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Palmeiras exercised superiority on the pitch as well as on the stands: for every tricolor there were at least four palmeirenses yesterday at the Mané Garrincha stadium, Brasilia.

With Gabriel Jesus back in the stating eleven, Palmeiras’ offensive game once again grew. The kid is very fast, always keeping defenders on their toes, and his dribbles free up space for his teammates, allowing Palmeiras to attack in waves, keeping the pressure high. Already up by two terrific goals (Dudu and Jean) halfway into the first half against the best defence of the championship, Palmeiras were closer to the third than Fluminense to diminish the gap.

In addition to Jesus, Yerry Mina also made his comeback, placing Thiago Martins on the bench. And what a comeback by the Colombian, clearing everything high and most things low, in addition to showing personality initiating plays, occasionally venturing into the midfield.

Indeed the whole squad worked hard, but there is room for extra praise of Dudu, Moisés, and also Jaílson, who once again left no one longing for Prass’ return: our keeper was calm and always well positioned the few times Fluminense were on target.
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The 22nd round was excellent from Palmeiras’ point of view: Corinthians lost to Ponte Preta, Santos lost to Figueirense, Atlético Mineiro drew away to Grêmio. Of the direct contenders, only Flamengo came out victorious – against Chapecoense – and are the new runners-up, three points behind Palmeiras.  Worth noticing is Palmeiras’ superior goal balance: 18 against Flamengo’s 6.

There is currently only one, major concern at Palmeiras: the accumulation of yellow cards, leaving key players hanging on a thread. Before yesterday’s clash, Palmeiras had four players with two bookings each: Cleiton Xavier, Jean, Rafael Marques and Matheus Sales. Against Fluminense, five more players joined the list: Vitor Hugo, Mina, Arouca, Dudu and Gabriel Jesus. Out of these nine, six are normally found in Cuca’s starting eleven. Administering well this situation would allow Palmeiras to face direct contenders Grêmio, Flamengo and Corinthians – all three within the space of eleven days (7-17 of September) – in acceptable conditions.

But first, Copa do Brasil. This Wednesday Palmeiras debut against Botafogo of Paraíba, at the Allianz Parque. Anything but a victory would be a huge surprise. Cuca certainly will leave key players out, already thinking about Sunday’s Cuca has indicated he will use his best lineup against Botafogo, not showing concern regarding next week’s derby against a São Paulo FC in total disorder.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Training intensifies as Palmeiras prepare for a decisive sequel of games against traditionally strong adversaries, starting with Fluminense away this Sunday, then São Paulo (H), Grêmio (A), Flamengo (H) and Corinthians (A). No better time for players to return from the medical department: defensive midfielders Arouca and Gabriel are recovered, as well as centre-back Yerry Mina. With Gabriel Jesus back from the Olympic Games, the squad is again nearly complete: Lucas Barrios will need another 10-14 days and, of course, there is Fernando Prass, out for the remainder of the year.

Fernando Prass this week kicked off his physiotherapy sessions. Although he is not defending Palmeiras on the pitch, his day-to-day presence at the club and during the games have been inspirational. Prass himself seems motivated enough, recognising the hard work that lies ahead but assuring he will return stronger and better than ever.
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2016 - Prass recovery.
Gabriel Jesus also seems focused, in spite of all the attention deriving from his spell at the Seleção. Still top scorer in the league, even after a sex games absence, yesterday Jesus stated that he loves the club and that it would be a dream to wrap up the season as Brasileirão champion. He assured he would not shy away from any situation on or off the pitch.

2016 - Luan at Atlético ParanaenseLuan, the one and only, has joined Atlético Paranaense for the remainder of the year. Palmeirenses hardly believed the announcement and now rejoice, intensively wishing for the forward’s success at Atlético. After all, the paranaenses might put in an offer by the end of the year, allowing Palmeiras to recover some of the loss.

Speaking of Atlético Paranaense: during the away game on 15 August, cameras caught an Atlético supporter directing a torrent of racist abuse toward Tchê Tchê. Palmeiras quickly issued a statement, in the strongest language condemning the act and supporting the player in whatever action he might chose to take. The Supreme Tribunal of Sports has been made aware of the crime. Tchê Tchê himself seems inclined to letting the whole thing go. From Atlético Paranaense, not a word.

tsunami_verde_logoTomorrow, 26 August, the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras celebrates its 102nd birthday. Anything Palmeiras urges each one of you, near or far, to pull on your favourite Palmeiras jersey and wear it with more than average pride on Friday: may this year’s Tsunami Verde be a rehearsal of another celebration due in a little less than four months’ time!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Another opportunity lost to put a bit of distance between Palmeiras and trailing competitors. Nevertheless, in spite of the two points fiddled away, Palmeiras are still in the top, which, again, says a lot about the level playing field in this year’s Brasileirão.

Palmeiras exercising good control of the game, Rafael Marques – yesterday replacing suspended Erik – opening up the scorecard with 15 minutes on the clock after a nice setup from Róger Guedes on the right flank. Palmeiras administered the advantage well, looking for additional openings, without rushing it. Ponte Preta seemed harmless. We got a solid first half from the Verdão.

The lead could have increased early in the second half, as several good opportunities surged. Instead, a bit of inattentiveness from Vítor Hugo was followed up by a pinball-esque situation in the box, leading up to the equaliser.

No doubt Palmeiras would renew efforts to score, and the goal came naturally, on a set piece, Rafael Marques this time heading the ball from deep back into the centre of the box, where Thiago Martins’ forehead did the rest.

Cuca promoted Thiago Santos to lock down the midfield, but again, the twist of fate: Ponte striker Pottker raced and beat Egídio to the ball, taking a low shot that deflected slightly off the fullback and sneaked in by Jailson’s first post. A bit of bad luck, this time combined with some inattentiveness/poor positioning from our keeper.

Palmeiras again tried to apply pressure but was unable to overtake Ponte, the visitors naturally more than pleased with the draw. Highlights below.
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Yesterday, the day after Brazil’s unprecedented football Olympic gold medal, Gabriel Jesus strolled the Allianz Parque, showing off his medal to the cheering crowds. The striker, with the braces during the Olympic Games, is expected back in Cuca’s starting eleven on Sunday, against Fluminense, at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia (ticket secured, of course).
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Not that Cuca should get too excited: today, Brazil’s national coach Tite announced the squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia on 1st and 6th September. Tite’s list comes with seven players from the Olympic squad, including Gabriel Jesus – great news for the kid, less great for Palmeiras. Yerry Mina, Palmeiras’ Colombian centre-back, was also called up for the qualifiers. Thus, these two will not be available for Palmeiras’ debut in the Brazil Cup against Botafogo of Paraiba on 31 August, nor the derby against São Paulo on 7 September. There is a lot to be said about the Brazilian calendar.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Palmeiras are racking them up and knocking them down, the “taboos”. Not since August of 2008 had Palmeiras defeated Atlético at the Arena da Baixada. And so far in this Brasileirão, actually no team had tasted victory at the Baixada: seven victories and two draws for the home team.

This all changed after a solid performance by our men in green, who definitely showed they have overcome the turbulence of weeks passed, now firmly back on track. True, Atlético came without a few key players yesterday, but not many sports journalists thought Palmeiras could come out with more than a point. Atlético have been evolving well as a team, have a respected coach in Paulo Autuori, and a strong supporter base at the Arena da Baixada, where the pitch is equipped with artificial grass – one more complicating factor for visitors.

Palmeiras dominated the match from start to finish and let at least two additional goals slip by. Moisés was monstrous in midfield, commanding both offense and defence. We saw another excellent performance from keeper Jailson, confident and directing his teammates. Thiago Santos and Tchê Tchê kept Atlético at bay, facilitating the life of our centre-backs Thiago Margins and Vítor Hugo, the latter deserving a special mentioning for his match-winning goal.
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In addition to Zé Roberto, back from suspension, during the course of the week Edu Dracena, Mina and Leandro Pereira should become available to Cuca, who now turns his attention to Sunday’s home game against Ponte Preta. Possibly Palmeiras’ last game without Gabriel Jesus, the three point are crucial to keep contenders behind, Santos currently runner-up trailing three points.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Halfway there

tables_16.08.08Unless Corinthians today beat Cruzeiro by more than two goals, Palmeiras finish the first half of the Brazilian championship in the lead. A few weeks back the lead was rather comfortable, but today the upper half of the table is more compact than ever, with at least seven teams in the title race. It is also worth noticing that five out of the six direct contenders entail away games for Palmeiras, Flamengo being the only exception. No easy task ahead.

Good news is Palmeiras seem to be recovering from the recent dip in performance. Having lost to Atlético Mineiro at home than Botafogo away, last Thursday’s away draw to Chapecoense was not reassuring, Vagner again being the major question mark. Coach Cuca certainly felt the keeper’s nerves on a shake and yesterday, against Vitória, opted for promoting Jailson between the posts. The 35-year-old has been at Palmeiras since 2014, but only made four appearances, and never in a first-division game. Never, as in never for any club. Palmeiras supporters let out a sigh of relief as Jailson proved his worth, undoubtedly earning a position in Cuca’s starting eleven as of now.

Dudu, yesterday wearing the captain’s armband, was back in old form, challenging defenders and making crucial passes while also working hard defensively. Also Moisés and Erik showed pace and determination, while Cleiton Xavier, for the second game in a row, was awarded a penalty after being taken down – in addition to scoring the winning goal. Bad news is both Leandro Pereira and scorer Barrios had to be taken out due to injury: Pereira with a knee discomfort and Barrios feeling his groin. Hopefully nothing serious in any of the cases, but likely we will see Róger Guedes back in the starting eleven against Atlético Paranaense on Sunday.

While Palmeiras learn to live without Gabriel Jesus and Prass, Brazil’s Olympic team is going from bad to worse. The initial goalless draw against South Africa was yesterday followed up with another, this time against Iraq. Palmeirenses all over the world are secretly (or not so secretly) hoping for a third strike and Brazil’s premature elimination: such a disaster would not only carry the potential to provoke substantial change within the CBF (7-1 was not nearly enough) but also return Gabriel Jesus to Palmeiras. Should Brazil fail to beat Denmark in the last game of the group stage…

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

GJ2ManC
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And there it is: as widely rumoured for a couple of weeks, 19-year-old Palmeiras forward Gabriel Jesus is heading for Manchester City. Although details of the contract are yet to be disclosed, it is known that the price tag is €32 million and that the kid will remain at Palmeiras at least until the end of 2016. I say “at least”, because there are also rumours that if Palmeiras win a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup, City might be convinced to let Gabriel stay for an additional six months.

Good to have this out of the way. Congratulations Gabriel Jesus, congratulations Palmeiras and congratulations Manchester City: I believe this is a balancede deal that is bound to suit all parts equally.

We’ll serve you more details as they are made available.

It is not for nothing the Brazilian league is considered one of the most difficult in the world. I am obviously not talking quality, but spread. Any given year, a large number of teams have real possibilities of bagging the title, and 2016 is no exception, the difference between the top six teams, after 17 rounds, having never been smaller than this years’ four points.
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Erik_bota

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Palmeiras seemed nervous yesterday. Perhaps the pressure of closing the round, knowing all direct contenders had won their games, contributed. Moisés was back in the starting eleven, but there was no chemistry between him and Cleiton Xavier, once again underperforming. With Tchê Tchê suspended, Cuca opted for Thiago Santos, who had to double up his efforts, the Rio team cramping up the midfield. Up front, Palmeiras changed it up a bit with Leandro Pereira as a reference point, Erik and Guedes playing wide, leaving Dudu, rather surprisingly, on the bench.

Botafogo on one of those nights when everything run as clockwork… The result was not unfair and, as far as Palmeiras go, a combination of collective and individual failures.

The second consecutive defeat pushed Palmeiras down to third place, with the same number of points as Santos and one point behind Corinthians. Two rounds left in this first half of the championship: a tough away game on Thursday against Chapecoense, then Vitória at home. Cuca needs to take a long, hard look at his men at think outside the box, while at the same time go back to basics. I believe it is time to retract a bit from the optimistic and offensive style as of late, tighten defence and play on the mistakes of our opponents. Our squad has quality, our coach idem, and we all know the well above average working conditions Palmeiras provide. It is just a matter of riding out the storm then set the course straight. Simple. At least in theory. Now, we all know how hard it can be to shake off that negativity and anxiety once installed.

— ooo —

The hellish weekend was not restricted to Sunday’s bout, but actually kicked off on Saturday with the news that keeper Fernando Prass – serving the Olympic team – had been cut from the squad due to a fracture to his elbow.

After recovering from surgery in 2014, Prass played in 120 out of 124 Palmeiras games, never being out due to injury. Within a week with the Olympic squad, he felt the elbow. Rested for a few days. Was evaluated and declared ALL GOOD by the Olympic team’s medical staff, who put him back on training. Next day, off to the hospital, where a fracture was confirmed.

prass_elbowThe whole thing stinks. Improper training paired with an incompetent medical team managed to screw up Brazil’s best keeper in less than ten days. Prass himself is, of course, devastated: finally called up for the National squad, this was (I believe) his one and only chance to pull on the canarinho jersey. Check out the swollen elbow…

Fernando is not expected back on the pitch this year. Vagner, his designated substitute for eight rounds, must now step up to a completely new challenge: be Palmeiras’ 2016 champion keeper. Anything Palmeiras wishes both men the best of luck in their intertwined but very separate paths in the months to come.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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