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It's a long race to the finish, but Corinthians are off to a fast start

It's a long race to the finish, but Corinthians are off to a fast start
From ESPN - July 17, 2017

One of the key selling points of the Brazilian Championship is its lack of predictability. The giant country has so many big teams that a Spain-type situation, with two clubs way ahead of the pack, is not seen as a likely outcome. There are, so the saying goes, at least 12 clubs big enough to go into the season with hopes of winning the title.

And yet this year, with little more than a third of the competition played (14 of 38 rounds), some are saying that the title race is already as good as won. Corinthians have an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals, Gremio, whom Corinthians recently beat away from home.

This in itself is an unpredictable development. True, Corinthians are a giant club, the last South American team (in 2012) to win the Club World Cup. But they are struggling to pay for their new stadium, built for the 2014 World Cup. And when Fabio Carille was promoted to the position of first-team coach at the end of last year, he was nowhere near the first option. Indeed, Corinthians went into 2017 dubbed as the fourth force in the state of Sao Paulo, behind last year's champions, Palmeiras, as well as Sao Paulo, who had just appointed Rogerio Ceni, one of the club's great idols, as their coach, and Santos. And yet Corinthians won the state title and have made a sensational start to the national league, winning 11 and drawing three of the 14 matches played so far.

Some already say they will be hard to catch -- surely a premature conclusion, with so many points still to play for. But with the championship racing toward the halfway stage, a decisive moment could be approaching.

Carille has spent years on the Corinthians coaching staff, and it is clear he learned plenty from working with current national team coach Tite, who took the team to league titles in 2011 and '15, plus the Libertadores and that world crown in 2012.

If the 2015 side was expansive and easy on the eye, the 2011-12 Corinthians stood out for their solidity. They were a team that specialised in single-goal victories. Compact and hard to play through, they conceded few goals and got full value for every piece of attacking inspiration.

Carille was clearly soaking all of this in. His 2017 side are in the same mould, compact and miserly. In 14 rounds so far, they have scored 25 goals and conceded just seven. Keeping clean sheets maintains the confidence level high and gives the front players the freedom to take risks. But how will they respond to the events of last Saturday?

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