“In fact, the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro has been anything but predictable”

 

Named after the Southern Cross, the smallest of the 88 modern constellations and a crucial reference for celestial navigation, EC Cruzeiro even wears the stars on their crest. Nothing, however, seems to be going South for them this season: in fact, the Minas Gerais side is on course for winning their first league title in 10 years.

Differently from 2003, however, when their league and cup double relied upon star power on and off the pitch in the form of midfielder maestro Alex and manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo, Cruzeiro are now a surprise package even to their own supporters.

After all, local rivals Atletico Mineiro not only boast the presence of a certain Ronaldinho – but also lifted the 2013 Libertadores Cup.

Atletico also were runners-up in the league last year while Cruzeiro finished 9th, 25 points behind champions Fluminense. They did, however, seized the opportunities that came their way: while many rivals were busy with continental competitions, Cruzeiro assembled a squad that didn’t create headlines but which coach Marcelo Oliveira molded into a formidable bunch.

Playing with an intensity that reminds people of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s pressing brand of football, Cruzeiro has cruised in the league.

At the time of writing, they had 53 points, 11 more than second-place Gremio. With only 3 defeats in 24 games, they would have to implode to lose the title. Few people in Brazil doubt Cruzeiro will be the first side outside Rio and Sao Paulo to be crowned champions since, well, Cruzeiro themselves did it in 2003.

In fact, the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro has been anything but predictable.

If Gremio’s presence in the top four was expected given the strength of the squad with famous veterans like Ze Roberto and Elano, even the graceful style of Clarence Seedorf didn’t seem enough to make people expect Botafogo to be third so far down the season. Atletico Paranaense, the 2001 champions who have just come back from a stint in the Second Division, are fourth.

Even Atletico Mineiro’s recent surge – the South American champions lie 5th on the table –  does not look enough to trouble Cruzeiro. Meanwhile, current Brazilian title holders Fluminense are 8th and powerhouse Corinthians 13th. The remaining rounds promise to be very interesting for the clubs chasing a Libertadores spot.

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