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Preview: Palmeiras vs. Flamengo - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Palmeiras vs. Flamengo - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Copa Libertadores clash between Palmeiras and Flamengo, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Palmeiras have a chance to become only the second team this century to defend their South American title as they get set to face Flamengo in the final of the Copa Libertadores on Saturday at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.

Verdao got to this stage for a second successive season by drawing Atletico Mineiro 1-1 at Minerao and advancing on away goals, while the reigning Brasileiro Serie A champions won each of their semi-final legs 2-0 against Ecuadorian side Barcelona SC as they seek their first South American title since 2019.

Match preview

This is the most prestigious club competition in South America, and one that in recent memory has been dominated by teams from Brazil, who have captured this trophy in four of the last five years, with Palmeiras claiming the most recent title in 2020.

Winning this tournament in successive years is not an easy feat, as only two club sides in the past 40 years of this competition (Boca Juniors in 2000 and 2001 and Sao Paulo in 1992 and 1993) have successfully defended their Copa Libertadores crown.

It is an achievement to get back to this stage given the elite teams from across the continent who take part in this event, but for a foreign manager to win this trophy and others is quite something, as Abel Ferreira is one of only three non-South American coaches to get his hands on the Copa Libertadores.

This team are not only well-coached, but they are among the best in South America in transition as they employ a medium or low-block defensive system well-designed to catch teams on the counter.

The way Palestra have played since the arrival of Ferreira is a sharp contrast to the free-flowing, up-tempo attacking focus of previous Palmeiras sides, and while their new approach did not serve them well at the World Club Cup, it has been incredibly effective versus teams from South America.

At the end of the day, the most important thing in football is winning, and while their style of play right now may not be as appealing as the ones they had years ago, you cannot argue with what they have been able to do, particularly in this competition, where they have only lost two of their previous 25 matches played at the Copa Libertadores since their 2020 campaign.

They come into this match looking to finally get the better of Mengao, who they have not beaten in their last nine competitive fixtures, including a 3-1 defeat against them earlier this year in a league game played at Allianz Parque.

Flamengo have not ended a season without either a domestic trophy or a continental one since 2018, and this could be their best chance to keep that streak going as they trail Atletico Mineiro by eight points in the Serie A table with only four games remaining.

Since advancing into the knockout phase of this competition, they have looked virtually unbeatable, maintaining a 100% record in their six games played beyond the group stage.

Renato Gaucho is a proven winner who was brought in as the coach to put this team back on top of an international competition, and he is someone who knows what it takes to win this trophy, having captured it as a player and manager with Gremio in 1983 and 2017.

They are a very aggressive side who come at you with a system built on quick exchanges with the ball between a fluid front four.

That approach has overwhelmed the teams that they have faced in the elimination portion of this competition, as they have won their last six Copa Libertadores matches by a combined score of 18-3.

Even with that aggressive approach of always wanting to have their foot on the gas, they are still a pretty strong defensive unit, conceding the second-fewest goals in the league so far this year (31).

Their aggressive nature does leave some openings for teams to counter and create opportunities as they have conceded 25 shots on target in all six of their knockout matches in this competition, but they still came away with a comfortable win on every occasion.

Palmeiras Copa Libertadores form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • D

Palmeiras form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • D

Flamengo Copa Libertadores form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Flamengo form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Team News

Dudu was the hero for Verdao in the semi-finals, as his goal in the 68th minute cancelled out the opener from Eduardo Vargas, enabling Palestra to make it back to the final of this tournament.

Rony leads them in goals in this competition with six, while Wesley and Deyverson each scored in their previous Serie A fixture on Tuesday in a 2-2 draw with the league leaders as Gabriel Veron and Patrick de Paula had assists.

In the 2020 final against Santos, Palmeiras goalkeeper Weverton only had to make two saves to collect the clean sheet, while Breno Lopes scored on their only targeted effort.

Bruno Henrique was the star of the show for Flamengo in the semi-finals, scoring a brace in each leg to help them into their first final since they last won this trophy in 2019.

Gabriel Barbosa leads all players in goals in this competition with 10 so far this year, while goalkeeper Diego Alves comes into the final with consecutive clean sheets in the previous round, although he has only featured in three matches this month as Hugo Souza collected three straight shutouts in his absence.

Pedro had the only goal in their league matchup with Palmeiras earlier this year, and Rodrigo Caio fired home the winning penalty as Flamengo triumphed over Verdao in the Supercopa do Brasil played earlier this year, winning 6-5 in a shootout after the match ended 2-2.

Palmeiras possible starting lineup:
Weverton; Piquerez, Renan, Luan, Rocha; Wesley, Ze Rafael, Veiga; Rony, Dudu, Adriano

Flamengo possible starting lineup:
Alves; Luis, Luiz, Caio, Isla; Pereira, Arao; B. Henrique, De Arrascaeta, Ribeiro; Barbosa

We say: Palmeiras 1-1 Flamengo (Flamengo wins on penalties)

The previous two tournament winners face off in this game with plenty at stake between these two sides who have contrasting styles of play, but both are highly effective at their own system.

Give a slight edge to Flamengo, who have the confidence of understanding what it takes to win a nerve-wracking penalty shootout this year, as well as the psychological advantage of knowing that they have not lost to Palestra since 2017 and also have never lost in the final of the Copa Libertadores.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 2.5 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 2.5:data

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