After a goalless draw against Nacional in the Antel Cup final, a penalty shootout left the Uruguayan side with the trophy. The Palmeiras squad return home in a positive spirit: no conceded goal in three games and newly arrived players showing quality, especially Edu Dracena, Erik, Moisés and Régis.
Preparations for the 2016 São Paulo Cup are at full speed. As in the previous edition of the competition, 20 teams from the state participate, equally divided into four groups, A-D. Palmeiras are to be found in group B, together with Ituano, Novorizontino, Ponte Preta and São Bernardo. The freakish regulation also remains, with teams playing 15 rounds only against teams NOT in their group, with the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals. Palmeiras debut is on Sunday, away, against Botafogo/SP.
Centre-back Edu Dracena, a given in Sunday’s starting eleven alongside Vítor Hugo, will not make the cut: he suffered a muscle injury to one of his calves last week with an expected three weeks to recover (hopefully, in time for the Libertadores Cup debut). Cleiton Xavier is another, also suffering from a problem in one of his calves, but his injury is more serious, with at least 6 weeks to recover. In addition, we have defensive midfielder Rodrigo with a badly twisted ankle,
expected back in roughly three weeks’ time but he has recovered quickly and is training well.
A few players have left or are on the verge of leaving. Pablo Mouche has signed a six-months contract with Argentine club Lanús, although he makes no secret of his inner wish: a return to Boca Juniors. I personally doubt Mouche will be returning to Palmeiras, which is fine. Then, there is Jonathan Cristaldo, apparently on his way to Russian club Rubin Kazan. The offer seems generous enough, although that does not matter much from a Palmeiras viewpoint: it is club president Nobre holding part of the economic rights to the player, not the club. In any case, it is a bit of a shame seeing Cristaldo go: he is very charismatic and has bonded tightly with Palmeiras and the supporters. However, selling him makes perfect sense from a technical/tactical point of view, so that’s that. Last and least, right-back Weldinho will play for second-division Brasil de Pelotas this season. As his contract with Palmeiras expires at the end of the year, this is another player gone for good.
Today 28 January, the international transfer window opened, remaining so until 20 April. Although little has been commented backstage, much less officially, one can safely assume Alexandre Mattos has scanned the market for options in at least two positions: a centre-forward/striker (think immediate substitute for Lucas Barrios) and a centre-back ready to give Dracena/Hugo a fight for their spots. With a weakened local currency, Mattos must be both creative and convincing to reel in what he needs from the international market. Time will tell.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!