CONMEBalls opens up it's 2011 coverage as the Campeonato Paulista A1 begins at the weekend. We broke the news of the fixtures being released for this competition back at the end of October and we also revealed the new play off schedule.
Just as a reminder, the big change in format comes in the play offs which have have been extended to eight teams. The first round will be single elimination on a 1 v 8; 2 v 7; 3 v 6; 4 v 5 format. The winners then progress to the semi finals and again that will be a single elimination game. The final as ever will be played over two games to end the season on May 15th. For the opening two rounds the highest placed team will be at home and if it's all square after 90 minutes the highest places team will advance. The daft thing is, the league leaders could go four games without scoring in the play offs and as long as they don't concede they will collect the title.
Also making an appearance this year in the Paulista are the two additional assistant referees stationed behind the goal lines. They've not proved their worth yet in any competition they have been trialled in, including last year's Carioca and continental club competitions in Europe.
Santos are the defending champions, although they scored 72 goals in the process of winning the title last year they will be without Robinho this year. They've also stated they will be putting more eggs in the Libertadores basket but will still start as the team to beat. Santo André, runners up last year, will be lucky to stay up. After the success of last year they cashed in and sold all their best players and suffered relegation to Série C in the national championship. Grêmio Prudente also made the play offs last year and they also suffered a relegation, this time from the top flight. São Paulo finished fourth last year and without a Libertadores campaign to distract them they could be dark horses for the title.
Corinthians, winners in 2009, didn't even make the play-offs last season as they got sidetracked by their Libertadores campaign and they will have the same distraction this year as well. Portuguesa will look to build on their sixth place finish last year and they again just missed out on promotion back to the top flight nationally. Botafogo SP took the Torneo Interior last year but should be in good shape to make the play offs if they keep up their form from last year. Palmeiras were the biggest surprise last year, they finished in the bottom half of the table in 11th. But with Felipão now in charge they will be looking to head up the table and hopefully claim a first title since 2008.
The four promoted clubs who take their place in the top flight are Guaratinguetá, São Bernardo, Noroeste and Linense, the champions of Série A2 this year. They will be looking to keep their place in the top flight as four team will be relegated to Série A2.
So we get underway this weekend and they line up like this and we'll have a full round up on Monday
Linense x Santos
Mogi Mirim x São Paulo - Live on Bet365.com 1900GMT Sunday
Corinthians x Portuguesa
Palmeiras x Botafogo SP - Live on BET365.com 2130GMT Saturday
Noroeste x Santo André
Guaratinguetá x Bragantino
São Bernardo x Grêmio Prudente
Mirassol x Ponte Preta
Paulista x Ituano
Oeste x São Caetano
Feel free to check friend of the site Pitaco do Gringo's far superior Paulista Guide