Coritiba 2-1 Palmeiras

Third defeat in a row, this time against the punching bag of the competition, Coritiba. Again, Palmeiras played badly, showing the same disabilities as against Atlético and Cruzeiro, only worse: Cleiton Xavier stirred my temper like Wesley did in 2014, and that says a lot.
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Coach Marcelo Oliveira needs to act fast, shake things up. Going from a winning streak to losing three games by the odd goal – two of them away – is not necessarily a disaster in itself. The worrying here is the team’s performance: the drop in quality and mood is expressive. What’s wrong?

Well, let’s start with what’s NOT wrong:

# the squad, with proven quality to play good to great football
# the coach, twice a champion with the considered modest squad of Cruzeiro

# the healthy competition for a spot in the starting eleven
# the crowd support, with the Allianz Parque selling out almost every game
# the excellent training facilities
# the salaries, paid out like clockwork (not a given in Brazil, you should know)
# the fairly horizontal payroll, keeping envy at bay

The streak of defeats started when Gabriel lost his knee against Atlético Paranaense. That game also marked the debut of centre-defender Leandro Almeida in the starting eleven, a position he kept against Cruzeiro and yesterday against Coritiba. These two facts are clues to the shaky defence as of late, although coach Oliveira has had plenty of time on his hands to find solutions.

Defence is far from the only problem: Palmeiras have lost the midfield, with Rafael Marques and Robinho being shadows of their former selves. Then there’s Cleiton Xavier, in a league of his own, trotting about, skittle away easy passes and corners, avoiding rougher challenges for the ball, missing a point-blank header…

Up front, our forwards feel the pressure and are clearly hesitating before concluding – the exception being Cristaldo and Dudu, the latter making plenty of errors but at least while being objective, never hiding.

It’s a Palmeiras thing, this volatility. As quickly as it comes, as quickly it can go away, but for that to happen the spell needs to be broken.

Coach Oliveira needs to get back to basics, get the defensive line in shape and accept the new order of things: opponents are not dreading Palmeiras as they did 3-4 rounds ago, and that requires a tweak of tactics. Alexandro Mattos and Co. need to get down and dirty, find out what’s eating away at our player’s confidence, swing things around. Yes, here are tactical issues to solve, but I sense more of a mental challenge. The squad is rather lost. Time for true leaders to step forward and show the way.

Against Flamengo on Sunday morning, scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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