Flamengo, Palmeiras duel in all-Brazilian Libertadores final

REUTERS

Sao Paulo-based Palmeiras and Rio de Janeiro side Flamengo have dominated both the Brazilian and South American club game recently, between them winning 10 of the 27 top national and continental titles over the past five years, including four Brazilian league titles.

But both clubs are coming off a recent run of poor form, raising the stakes as they vie for the biggest club title in South American football in the iconic Centenario stadium in Montevideo, Uruguay.

It would be the third Libertadores trophy for either, conferring bragging rights as the winningest Brazilian team in the competition's history alongside Gremio, Sao Paulo and Santos.

The all-time winningest team in Libertadores finals is Argentina's Independiente, with seven titles.

Flamengo, who have won the Brazilian league the past two seasons, are widely regarded as having the edge. But the match has the makings of
an epic bout.

"I know a lot of people see Flamengo as the favorites, but I think it's going to be a very tough match," Palmeiras midfielder Raphael Veiga, the team's top playmaker, told AFP.

"We've been talking and joking around in the locker room about bathing in eternal glory and etching our names on the club's walls."
                  
- Clash of styles -                  
                  
It will be a clash of styles between Flamengo's star-studded attacking game and Palmeiras's team-oriented defensive play.
The coaches -- Renato Portaluppi and Abel Ferreira, respectively -- are also a study in opposites.

Portaluppi, known as "Renato Gaucho," is a playboy and party-lover often seen hitting the beach in Rio.

But the 59-year-old has shown his serious side as coach: he is the winningest manager in Libertadores history, with 50 victories, and the only
Brazilian to win the tournament as both player and coach (1983 and 2017, both with Gremio).

"We know we're facing a very strong team that also wants to win. But this is an opportunity for both the club and myself to become triple champions," said Portaluppi, who took the reins at Flamengo in July.

Ferreira, 42, has a counter-attacking style often compared to fellow Portuguese national Jose Mourinho's.

His conservative approach has brought him criticism since he arrived at Palmeiras a year ago -- but also results. He has already led the club to five finals, winning two: last year's Libertadores and the Brazilian cup.
                  
- Pricey tickets -                  
                  
Flamengo will have Uruguayan attacking midfielder Giorgian de Arrascaeta back from injury, alongside star striker Gabigol.

They will also be hoping for a repeat performance from forward Bruno Henrique, who scored all four goals in their two-leg semifinal win over Barcelona de Ecuador.

Palmeiras will meanwhile have captain Felipe Melo back from knee problems.

They will be looking to snap a four-match winless streak to become the first club to claim back-to-back Libertadores titles since Boca Juniors in 2000-2001.

Brazilian fans have meanwhile voiced outrage at the ticket prices in Montevideo.

At $200 to $650, the cheapest cost the equivalent of one month's minimum wage in Brazil.
 


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