After suffering three defeats in a row (Atlético Paranaense, Cruzeiro and Coritiba), Palmeiras last Sunday beat Flamengo 4-2 halfway through the Brazilian championship, then yesterday proceeded with a 2-1 victory against Cruzeiro in the first leg of the Copa do Brazil group of 16. Losing streak broken, Palmeiras back on track and all blue skies? Not quite.
Previously analyzing recent defeats, the most disturbing factor was the expressive drop in quality and overall mood. Although victories against Flamengo and Cruzeiro certainly have changed the mood to the better, technical issues largely remain the same: Palmeiras of today are characterised by inferior ball possession, bad passing, confused defensive positioning and inattentiveness. Against Flamengo, fluke and questionable refereeing limited initial damage, allowing Palmeiras to recover and dominate the last 25 minutes of the game. Yesterday, Palmeiras were saved by individual brilliance displayed in short bursts. In both games, Palmeiras initiated the second half in a zombie state, conceding goals before acting under pressure and turning things around. Highlights below (starting with yesterday’s game against Cruzeiro).
In a previous post, I wrote that Cleiton Xavier was stirring my temper like Wesley in 2014. Against Flamengo, the crucial (and lucky) equalizer was Xavier’s feat and against Cruzeiro, he opened up the scorecard following a terrific setup by Egídio and Barrios. Go figure.
Yesterday, Arouca left the pitch already in the first half, feeling the back of his thigh. If injury confirmed, both central pieces of Palmeiras’ midfield defence are out (Gabriel for the remainder of the season, mind you). In Brazil, the importance of having multiple quality options on the bench cannot be underestimated. Coach Oliveira will have to find a way.
Upcoming Sunday, Palmeiras travel to face Atlético Mineiro. The team from Belo Horizonte, until recently top dog, come from two defeats in the Brazileirão and yesterday drew with Figueirense in the Brazil Cup. Thus, both teams have been underperforming as of late, although more pressure will be on Atlético due to home advantage and more recent defeats. Let’s see if Palmeiras are able to explore this advantage.
Overall, the Brasileirão anno 2015 is an exciting and open affair: teams have been oscillating a plenty and will continue to do so, especially as fatigue and injuries increasingly become important factors. Again: a numerous squad of decent overall quality is fundamentally important and in this aspect, Palmeiras seem to be reasonably well prepared for the remainder of the season. Even currently trailing nine points behind Corinthians, the title should be our goal.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
ps. Did I mention that Monday was Valdivia’s last day as a Palmeiras player? Hallelujah.