Chelsea might be in 'crisis', but don't let it fool you- the Premiership title race is as inferior as ever, when compared with its South American contemporary. Welcome to IBWM, Matthew Horton.
Yesterday whilst driving home I heard commentator Nigel Adderley on Radio 5 Live refer to the Barclays Premier League as the most exciting league in the world, during his commentary on the Sunderland vs. Everton game. It's a refrain that has sounded from all sides: radio, television, the newspapers. And after shaking my head about it all day I've decided to put my frustrations into words and defend my choice of league.
The good people at Radio 5 Live are obviously not preoccupied with keeping up to date with what is going on in other leagues around the world- especially in Brazil. With two rounds to go the title is a three horse race between Fluminense, Corinthians and Cruzeiro, who are separated by just two points. When was the last time this happened in the Premiership, a league that sees a two horse race after Christmas and one team pulling away at the beginning of April? Could you imagine a Premiership title race which had three teams two points apart with just two games to go?
Until recently, the Brasileirão was a four-horse race, with Botafogo's tendency to draw finally catching up with them a few rounds back. Here we are with no idea who will lift the title, and yet before the start of the Premiership season most everyone knows that in reality, no more than two or three sides stand a realistic chance of triumphing. In the Brasileirão it could be any one of fifteen teams. On the flip side of that it could be any one of fifteen teams that could end up relegated, and the so-called big clubs aren't exempt from that. Botafogo, Palmeiras, Vasco da Gama and Corinthians have all had spells in the second tier in recent times. We at CONMEBalls tried to predict this most unpredictable of leagues at the start of the season and as you can see, most of our predictions have been wide of the mark.
Look at the grandstand finish in 2009 (the Brasileirão runs from May-December) when Flamengo came from nowhere to take the title, and Palmeiras went from the box seat to not even qualifying for the Libertadores after their last day defeat at Botafogo- a result that saved the Alvinegro from relegation. The way Fluminense somehow avoided the drop into Série B with an incredible late run and their final-day victory in Coritiba, a result that sent their opponents down and resulted in some of the ugliest fan behaviour for many a year. One thing you can't do in Brazil is buy success, it simply causes too many problems.
The relegation race this year is just as intriguing. Coming into the final two rounds there are still six teams who could potentially fill the final two relegation spots. Grêmio Prudente (who were deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player) and Goiás are already condemned. Guarani and cup finalists Vitória currently occupy hot seats but Flamengo (Brazil's best-supported team) in are still not safe in 13th. Champions last year, they've been in wretched form since losing Adriano and Wágner Love to Roma and CSKA Moskva respectively, and as is customary in Brazil, have gone through coaches like hot dinners. Avaí were one of the form teams before the World Cup break but have since plummeted. Atlético Mineiro, who could well have been in the Libertadores this year had results at the back end of last season gone their way, have only just exited the relegation zone after being in it for most every round. Atlético Goianiense, promoted this year, will be hoping to avoid the same fate as their near neighbours, Goiás. Compare that to the lack of excitement on the final day that has become the norm in England.
Admittedly the Premiership still provides a home for the odd veteran such as Scholes and Giggs, but in Brazil you have the likes of Fabio Rochemback, Paulo Baier, Iarley, Roberto Carlos and Geraldo still doing their stuff well into their thirties. But this being Brazil, it's the young talent that really stands out week on week, year on year. The names of Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso have been on everyone in Europe's lips for some time now, but could you really imagine them being afforded as much time and as many opportunities to develop over here as they have been granted at Santos?
When the Premiership is a three horse race with two games to go I might start listening to those who insist it is the best league in the world, but until that happens give me the Brasileirão any day.
Matthew Horton is the lead contributor to CONMEBalls, you can follow him at @CONMEBalls or check the updates at http://conmeballs.blogspot.com