SAO PAULOv (AP) — Fluminense has a chance to move closer to its second Brazilian league title in three years with a win at Atletico Mineiro on Sunday.
Even a draw could virtually secure the title for Fluminense, which has a nine-point advantage over Atletico with seven matches left. The victory would give Fluminense a 12-point lead with six games to go in the tournament's final stretch.
The match between the top two teams in the league will take place at the Independencia Stadium in Minas Gerais.
Led by former Brazil striker Fred and ex-Chelsea playmaker Deco, Fluminense is trying to win its fourth national title, and first since 2010.
Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro is trying to cut the lead to six points to keep alive its hopes of winning the league title for the first time since 1971.
"It's all or nothing," Atletico Mineiro goalkeeper Victor said. "We'll be playing our main opponent and a victory can cut their lead and give us confidence for the final matches of the competition. It's a crucial game for us."
Fluminense has 69 points from 31 matches, while Atletico Mineiro has 60. Third-place Gremio, which held Fluminense to a 2-2 draw at the Engenhao Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, has 58 points.
Fluminense coach Abel Braga tried to downplay the importance of the match against his team's main chaser.
"Losing, winning or drawing, the championship won't be decided on Sunday," Braga said. "It won't be this result which will give us the title or take it away from us. We have to think match by match."
Fluminense and Atletico Mineiro drew 0-0 in a controversial match the first time they played in the tournament earlier this year. Fred had a goal mistakenly waved off for offsides in the 88th minute in a game at the Engenhao on July 29. The result allowed Atletico Mineiro, which signed former two-time world player of the year Ronaldinho in the middle of this year, to keep a six-point lead over then third-place Fluminense.
Gremio, coached by Vanderlei Luxemburgo and led by World Cup veterans Elano and Ze Roberto, will host Coritiba later Sunday in Porto Alegre.
Fourth-place Sao Paulo will travel to Rio de Janeiro to play at struggling Flamengo, the popular Brazilian club which hasn't won in five matches and is not totally safe from relegation.
On Saturday, Palmeiras needs to beat visiting Cruzeiro to keep alive its chances of escaping demotion for the second time in its history. The eight-time national champion is six points behind Bahia, which is the first team out of relegation zone. The bottom four clubs in the 20-team standings will be demoted.
Bahia, which lost 1-0 to Palmeiras at home on Wednesday, will play at defending champion Corinthians, which is Palmeiras' top rival and may rest some regular starters because it's focused on the Club World Cup it will play in December. Sport, Figueirense and Atletico Goianiense also are in relegation zone.
The Brazilian football season does not follow the European calendar. The national league starts in May and finishes in December, and teams play regional championships in the 26 states and the federal district in the beginning of the year.
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