Ponte Preta will be looking for an upset when they visit star-studded Santos in the quarter-finals of the Campeonato Paulista on Saturday.
Boasting talents like coveted striker Neymar, Brazil international Elano and wunderkind defender Paulo Henrique Gansos, Santos are undoubtedly one of the favourites for the title.
But the Vila Belmiro club has fought through their share of adversity to make it to the playoffs of the championship.
Ganso, regarded as a future star for Brazil, has returned from a long injury lay-off but is yet to rediscover the form that made him a star for his nation’s Under-20 side.
Defence has been a lowlight for Santos, who have leaked more goals than other of their big rivals – Corinthians, Sao Paolo, Palmeias – in the regular season.
The club has turned to new coach Muricy Ramalho to correct their deficiencies at the back, but he has had little time to impose his tactics and his arrival may have come too late.
Ponte Preta, the oldest club in the state of Sao Paolo, have appeared in four Paulista finals but are yet to walk away with the trophy.
This time around they have a young squad trained to break on the counter-attack – a strategy used to great effect in victories over Sao Paolo, Corinthians and Palmeiras.
Santos also struggled against the Campinas side and could only manage a 2-2 draw at Ponte in the group stages.
The winner of the quarter-final tie will take on the victor of Sao Paulo’s clash with Portuguesa in the semis.
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