Palmeiras, Flamengo to face off in battle of Brazilian-league heavyweights

Rio de Janeiro, Oct 25 (efe-epa).- First-place Palmeiras and the team right below it in the standings, Flamengo, will square off in a much-anticipated Matchday 31 contest here Saturday in the Brazilian league.

With just eight games left in the 2018 edition of the Brasileirao, the outcome of that match at Maracana Stadium in Rio could be crucial to determining this year's champion.

Palmeiras (62 points) could extend its advantage over Flamengo (58) to seven points with a road win, while the home side will have a chance to cut its rival's lead dowm to just one point.

Third-place Internacional, meanwhile, has 57 points and will face 15th-place Vasco da Gama on the road on Friday with a view to moving up in the standings.

Palmeiras will need to bounce back from a 2-0 road loss Wednesday night to Argentine side Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores, South America's answer to Europe's Champions League.

Despite that defeat, the Sao Paulo club still is riding a 15-match unbeaten streak in the Brazilian league dating back to late July, when former Brazilian national team head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari took over as manager.

Several regular Palmeiras starters are suspended and will not be available for the match, while Scolari himself could also face suspension for protesting referees' decisions.

Flamengo could have a nearly complete line-up, although the club is dealing with a mini-crisis stemming from management's decision to suspend goalkeeper Diego Alves for refusing to travel with the team last week after finding out he would be on the bench.

The club is expecting a stellar performance from budding star Lucas Paqueta, who is expected to remain with Flamengo until December even though the 21-year-old attacking midfielder's federative rights have been sold to AC Milan.