Betting preview: In-form Flamengo favourites to beat Fluminense in Brazilian Fla-Flu derby

The latest edition of the Fla-Flu derby takes place on Saturday night as Copa Libertadores finalists Flamengo take on Fluminense. Cards can be expected in abundance, goals less so.

There's always been something rather mystical about South American soccer derbies, but in the digital age, it's possible to engage with what would otherwise be 'another world' to many.

The spotlight falls on Brazil this weekend when the famous Fla-Flu rivalry of Rio de Janeiro writes its latest chapter on Saturday.

Flamengo and Fluminense are both historical giants of the Brazilian game - Zico, Romario, Ronaldinho, Garrincha, Rivelino and Carlos Alberto are among the names to have featured in this fixture over the years.

In what's bound to be a Brazilian bust-up, we take an in-depth look at the fixture including a glance at where the best value can be found.

When: Saturday, October 23 (11pm kick-off GMT)

Where: Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro

How to watch: Live stream via Fanatiz

Fluminense vs Flamengo background

The rivalry has a classic backstory - similar to that of the Merseyside derby in England.

In 1911, disaffected Fluminense players headed to Flamengo - a rowing club - and set up a soccer side. Fifty-two years later, 194,603 people were watching the two teams play at the famous Maracana Stadium, currently home to both clubs.

These days the ground holds just under 79,000 people, although COVID-19 restrictions mean there won't be anywhere near that many spectating on Saturday.

Still, it promises to be a huge game, particularly for Flamengo, who are on course for one of the most successful seasons in the club's history.

Whether this game will go down in the history books remains to be seen, but it has all the makings of a classic.

One of the most famous Fla-Flu encounters came in 1941, the 'Fla-Flu da Lagoa' (of the lake).

Played at the Gavea Stadium, next to the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, which you may recall was the rowing venue at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Fluminense entered the game only needing a draw to secure the Carioca Championship.

Having led 2-1 in the closing stages, Fluminense conceded with six minutes to go, setting up a tense finale for them to seal the title.

However, another method of securing the draw was to simply kick all the balls - and subsequent replacements - into the nearby lake...

While restarts were continually made with heavy, sodden balls, the referee eventually sounded the final whistle to crown Fluminense champions. Genius or cheating? We'll let you decide.

A more recent classic, in 1995, was also won by Fluminense.

Renato Gaucho Flamengo 2019

On that occasion, former Flamengo star Renato Gaucho scored his famous 'belly goal' just minutes from time to clinch a 3-2 victory for Fluminense on the final day of the season. It meant they pipped their rivals to the Carioca title by a single point.

To make matters even more interesting, Gaucho is now the manager of Flamengo.

Favourites Flamengo chasing history

Flamengo will rightly start as favourites on Saturday, despite having won only one of the last five Fla-Flu derbies.

They are enjoying an incredible year which could end in historic fashion.

Flamengo have already won the 2021 Campeonato Carioca - the Rio state championship - beating Fluminense in the final.

They are through to next month's final of the Copa Libertadores (equivalent to Europe's Champions League) in which they will face fellow Brazilians Palmeiras, while they are also in the semi-finals of the Copa do Brasil.

As for Serie A - the Brazilian one, not Italian - Flamengo sit second and know they can't afford a slip up on Saturday given they are 10 points behind leaders Atletico Mineiro.

They do have two games in hand though and meet the Belo Horizonte-based side next weekend in what will be a crucial match in the title race.

Their form certainly favours them. They've lost just one of their last 11 in the league and are now top scorers in the division with 46 goals in 24 games.

The only worry is whether the amount of games will eventually catch up with them. This will be Flamengo's 72nd match of 2021, of course not helped by the pandemic which has caused scheduling issues all season.

Even during the international window, Brazil took no domestic break and clubs were forced to continue on without their biggest stars.

A mid-season run of four defeats in five hurt Fluminense but they've made a recovery of late, losing only two of their last 10 in Serie A - they now sit eighth.

While three of the last five meetings have gone Fluminense's way, look across the last 10 and things look far more even, setting Saturday up to be a close encounter.

Lack of goals expected

Across the last 20 meetings, over 2.5 goals has landed only eight times in that period, although despite the generally low goal count, there has been just one goalless draw.

Both teams to score has fared better, with 11 of the 20 games in question seeing each side find the net.

A look at the Serie A table shows Flamengo are the league's top scorers while Fluminense have struggled for goals, scoring only 25 in their 26 games. They have, however, conceded only 27, a stat which suggests a tight game.

Can Gabigol strike again?

Gabriel Barbosa, Gabigol, Fluminense, Brazil

The obvious choice in the scorer markets has to be Flamengo's striker Gabriel Barbosa, or 'Gabigol' as he is nicknamed.

His goals have propelled him into the national team and he is arguably the best Brazilian currently plying his trade in his homeland.

The former Inter Milan striker is the top scorer in this season's Copa Libertadores and boasts an impressive record against Fluminense.

He's scored seven times in 12 appearances against them, including netting in three of his last four derbies.

For Fluminense, veteran forward Fred, once of Lyon and never of Manchester United, is the club's captain and still leads the line with vigour.

He once netted six goals in six Serie A games for Fluminense against Flamengo, although that was back in his first spell with the club.

Now 38, he's still finding the net regularly with 18 goals in 38 appearances this season.

Return of fans a boost for card backers

When it comes to cards, the figures in this fixture aren't extraordinary but are still well above the norm.

In terms of booking points (10 for a yellow, 25 for a red), the tally has reached at least 50 in 14 of the last 20 meetings, including nine of the last 11 played in front of a crowd.

Exactly half of the last 20 meetings have seen 60+ booking points, while nine have seen 70+ and eight have seen 80+.

However, despite the unusually high booking points tallies, just two red cards have been shown in that period.

The 20+ booking points for each team has landed in only two of the last seven but all those games were played behind closed doors. With fans present, this bet has landed in 10 of the last 11.

Meanwhile, each team to have 30+ booking points has delivered in five of the last 11 in front of a crowd.

The referee in charge will be Vinicius Goncalves Dias Araujo and his record doesn't suggest he is too eager to reach for his pocket.

His booking points in Serie A this year currently read (most recent first) 40-50-50-30-40-60.

It is worth noting, though, that his only game this season involving either of these teams was his busiest. Taking charge of Flamengo's Copa do Brasil quarter-final with Gremio, he showed a red card to each team (and booked five other players).

When last refereeing this particular game in 2017, he produced six yellows, five of which went to Flamengo.

Which players will trouble the referee?

In terms of the player card markets, Gabriel Barbosa is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

He's been carded in four of his 11 Fla-Flu starts, one of which was red. He's even been booked as a substitute on one occasion.

His team-mate, winger Vitinho, is Flamengo's most-carded player this year and he's been booked in two of his five starts in this derby.

Defensive midfielder Piris da Motta is an unlikely starter but it's noteworthy that he has been booked in both of his Fla-Flu starts.

For Fluminense, left-back Marlon looks to be the prime card candidate having been cautioned in three of his last five appearances in this fixture.

He's played little since finishing his loan spell in Turkey, although he did make his first start since May in last weekend's win at Athletico Paranaense.

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