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Paulista second leg final in Brazil today is a game to watch

One of world football’s fiercest rivalries takes center stage today in Brazil in a state final between Corinthians and Ilsinho’s boyhood club Palmeiras

Corinthians v Palmeiras - Sao Paulo State Championship Final 1Leg Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

The Paulista 2020 title will be decided today at 3:30 p.m. EST (4:30 BST) when Ilsinho’s boyhood club, Palmeiras, takes on Corinthians at the Verdão. The two São Paulo rivals drew 0-0 in the first leg Wednesday night at the Itaquera.

Named after the Derby de Epsom, a world renowned horse race, the Paulista Derby ranks as one of the fiercest rivalries in soccer and has been played 374 times since 1917. Palmeiras has won 131 games, Corinthians has won 130, and 88 games ended in draws, including both games in the 2019 Brasilerão. Corinthians defeated Palmeiras 1-0 when the Paulista resumed on July 22nd after a four-month break due to Covid-19.

In the beginning of the 20th century, football in São Paulo was mostly played by the Paulista elite, but small groups of immigrants spread the game through the working class where it thrived. Corinthians was founded in 1910 in the streets of Bom Retiro, inspired by a touring English club with the same name. Four years later, several Italian club members broke away to form Palestra Italia, creating the enmity that has festered over the last century as both clubs grew and competition among them became more intense. But it was never a derby until 1917 when Caetanno Izzo scored three goals in the first meeting to lead Palestra Italia to a 3-0 victory.

Palestra Italia’s 8-0 win in the 1933 Paulista final was the biggest margin of victory, and Romeu Pellicciari’s four goals in that game are still the most in any single derby. Corinthians’ Cláudio has scored the most goals in the derby with 21, and Palmeiras’ Ademir da Guia appeared in 57 games to lead all players. 120,522 fans filled the Morumbi on December 12, 1974, the largest attendance in the game’s history.

Separated by 16 miles, the equivalent of Subaru Park to Lincoln Financial Field, the Paulista rivals have been two of the more historically successful clubs in Brazil and South America. They’ve combined for 17 Brasilerão titles (10 for Palmeiras, 7 for Corinthians), 6 Copa do Brasils (3 each), and 51 Paulistas (Corinthians 29, Palmeiras 22). Palmeiras won the Copa Libertadores in 1999, and Corinthians won it in 2012. Twice, Corinthians has captured the Club World Cup (2000 and 2012), and Palmeiras won the Copa Rio in 1951, a precursor to the current world club format. Combined, they have won four of the last five Brasilerão titles.

The Paulista, the São Paulo state league, has been played since 1902, over fifty years before the national league began with the Taça Brasil in 1958 followed by the Brasilerão, or Serié A, in 1971. The national league may have taken some of the spotlight away from the state leagues with a more competitive schedule, continental qualifying implications, and a larger revenue stream, but all the major clubs participate in the traditional state leagues with full-strength squads. Corinthians has won the last three Paulistas and is searching for an unprecedented fourth title in a row, while Palmeiras has not won the Paulista since 2008.

Brazil 2002 v Palmeiras 1999 - Marcos Farewell Match
Rivaldo of Brasil (2002) kicks the ball during a match between Palmeiras (1999) and Brazilian team (2002) as part of the farewell match of former goalkeeper Marcos at Pacaembu Stadium on December 11, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Photo by Helio Suenaga/LatinContent via Getty Images

One of the more notable clashes between the rivals came in the 1993 Paulista final. After Corinthians took the first leg 1-0, Zinho scored the opener in the second leg as Palmieras defeated Corinthians 4-0 to secure their first title in 16 years, a day known as Dia da Pixão Palmeirense, or Palmeiras day of passion. Palmeiras won the Brasilerão that year then added another State-National double in ’94, all under the guidance of current coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, whose 18 derbies ranks fourth among coaches. Luxemburgo returned last December and is seeking his ninth Paulista title and his fifth with Palmeiras. In the first leg of the ’94 Brasilerão final, Rivaldo scored two goals against Marcelinho’s Corinthians, leading Palmeiras to a 3-1 victory. He then scored in the 81st minute in the second leg to earn a 1-1 draw and Palmeiras’ second consecutive double. Zinho received one of the three red cards in that game.

The two clubs last met in a Paulista final in 2018, a game that included a first-half fight and ended in controversy that continued through arbitration court after the final whistle. Late in extra time of the second leg, with the sides level at 1-1 on aggregate, the referee awarded Palmeiras a penalty, which could have secured a vital away goal and almost guaranteed victory. But after Corinthians players surrounded the referee, the fourth referee ran onto the field to intervene, and the call was overturned. VAR did not debut until later that year in the World Cup. Corinthians won the title on penalties.

Days ago, a group of Palmeiras fans protested outside the Paulista headquarters when leaders announced the referee assignments for Saturday’s second leg. Two referees, an assistant and the fifth referee, officiated in the 2018 final.

Corinthians’ goalkeeper Cassio will appear in his 24th Paulista Derby and could tie Marcelinho for the most Paulista titles with 10. The second leg will mark his 468th game for Corinthians, tying him for tenth in club history with Idário. The Brazilian international won the Golden Ball at the 2012 Club World Cup after Corinthians defeated Chelsea 1-0. He also saved two penalty kicks in the controversial 2018 Paulista final. If the second leg ends in a draw, it will go straight to penalties.

Palmeiras v Corinthians - Paulista Championship 2018
Goalkeeper Cassio of Corinthians holds the trophy after the team defeats Palmeiras and wins the final of Paulista Championship 2018 at Allianz Parque on April 8, 2018 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Photo by Miguel Schincariol/Getty Images

Luan will be the player with the most impact. The crafty midfielder joined Corinthians last December from Grêmio where he won the Copa Libertadores in 2017 and was named South America’s Player of the Year. Fagner, a World Cup veteran and Copa America winner with Brazil in 2019, is the second-longest tenured player for Corinthians. Jô, formerly of Manchester City and Everton, rejoined the club in June following multiple seasons in Asia. He was also on Brazil’s 2014 World Cup squad. Corinthians is progressing the return of Víctor Cantillo, who came on as a substitute Wednesday following an extended delay in training since suffering from Covid-19.

For Palmeiras, World Cup veteran and club captain Felipe Melo missed Wednesday’s game after recovering from a muscular injury and is questionable for the second leg. Gabriel Veron, the 2019 Golden Ball winner at the Under-17 World Cup is also out with muscle strain. Veron has been touted as the next Brazilian star. Ramires will likely start in midfield. He played for José Mourinho’s Chelsea and represented Brazil in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He signed with Palmeiras last June after three years in China. Gustavo Gomez is one of the best central defender’s in Brazil. The tenacious defender is captain of the Paraguay National team. Patrick de Paula, a youth World Cup and youth Club World Cup winner alongside Veron, has appeared in nearly every game since joining the senior squad this January. The defensive midfielder could be among the next wave of Brazilian youngsters to venture overseas.

Expect plenty of attacking and passion as Corinthians and Palmeiras relish the opportunity to beat each other in a final, but securing defensive stability is vital to both club’s success. Corinthians has not given up a goal since their return to action, and Palmeiras has only conceded 7 goals in all competitions this season. In Brazil, derby games matter and titles matter, so this is the type of game where legends are formed and jobs are at stake.

How to Watch: Globo TV International, SporTV, Premiere
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST (4:30 BST)
Where: Allianz Parque Stadium, also known as the Verdão