Atletico Mineiro dreams of Brazilian double but national cup specialist Athletico Paranaense

Led by veteran strikers Hulk and Diego Costa, Atletico Mineiro advanced to their first Brazilian league title in 50 years, with a 13-point lead over their nearest opponent. Now, they are favorites to complete the domestic double by winning the Brazilian Cup in the two-leg final against Athletico Paranaense, in December 12 and December 15.

The league and cup double has only been achieved once before: by Cruzeiro, Atletico Mineiro’s local rivals from Belo Horizonte, in 2003. That may seem surprising, but the domestic cup is a contest. The exam is relatively new and was only started in 1989. In its early years it had a relatively low reputation. That certainly isn’t the case anymore and it has now brought in huge bonuses. In many European competitions, where the cup competition has lost some of its shine, in Brazil the opposite has happened and winning the cup has become as important as winning the tournament. Indeed, for some clubs – such as Athletico Paranaense – it is actually more important.

With their current extreme form, it is generally accepted that only three clubs have a good chance of winning the title: Atletico Mineiro, plus the two previous champions Flamengo and Palmeiras. For example, one or two other clubs, Corinthians, might be able to join this select group, but becoming a league title challenger is a select group. Cup, a shorter contest, leaves more surprises.

In the case of Athletico Paranaense, they entered the season hoping to win glory based on cup competitions. They won this year’s Copa Sudamericana – the continent’s equivalent of the Europa League and the one they won in 2018 – and in 2019 they won the domestic cup. They’re built for the knockout’s sprint, not the tournament’s marathon.

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While Atletico Mineiro are on their way to the championship, Athletico Paranaense is dangerously close to the relegation zone. This year’s national cup final is not an equal competition.

The club from Curitiba said so three years ago when they added an ‘h’ to their name – or rather put it back, since they were founded as Athletico in 1924. Mario Celso Petraglia club admits that in the Brazilian context ‘Atletico’ does not have ‘h’ called the team from Belo Horizonte.

Curitiba is not a small city – with a population of 1.7 million, not far behind Belo Horizonte – but being the weaker team, coming from outside the traditional four centers of the Brazilian game, is fundamental for the identity of Athletico Paranaense.

Their semi-final victory over Rio de Janeiro giants Flamengo has been ripped out of the club’s dreams. After a tight draw at home, they came to the Maracana with a structure based on deep defense, sometimes quick counter-attacks. It worked to perfection, and they secured their spot in the final with a famous 3-0 victory.

This will no doubt be the model for Sunday’s first leg, at Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao stadium. Athletico Paranaense will sit deep, with veteran captain Thiago Heleno in the middle of the third row. They will be looking to ramp up the pressure and open up space to launch wingers Nikao and David Terans, and they will hope to have a chance at home in Wednesday’s second leg by capitalizing on the absent from the heart of Atletico Mineiro defence.

Centre-back Nathan Silva, in good form in the second half of the year, did not qualify for this tournament and will have to be replaced. This places greater responsibility on keeping Liverpool’s record-setting midfielder Allan, who has excelled in defending the defence all season and playing the first pass. If he can help eliminate Athletico Paranaense’s threat on goal, his attacking teammates will depend on breaking down the visitors’ defence.

Argentinian midfielder Nacho Fernandez has been one of the stars of the season and his partnership with Hulk was perhaps the highlight of the year in Brazil. But Fernandez is clearly feeling the effects of the grueling Brazilian calendar. Will he have enough gas in the tank to balance in the finals? His compatriot, versatile midfielder Matias Zaracho still looks to be performing well, and beyond are options like Keno, Chile’s Eduardo Vargas and Venezuela’s Jeferson Savarino.

This depth of talent has proved too much for Athletico Paranaense in the 2 meetings in this year’s national championship. At the beginning of August. Atletico Mineiro won 2-0 at home, and in mid-November, they won 1-0 away. But that second victory came to a reserve team, with Athletico Paranaense resting the first team in preparation for the Sudamericana final.

They will hope that, at full strength, things are closer this time, while Atletico Mineiro are busy dreaming of the double. Atletico Mineiro dreams of Brazilian double but national cup specialist Athletico Paranaense

Jake Nichol

Jake Nichol is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Jake Nichol joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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