With the Paulista kicking off this weekend the action also gets underway in the other of the state leagues we cover in Brazil. The Campeonato Carioca. The 111th edition kicks off this Saturday afternoon with Flamengo looking to defend both the Taça Guanabara and the Taça Rio.
The sixteen clubs are split into two groups with the Big 4 in Rio, Vasco da Gama, Flamengo, Botafogo and Fluminense seeded so two are in each group. Friburguense return to the top flight after a 12 month absence and they take their place in Group B while Bonsucesso also come into the top flight and they will play in Group A.
The format of the competition is unchanged. The teams are drawn into two groups with the big four seeded two to a group. The first stage is the Taça Guanabara where all the teams play a single round robin against the teams in their group, giving seven games. The top two in each group meet in a single game semi final with a group winner playing the opposite group runner up, which if level goes straight to penalties, before a single game final which again goes to penalties after 90 minutes.
The second stage is the Taça Rio, for this the clubs play every team in the opposite group giving a total of 8 games. As with the Guanabara the top two in each group meet in a single game semi final with a group winner playing the opposite group runner up, which if level goes straight to penalties, before a single game final which again goes to penalties after 90 minutes.
If a team wins both stages, as happened last year with Flamengo, they are automatically crowned state champions and the need for the play off is not required. Otherwise the winners of the Taça Guanabara and Taça Rio meet over two games at the Engenhão with the winners over the two games being crowned State champions.
The Big Four normally fill the play off spots but Boavista surprised everyone last year by making the Taça Guanabara final while Olaria pipped Botafogo to a place in the Taça Rio Semi Finals. This year though things could be a bit different with three of the big four, Botafogo being the exception, have the Copa Libertadores to contend with. Flamengo still have to get through the qualifying stage which starts the week following the opening fixtures. Fluminense and Vasco da Gama have qualified directly in the group stage so their distraction is a possibly great than that of Flamengo.
So the action gets underway this weekend and we'll have a round up of things on Monday
The opening fixtures are
Olaria x Nova Iguaçu
Madureira x Macaé
Fluminense x Friburguense
Flamengo x Bonsucesso
Boavista x Duque de Caxias
Vasco da Gama x Americano
Bangu x Volta Redonda
Botafogo x Resende