Palmeiras started against São Paulo FC as they finished against Fluminense: dynamic, fast and aggressive. Within minutes, two great opportunities created – one from each flank – leaving supporters believing it was only a matter of time before Palmeiras would open up the scorecard and start grinding down that taboo: not since 2002 have Palmeiras beaten SPFC at the Morumbi stadium.
A quick reversal after a foul on Dudu and awful timing from Thiago Martins as he tried clearing an aerial made it easy for Paulo Henrique Ganso to stuff our net. Unfortunately, that was the end of Palmeiras’ blitz: our opponents gradually took control over the midfield and tested Prass on several occasions, again showing why he is the best keeper in the competition. But that alone will not do, of course.
A crucial aspect for Cuca to address is Palmeiras’ lacking consistency, the rollercoaster performances from game to game and, sometimes, from first to second half. This is nothing new and, partially, explains why the Palmeiras supporter nurtures an unusual strong bipolarity, normally expecting the worse and violently swinging between euphoria and doom. Yesterday, several players underachieved, most notably Dudu. Not for a lack of trying: Dudu is always full throttle and does not change his style of play for anything. Now, as he has only just returned from injury, he´s clearly not yet finely tuned with the ball and perhaps Cuca should have taken Dudu off the pitch instead of insisting in keeping him in a playmaker position where he repeatedly lost ball possession, resulting in numerous counter-attacks.
Roger Guedes was a shadow of the player we saw against Fluminense. Moisés, Tchê Tchê, Gabriel Jesus and Alecsandro idem. Only Prass was his usual, remarkable self, as was, rather surprising, Zé Roberto: many feared he would have trouble holding back Kelvin on the left flank, but the old man did splendidly well. Regardless of this, Egídio is expected back in the position against Grêmio on Thursday.
Gabriel Jesus did not have a particularly good afternoon either: possibly his mind was partially occupied by the likely upcoming call to join the Brazilian Copa América squad, replacing attacking midfielder Rafinha (Barcelona) who recently contracted a muscle injury. The Cup takes place in the United States, 3-26 June. No palmeirense in his right mind would like to see Jesus absent for so long.
On the same day we learnt about Gabriel’s likely exit, the Colombian federation confirmed Yerry Mina in their Copa América squad. Expectations were for the fullback to be called up only for the Olympics later in August, but apparently someone had a change of mind. Another setback for Palmeiras.
Finishing off on a happier note, the Palmeiras U17 squad is doing brilliantly over in Spain, where the Club World Cup is taking place. After having finished first in their group, Palmeiras beat Peruvian side Sporting Cristal 2-0 in the quarter-finals, before today beating Spanish side Rayo Vallecano 5-2 in the semi-finals. In the final, this Wednesday, our boys in green face no other than Real Madrid, who advanced to the title match by beating Atlético de Madrid 3-1.
Forza Palestra! Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!