Palmeiras have hit the first milestone of the season, beginning the travel to Abu Dhabi to fight for the title of the FIFA Club World Cup. After going through an outbreak of COVID that infected more than 10 players during the pre-season, Abel had almost the whole squad available for the first four games of the Paulistão.
The football department decided to play a handful of friendlies against smaller teams during the pre-season for the players to regain rhythm and the strategy paid off: Palmeiras’ first four appearences showed intensity visibly above previous years’ average.
The main starters were used in the games against Novorizontino, Ponte Preta and Água Santa, winning all of them without conceding a goal. Those games indicate that Abel’s starting eleven of choice is composed of Weverton; Marcos Rocha, Gustavo Gómez, Luan and Piquerez; Zé Rafael, Danilo, Raphael Veiga and Scarpa; Dudu and Rony.
It’s a line-up without a legit centre forward, but it is more an imposition than an option for Abel. No number 9 was signed for 2022 besides very young Rafael Navarro. Luiz Adriano’s contract has been terminated and Deyverson continues to be a limited option despite the heroic gol in last year’s Libertadores final.
Abel also made a few tests regarding positioning of players. Sometimes Gustavo Scarpa goes to the low left flank and Piquerez moves back even further to form a line of three defenders. On the attacking end, Dudu usually is on the right, but in the last game against Água Santa, he played for a while on the left, where we were used to see him in the past.
A few problems also materialised. Weverton was called up for the National Team and in 2022 has played only one official match for Palmeiras. Goalkeepers are the ones that most feel the lack of playing real games, and his last one was on January 23rd, against Novorizontino. Almost 20 days before Palmeiras’ first match in Abu Dhabi. Not ideal.
Also, on pandemic related news, Piquerez and Veron tested positive for COVID yesterday and did not embark on the flight that left for Abu Dhabi this afternoon (pictures below). Not too much of a problem for the duo, as they are asymptomatic, but a concern for the rest of the squad, that might test positive during the FIFA Club World Cup. In any case, Piquerez and Veron are likely to head for Abu Dhabi in a few day’s time.
Even considering the hiccups and still being in the middle of a pandemic, preparations for this year’s Club World Cup have certainly been better than that of last season. The Paulistão kickstarted our players and showed supporters a very focused and intense team, with players battling for a spot on the squad list of the tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi
*Here at Anything Palmeiras, we love football. We love Palmeiras. We are always keen to see Palmeiras play, and keen to write about it for you. But we’re against the return of football in a country that still hasn’t controlled the coronavirus pandemic. We express our deepest sympathy to the families whose loved ones have been taken by the disease.