, Midfield duo Elton and Jadson, Plus wagner and first center-back Rafael Forster.
While Forster and Macedo could still reach the line-up if tested negative before the game, Santos have their hands full improvising a starting XI for Sunday.
Star striker Matheus Peixoto is ready to play and leads the lead with seven goals so far – five of them on home soil.
Juventude possible starting line-up:
Carne; Henrique, Didi, Cleberson, Alysson; Dawhan, Ricardinho, Jesus, Wescley; Paulinho, Robertson
Atletico Mineiro possible starting line-up:
Everson; Mariano, Nathan, Alonso, Dodo; Allan, Fernandez, Tche Tche; Savarino, Hulk, Zaracho
Probability: Juventude 0-2 Atletico Mineiro
While Juventude has found a way to keep things tight and take the occasional wins by closing Matheus Peixoto, the class is improving this weekend – with Atletico being more than able to break their line of defense multiple times.
With their recent cup defeat just a tiny spot on the radar – as progress was sealed anyway – the Alvinegro’s rising self-confidence should see them past a home team plagued by a string of missing men.
Best betting tip for this match
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