Brasileiro Serie A - Dark Horses in the 2023 Season

Football is a game full of surprises. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Brasileiro Serie A, one of the most fiercely competitive leagues worldwide. Every so often, a team that was previously under the radar defies the odds, turning heads and shaking the traditional hierarchy.

These teams, often referred to as 'dark horses,' can change the dynamics of the league season. Identifying potential dark horses involves looking at recent performance trends, player acquisitions, and managerial changes.

2023 Brasileiro Serie A Dark Horses


One of the most impressive teams in the Brasileiro Serie A 2023 season thus far is Botafogo. Promoted in 2021 from the Serie B, the team is currently leading the league table after six games. ‘Fogo’ began their Serie A season in fantastic form, winning their first five matches.

Botafogo, managed by Portuguese Luís Castro, will be looking to win their third Serie A title. The team previously won the top-flight division in 1968 and 1995. Winning it this year would see Fogo bring joy to the fans, as Argentine captain Joel Carli aims to secure a first major trophy for the Rio de Janeiro club.

Currently, Botafogo are top of the league with 15 points. They won their first five matches against São Paulo at home, away at Bahia and Flamengo, home against Atlético-MG and home against Corinthians. The black-and-white kit lost its most recent match in a 2-1 defeat at Goiás.

Player to Watch – Tiquinho Soares

32-year-old Tiquinho Soares is definitely the top performing player of the team. He currently leads the goal-scoring charts with six goals. Additionally, the striker has provided two assists to teammates, making him the outright leader for goal contributions in the league with 8 contributions. His goal-per-minute ratio averages to a goal scored every 78 minutes.


One of the promoted teams from the 2022 Serie B season, Grêmio are dark horses to impress this season in the top-flight. ‘Imortal Tricolor’, as they are more colloquially known, have only won the Serie A two times, in 1981 and 1996. However, they finished as runners-up in three other seasons, most recently in 2013.

Former Flamengo manager, Renato Gaúcho, currently manages the Porto Alegre side. The Brazilian became the head coach of the team in 2022 but has yet to win the Serie A. He has put together an exciting crop of talent, led by the team’s captain, Pedro Geromel.

Grêmio have had a stop-start beginning to the 2023 Serie A season. After six games, the team have won, drawn and lost two times apiece. Imortal Tricolor won their opening game of the season against Santos, before losing away at the other newly promoted team, Cruzeiro. Since then, they have defeated Cuiabá, drawn with RB Bragantino and Fortaleza and lost away at Palmeiras.

Player to Watch – Luis Suárez

It is their first season back after spending a year in Brazil’s second division. Most notably, the side brought in one of football’s most recognized players, Luis Suárez. The 36-year-old Uruguayan joined Grêmio during the 2023 transfer window. He is the outright top goalscorer for his country, bagging 68 goals from 137 international caps.

Suárez has previously won almost every award at club level, including the UEFA Champions League with FC Barcelona. He made his debut for the Brazilian side on the 17th of January, in a match against São Luiz for the 2023 Recopa Gaúcha. Suárez scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 win.


The 2022 Serie B winners Cruzeiro are a team to watch in the 2023 Serie A season. Owned by the legendary ‘O Fenômeno’ Ronaldo Nazário, the team have impressed so far. ‘Raposa’, as they are known locally, have won four of their opening six fixtures, losing the other two. They are currently fourth in the league, playing their home games at the Mineirão stadium.

Cruzeiro parted ways with Uruguayan Paulo Pezzolano on the 19th of March. It saw the team introduce a new head coach, Portuguese Pepa, the following day. Captained by Rafael Cabral, Raposa will be aiming to win their fifth Serie A title this year, having previously won it in 1966, 2003, 2013 and 2014.

Interestingly enough, Cruzeiro do not have any foreign players in their squad. Their team composes of only Brazilian players, including a mix of young stars and experienced veterans. The Brazilian team will be looking to transform their Serie B form into the top-flight division. Last year, Cruzeiro won 23 of their 38 matches, drawing 9 and only losing 6. That total meant the team reached 78 points, scoring 57 goals and only conceding 26.

Player to Watch – Marlon

It is difficult to predict a standout player for Cruzeiro as they are a well-organised team. Every player of the team knows their job and collectively they win games as a group. However, after six games, defender Marlon stands out as one of the best players in the squad. He has helped the team navigate to three clean sheets, having only conceded five goals in their opening six matches. Of their four wins, the team conceded two goals in each of the two losses they have played this season, thus far.


The final team to keep an eye on is Fortaleza. ‘Leão do Pici’ is one of two teams in the league to remain unbeaten, the other being defending champions, Palmeiras. Having played six matches, Fortaleza sit in eighth place, winning two and drawing four games. The team have never won the Serie A but were crowned Serie B champions in 2018.

Fortaleza have the best defence in the league, having only conceded four goals from six matches. Two of the four goals they have conceded came in a 4-2 home win over Fluminense. The other two conceded goals have come in 1-1 draws with Internacional and Corinthians.

Player to Watch – Fernando Miguel

The standout player for Fortaleza is goalkeeper Fernando Miguel. The Brazilian veteran does not appear to be stopping his impressive performances, even though he is already 38 years old. Miguel has already proved to be an important player in the squad, helping his team keep a clean sheet. He has had to share the responsibility, with the club’s second goalkeeper, João Ricardo.