SAO PAULO (AP) — Fluminense will be without injured playmaker Deco when the Brazilian league leader takes on Sao Paulo on Sunday.
Deco will not recover from a right thigh muscle injury in time for the match at the Morumbi Stadium. The former Chelsea and Portugal midfielder will be replaced by forward Rafael Sobis.
Fluminense has an eight-point lead over Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro with five rounds to go. Atletico will play at Coritiba later Sunday to try to keep alive its hopes of winning its first league title since 1971. Fluminense is seeking its second title in three years.
Vanderlei Luxemburgo's Gremio, which is 12 points off the lead in third place, hosts Ponte Preta on Saturday in Porto Alegre.
Deco had to be substituted midway through Fluminense's 2-1 win over Coritiba last week at the Engenhao Stadium. Tests showed the injury is not too serious, but there's no timetable for his return.
"I'm sad," Deco posted on his Twitter account. "Unfortunately there are some things we can't control. On Sunday I'll be only cheering, but I'm certain that the rest of the team will take care of business and add more three points."
Deco is Fluminense's main playmaker, alongside Brazil midfielder Thiago Neves, but has played sparingly recently because of injuries.
"Without Deco I have to change the way my team plays," Fluminense coach Abel Braga said. "This time I'm adding a third striker and going for the win. It's going to be an interesting match. Sao Paulo is one of the teams which have improved the most recently."
Sao Paulo has won five of its last six matches and has virtually secured a spot in next year's Copa Libertadores, Latin America's most important club competition. It is fourth in the 20-team standings, seven points ahead of Internacional. The top four teams will play in the Copa Libertadores in 2013.