Yet another solid performance by Palmeiras, finally against one of those smaller but well-trained teams our Verdão – much to the despair of the home crowds – have been suffering with lately. Cuca now computes three straight victories. He better keep it up, as Palmeiras only face knockout games until the Brazilian Championship starts on 14 May. Upcoming Sunday Palmeiras and Santos battle away and, if everything goes as planned, the stage will be set for an epic Palmeiras vs. Corinthians (or, less likely, Audax) for the 2016 São Paulo Championship title at the Itaqueirão stadium.
Against São Bernardo, Cuca again made interesting alterations, both before and during the game. Starting with Barrios and Dudu on the bench, he betted on stronger creativity on the midfield with Arouca, Matheus Sales, Allione and Robinho, Alecsandro and Gabriel Jesus reversing as central target up front. Egídio once again had a great night and served up Alecsandro for the header that opened up the scorecard.
In the second half, a rather null Robinho was swapped for Dudu with 15 on the clock, Palmeiras maintaining superiority without exceling. Things improved a bit as Gabriel came on for Arouca. Then, with 15 minutes to go, we saw the debut of youngster Roger Guedes, recent arrival from Criciúma (more on this in a future post), replacing Alecsandro. The offensive trio was responsible for closing the scorecard, Dudu distributing to Guedes on the right flank, in velocity, where a precise cross from the newcomer found Gabriel Jesus. Alecsandro and Jesus are Palmeiras´top scorers in 2016, with nine braces each.
Cuca, as mentioned, is experimenting with different setups. São Bernardo tired and pressing high in search for the equaliser, Cuca opted for speed, sacrificing his centrally positioned forward, placing Gabriel Jesus and Roger Guedes on each flank, with Dudu and Allione distributing. The formation immediately rendered results. The squad is assimilating Cuca well and will certainly benefit from the week of preparations ahead. Santos, on the other hand, have a Brazil Cup game on Thursday.
Sunday’s semi-final will be a tense affair: the rivalry between players have not died down since the Brazil Cup final last year, with players like Lucas Lima taking every opportunity to fire indirect, sarcastic remarks at Palmeiras on social media. In addition, the single game will be played at Santos’ home grounds Vila Belmiro, where Santos are increadibly strong, and without Palmeiras supporters allowed. Talk about hostile environment. The kind of environment that make the eyes of players like Dudu shine…
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