One weekend, three games, Worldwide. All the information.
Football travelers, prepare your passports, we are about to take our weekly flight around the globe. This week we will check the race for the title in Morocco, the Malaysian scene, and of course – the real reason to go back to Brazil. And no, it's not the Carnival. Fasten your seat belts, here we go!
(All the hours are in CET local time)
Friday, 2000, Wydad Casablanca – Kawkab Marrakech (Moroccan Botola)
Last week we've seen some very close races for the titles, but nothing could be compared to the Moroccan Leauge. A league that composed by 16 teams, is always tight, and in Morocco even more. After 19 games there is a difference of only 6 points between the first place and the eighth place. On Friday, the top two teams, Wydad Casablanca and Kawkab Marrakech, will clash while the two of them with 33 points.
The league leaders, Wydad Casablanca, could have won the title easily, as they are in the 1st place in the league since the sixth matchday of the season. Their results are far from impressive as they won just 8 matches since the beginning of the season. Their fans, which known as one of the world's craziest audiences, is demanding immediate success.
In order to be in the race for the title, Wydad appointed well experienced coach, the legendary Welsh, John Toshack. In the squad there are Moroccan players who grown up in Europe such as Kamal Chafni, who made 200 appearances in the French league, Fouad Idabdelhay, who played in the youth teams of NAC Breda and also played for the U-21 team of Holland, and Naïm Aarab, who played in Belgium and Greece. More local dominant players are Mohamed Berrabeh, the current captain who was part of the last team of Wydad that won the title, and Abdelatif Noussir, who played for the winning squad of the Moroccan U-23 team in the continental championship.
Kawkab Marrakech keep are a surprising team. Their return to the top division last year concluded with finishing in 4th place. This season, the current manager Hicham Dmii, who already led Kawkab to promotion, want to be the manager who will lead the team for their first title since 1992. The top players of the team are Luis Jefferson Escher, Brazilian who play in Morocco since 2008, Ismaïl Koucham, who was part of Raja Casablanca squad in 2013 Club World Cup, Khaled Sekkat, who won two national titles with Wydad, and Soufiane Alloudi, who made 17 caps for the national team of Morocco.
In such a close table, every win could be decisive for the title. Which team will win and make one step further in the race?
Saturday, 1345, Selangor – Johor Darul Ta'zim (Malaysian Super League)
When a new season begins, you can always feel the excitement. Usually, after two weeks, you can hardly find optimists among the teams which finished in the 1st and 2nd places the season before. This is the exact situation in Malaysia.
The champions, Johor Darul Ta'zim, have only 3 points and they are located 5th in the league, while their runner ups, Selangor, achieved just 1 point and they are in the 10th place. As it’s the third matchday of the season, it is still early to analyze, but both team needs the victory badly, in order to improve their bad start.
Selangor considered being the greatest team in Malaysian football history. Since the establishment of the league in 1984, they have won 6 championships, alongside with 32 domestic cups and even qualified one final in the Asian Champions Cup in 1967. The current manager, Mehmet Durakovic from Australia, is a former player of Selangor and even won the Malaysian cup three times as a player. The key players of the team are Mohd Hamsani Ahmad, who played 36 matches for the Malaysian national team, Abdul Hadi Yahya, who was the leauge’s top scorer in 2011 with 20 goals in 26 matches, and Andik Vermansyah, 23 years old talent who considered to be the best paid Indonesian athlete (his salary is 150,000 dollar per year, according to the local media).
Johor Darul Ta'zim produced a huge sensation last season, and now they wish to win the title once again. Except from their lame performance in the local competition, they were also eliminated in the AFC Champions League qualifiers, and they will play in the AFC Cup group stage. Their Croatian coach, Bojan Hodak, is a long traveler in East Asia, as he already trained teams also from China and Cambodia, and he won two Malaysian league titles. The leading players are Luciano Figueroa, the top scorer and gold medalist from 2004 Olympics with Argentina, Mohd Amri Yahyah, who moved to the team after 13 years in Selangor, and Mohd Safee Mohd Sali, who played 67 times for the national team. After such a bad start for the season for both clubs, they will do anything for victory.
Expect a real counter in this one.
Sunday, 2230, Coritiba - Atlético Paranaense (Campeonato Paranaense)
These days, it is the Carnival time in Brazil. While the samba rhythm is decorating passionately the Brazilian street, we will travel to another emotional state league. In the state of Paraná, where the local league is one of the oldest in Brazil, it is the 101st edition of the championship. After the surprising title of Londrina last year, the two major teams of the state, Coritiba and Atlético Paranaense, will try to get backon the horse and grab the title back home. This match is a extra-hot derby match of the city of Curitiba and it have also nickname, Atlé-Tiba.
Coritiba is one of the first teams that were formed in Brazil. The team established by group of German immigrants in 1909, and since then it became one of the strongest team in Paraná, with 37 titles in the state league. Coritiba plays in the top division, the Brasileirão, and last year they finished in the 14th place. The coach, Marquinhos Santos, won the state title already with Coritiba in 2013, and he tries not only to win his second title with the team, but also his third consecutive state title, after winning the Campeonato Baiano with Bahia in 2014. Players that should be noticed are Leandro Almeida, former Dynamo Kyiv player, Rosinei, who won the Copa Libertadores title with Atlético Mineiro in 2013, Keirrison, who Barcelona thought to be one of its wonder kids, and Negueba, who won the 2011 U-20 World Cup with Brazil.
On the other side of the field it is Atlético Paranaense, and it's really though to say which team is better. Atlético won just 22 state titles, but they played more seasons in the Brasileirão, finishing in the 8th place last year. For the coach, Claudinei Oliveira it’s his fourth since 2013. Pay attention to Wéverton, who considered to be one of the best goalkeepers in the league, Lucas Olaza, who was part from the 2013 U-20 World Cup finalists of Uruguay, and Cléo, who returns to Brazil after grand tour in Portugal, Serbia, China and Japan.
There are people who think that Brazilian state league games are just a preparation for the Brasileirão, but this game is going to be hot, and the stadium in Curitiba will be on fire.