It was a tough start to life for Flamengo’s new manager. Vitor Pereira chose to leave his post at Corinthians to join the Libertadores champions, becoming the first ever Portuguese to take charge of the Brazilian club.
Life did not start well for him. Losing the Brazilian Super Cup final to Palmerias, the Recopa Sudamericana final to Independiente Del Valle as well as a first stage exit in the Club World Cup, fans were on his case.
In fact, plenty were calling for his head. The club stuck by him, but his card was well and truly marked.
Pedro’s return may have saved Pereira
Yet the return of last season’s Libertadores top goalscorer has provided Pereira with some much-needed breathing room.
Since returning from injury, Flamengo have won all three matches and Pedro has scored in each and every one of them.
Without their talisman, Flamengo looked lost. They lacked any kind of penetration in the final third which is why Flamengo faltered in recent weeks. However, it’s no real surprise if you look at the stats.
The 25-year-old scored 12 Libertadores goals in 13 matches last year, including a hat-trick against Velez Sarsfield in the semi-finals.
Domestically, the Brazilian found the net on 11 occasions in 24 Serie A matches, proving how integral he is despite the quality throughout the Flamengo squad.
Staying fit will be key for Flamengo’s chances
The striker truly is a joy to watch. His clever positional play is what catches the eye, managing to find space in crowded areas before finding the back of the net. This is far from easy, even in a creative flowing team like Flamengo, with teams often coming to the Maracana looking to park the bus. His teammates often know to put the ball into dangerous areas without spotting him, having full trust in Pedro’s instinctive ability to anticipate where that ball will be placed, always being one step ahead of his opponents.
The natural finisher prefers to hold his run and find space just inside the box, with a side foot guided finish a recognisable trait of his.
The Brazilian is far from a one trick pony, however, and thrives off letting the ball run across his body before striking across goal, or his pure desire to meet the ball first when balls are delivered with pace into the six-yard box.
Standing at just over six feet, defenders have no rest when it comes to aerial duels either, with Pedro proving efficient in the air from set pieces.
Without doubt, Pedro breathes life into Flamengo and the team of stars appear to lose some of their superpowers when he’s not in the squad.
With Flamengo set to play Aucas on Wednesday evening, Pereira will be calling on his prolific striker to lead the charge and help swing the fans back in his favour.
Pereira recognises how important Pedro is to his starting eleven and he’ll look to manage his star appropriately throughout the group stage.
However, in the back of his mind, Pereira will be hoping his main asset won’t pick up any further injuries this season. Another major injury for Pedro could prove costly for Flamengo’s chances of winning the Libertadores for a third time in a row and it’ll likely be Pereira who’ll be fed to the lions if they don’t.