Two penalty takers can compete for the Golden Boot


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Lack of minutes a concern for current leader

Palmeiras’ Rafael Navarro currently leads the goalscoring charts with seven goals after four matches, making him the current outright favourite to win the Golden Boot at just 6/4.

The 22-year-old scored four of his seven goals in one match, when the Brazilians smashed Bolivian outfit Independiente Petrolero 8-1 at home. The young striker has certainly caught the eye since his transfer from Botafogo, where he scored 15 goals in 37 matches in the domestic league.

However, with so many games potentially left to play, there’s a few holes to pick in Navarro’s current price, and I’m happy to take him on.

The Brazilian, although featuring heavily throughout the Copa Libertadores, has had to remain patient domestically, featuring predominantly off the bench for short stints. With Palmeiras having their star man Rony available, Abel Ferreira opts for his more experienced, proven striker in the so-called bigger matches.

Navarro featured for just three minutes against Flamengo, six minutes against Corinthians and 22 minutes against Fluminense – with Rony starting ahead of him. Ferreira favours a 4-5-1 formation, too, limiting Navarro’s game time further.

With Ferreira heavily favouring Rony as his lone striker, Navarro will have to watch from the bench in the knockout rounds, picking up a few minutes here and there.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside in taking on the young Brazilian. There are still two group matches to go against far inferior opponents, in which Navarro will start. However, unless Palmeiras completely wrap up a first leg in the knockout rounds, I don’t expect Navarro to play such a key role for the Brazilians as the tournament progresses.

Palmeiras were fortunate to draw a very weak group, especially with a Bolivian outfit debuting, and the Brazilians won’t face anyone like they have in the knockout stage of the competition.

Palmeiras’ playmaker offers value

Palmeiras have qualified for the knockout stages, and the current Champions are second favourites to lift the trophy for the third year on the spin. In my opinion, Palmeiras, Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro are miles better than the other clubs in this year’s competition, and it’ll be interesting to see what the knockout draw provides.

However, Palmeiras were handed a very tough draw last year and still overcame it. They beat Atletico Mineiro, Sao Paulo and Flamengo on their way to lift the trophy and I fully expect them to reach the semi-finals at the very least.

With my full faith in Palmeiras once again in this year’s competition, I very much like the look of Raphael Veiga’s price to win the win the Golden Boot at 15/8.

The number 10 has already scored six goals in the Copa Libertadores, including a fine hattrick against Independiente Petrolero when the Brazilians won 5-0, including a tremendous strike from distance to make sure he would be taking the match ball back on the plane that evening.

Not only did he score a wonder strike in Bolivia, he came on as a substitute at home against Independiente Petrolero, scoring an incredible volley and free kick late on.

Ferreira adores his playmaker. He’s pretty much the first name on the team sheet, which isn’t difficult to see why. He’s one of the most creative players in the domestic league and playing in one of the most prolific teams in the competition has allowed him to express himself in front of goal.

Veiga isn’t just a one trick pony, either. He reads the game impressively, timing his runs into the box well, often when beginning the move himself. This presents goalscoring opportunities for the attacking midfielder and playing in a free-flowing team like Palmeiras only bodes well for this kind of bet.

Another major plus is that Veiga is Palmeiras’ first choice penalty taker. He’s scored his last seven penalties, including against Chelsea in the Club World Cup as well as a 97th minute equaliser against Atletico PR in the Recopa Sudamericana final. Veiga can hold his nerve from 12 yards out.

All this factored in, as well as two more home games left to play, hopefully Veiga can outscore his teammate and land us a 15/8 winner.

Last year’s winner can’t be ignored

What more can be said about Flamengo’s Gabriel Barbosa? The 2021 Golden Boot winner with eleven goals, including one in the final, is simply one of the best players in South America. Questions have always been asked, and will no doubt continue to be asked, as to why he has never made the move to Europe.

However, it’s clear his heart and soul are very much in Brazil with Flamengo and their key man is very much expected to carry them to another final.

Flamengo are the outright favourites once again to win the Copa Libertadores and after falling short in the final last year, they will have revenge firmly on their mind.

They’ve started pretty well and sit top of their group after four matches, in which Gabriel Barbosa has scored three goals. With two home matches left, against Catolica and Sporting Cristal, I’ll be shocked if the Brazilian doesn’t add at least a couple to his tally by then, especially if featuring in both.

Similar to Veiga, Gabriel Barbosa is Flamengo’s first choice penalty taker, and with a potential nine further fixtures, and with Navarro looking likely to have limited game time, backing Barbosa to pick up the Golden Boot for a second year in a row at 6/1 is way too generous to dismiss.

It could be that the two Palmeiras players mentioned above might not be caught after the group stage, which is a distinct possibility, and it’ll more than likely take double figures to win the Golden Boot, but it’ll take a brave man to rule out Barbosa being firmly in the mix come the end of the tournament.