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After losing the final of the São Paulo state Championship to our biggest rivals, Palmeiras had to recover fast as the game against Boca could define the leadership of Group 8 in the Libertadores Cup. The 37.192 supporters present at the Allianz Parque were however treated to a boring game that reserved all its emotions to the last five minutes.

Roger Machado’s starting-eleven featured two alterations in comparison to the usual one: Keno and Diogo Barbosa replaced Willian and Victor Luiz respectively. The coach, opting to field faster players, probably imagined exploring spaces behind Boca Juniors’ full-backs.

With last Sunday’s scandalous external interference in fresh memory, supporters chanted against the Paulista Football Federation and the press corps before kick-off. The atmosphere was initially intense, but the lukewarm action of the first half, with teams unable to fire away a single, decent shot at goal, was disheartening. Palmeiras best chances were two crosses from the deep end, with no one inside the box to conclude.
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Allianz Parque sees the 2nd biggest gross revenue of the year: R$ 4.4 million (photo credits: Augusto Oazi)

 

Heading into the second half, not much changed. Palmeiras had a few goes from outside the box in the first minutes, but all shots were off-target. The first on-target came from Boca, in the 10th minute. Two minutes later Roger sent Willian to replace Borja, the Colombian on an unfortunate night.

With the substitution, Palmeiras improved their game, but not sufficiently to actually threaten Rossi’s target. The best opportunity came in the 37th minute, with Moisés and Guerra already on the pitch (they replaced Lucas Lima and Bruno Henrique, respectively). Keno dribbled four players on the left wing and cut the ball back to Willian. Moisés was free to receive the ball and score, but Willian turned and took the shot himself, deflected by Boca’s defenders.

Everything indicated a goalless draw, but in the 44th minute, a Boca defender lost the ball to Guerra in a bizarre move. The Venezuelan midfielder crossed the ball beautifully, Keno concluding inside the box like a true centre-forward. Supporters celebrated, confident in a third victory in the Libertadores Cup, the game almost at its end. Perhaps feeling sorry for the Boca defender, Antônio Carlos two minute later had his bizarre moment, allowing Pavón to venture into the deep end and cut back to Tévez to tie the game. Palmeiras came close to a perfect Libertadores’ style victory, but lacked the experience to refrain Boca from effective play during injury time.
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We arrive at the end of our first difficult sequence of the year with a reasonable result: a title stolen from us and pole position in our Libertadores group, having still not lost a single game in the competition. Upcoming Monday sees Palmeiras’ debut for the Brasileirão 2018 against Botafogo and this is a championship were regularity brings the trophy home. Roger Machado cannot repeat coach Cuca’s mistake of last year, prioritizing the cups: all competitions are equally important to the sequence of his work, the squad’s development and the future of Palmeiras.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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Palmeiras have arrived to the middle of their most difficult sequence until now in 2018: two legs of the Paulistão final and two Libertadores Cup games. So far, so good. After a tense derby against Corinthians last Saturday, players recovered well and guaranteed the second victory in the Cup’s group phase swimmingly.

Backed by the medical department, coach Machado opted for sparing only the players that really have been stretching their physical limits: Marcos Rocha, Victor Luiz and Bruno Henrique. These were replaced by Mayke, Diogo Barbosa and Moisés, respectively. Fielding so many regulars ahead of Sunday’s important decision was a calculated risk, but the right choice: no player injured and three points in the bag.
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Shortly before kickoff, the rain picked up (photo credits: Augusto Oazi)

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The game started with Palmeiras pressing for an early goal, which has become a trademark of Roger Machado’s team. The intensity paid off already in the 10th minute: Dudu took a free kick from the left and Antônio Carlos header hit the post. On the rebound, Thiago Martins with an open goal, scoring his first of the year.

The heat was kept on. In the 15th minute, a one-two between Dudu and Borja left the winger in position to conclude, but a Peruvian defender blocked the shot. Three minutes later, Dudu crossed from the right, the goalkeeper failed to catch the ball and Borja almost scored the second one: the ball hit the left post. The Colombian forward had another chance one minute later, but after dribbling the keeper, he had no angle to conclude the move.

Palmeiras pressure was massive, but the second goal did not happen in the first half. This did not upset supporters, as Alianza Lima created no opportunities to level the scorecard, Jailson a mere spectator of the game.
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Back on the pitch for the second half, Palmeiras scored before the first minute was complete. Keno skillfully progressed with the ball to the deep end and opted for a low cross that the keeper tried and failed to intercept. Borja was unforgiving and slammed the ball high into the back of the net.

Still in the early minutes, Palmeiras almost scored the third but Prieto saved the hard shot from Dudu. In the 10th minute, some supporters let out a celebration roar, only to realize Borja’s shot had hit the outside of the net.

In the 13th and in the 16th minute, Alianza Lima took two shots, off-target. In the 29th minute, Roger Machado made his first subs: Lucas Lima and Borja went out and Guerra and Deyverson came on.

Palmeiras’ players slowed the rhythm. The 30.456 at the Allianz Parque, sensing the result was guaranteed, started singing “It’s on the 8th”, a reference to upcoming Sunday’s title match against Corinthians.

In the 36th minute, Alianza’s came close as Cruzado’s free kick brushed Jailson’s right post. In the 42nd minute, Keno took a shot from outside the box, forcing Prieto to work. Three minutes later, the referee failed to award a clear penalty as Deyverson was rather brutally clipped inside the box. Palmeiras robbed of that one.

The result isolates Palmeiras in first position of the group, with six points. A victory against Boca Juniors next Wednesday would practically classify Palmeiras to the knockout round. Not that anyone cares for Boca Juniors at this stage: all attention now goes into Sunday’s derby. A draw is all it takes for Palmeiras to bag their 23rd Paulistão trophy.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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Thank God Palmeiras have found the path back to victory! As happens every time, the defeated team from the derby had a difficult week: Jailson’s mother on a polemic television show, Dudu’s agent speaking bullsh*t, the ultras demanding results and the usual provocations from the press.

Palmeiras flew away from all this turmoil to play at the Roberto Meléndez in Barranquila, the biggest stadium in Colombia. While the green side were debuting in the 2018 Copa Libertadores, Junior had come through two preliminary eliminatory rounds to secure their spot in the group stage.

Roger Machado made some changes to the squad, promoting Bruno Henrique and Victor Luiz to the starting eleven. With the game underway, initial impression was that Junior were going to create chances until finding their first goal: Jailson brilliantly saved a face-to-face from Jonatan Alvez in the 6th minute and just one minute later, Palmeiras’ keeper had to work again, this time fencing off a shot from Chará. However, Junior’s pressure diminished considerably after their left-back Germán Gutierréz was sent off due to an assault on Bruno Henrique, studs in chest.

The numerical advantage, at such an early stage of the game, naturally cleared the way for Palmeiras. In the 18th minute, Dudu found Bruno Henrique clean inside the box to fire a beautiful shot and open the score. This was all that the Big Green managed in the first half. With many incomplete passes and bad decisions from Machado’s players, Junior almost equalized the score on two occasions before the whistle.

During the halftime break, Roger Machado probably instructed his men to calm down when in possession of the ball. Palmeiras came on with the same players for the second half, but with a different attitude, which produced an early goal for Palmeiras: Borja scored with 6 minutes on the clock, a great volley following a blocked shot from Lucas Lima.
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With the two-goal advantage, Palmeiras played even more patiently. After a short corner in the 26th minute, Guerra, that earlier had come on for Lucas Lima, found man-of-the-match Bruno Henrique in the penalty box, who skilfully scored his second to close the scorecard 3-0.

We could have easily seen more balls scooped out of the net, though. Thiago Santos missed an open goal to make it 4-0. And in the 40th minute, the Colombians were denied a consolation goal when Jonatan Alvez sent a penalty kick up the stands. Minutes later, Jailson made another brilliant save when Alvez, always Alvez, again came face-to-face.

Despite the very positive score, 3-0 away, Palmeiras did not play particularly well, especially considering Junior were one man short for 80 minutes. Roger Machado certainly felt the same, intensively gesticulating and yelling to his players throughout the whole match.

The other match in Group 8, Alianza Lima vs Boca Juniors, was a goalless tie. Thus, Palmeiras will rest in top position at least until 4 April, when Alianza Lima come visiting at the Allianz Parque.

The Verdão now turn their attention back to the São Paulo state Championship, where they on Monday face São Caetano, at home, to secure a spot in the quarterfinals.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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Palmeiras’ mission: not concede a goal, and score at least one.

With neither Mayke nor Jean perfectly fit, Cuca opted for Tchê Tchê on the right flank. Same with Guerra; the Venezuelan started on the bench, Dudu pulled back to exercise the playmaking role, feeding Keno, Roger Guedes and Deyverson. The rest of the starting eleven was as expected, with Jailson between the posts, Egídio to the left, Mina and Luan centre lock behind watchdogs Thiago Santos and Bruno Henrique.

We were treated to a great game. Much pace, very physical, 100% dedication from both sides. Barcelona de Guayaquil are a tricky opponent, tactically obedient, who know where their strengths lie.

During the 90 minutes, two out of three Palmeiras substitutions were forced: Mina fractured a toe toward the end of the first half, Edu Dracena stepping in (Mina will be out for 2-3 months). In halftime, Moisés came on for Guedes, allowing Dudu to reassume a more advanced position to the right. Same Dudu, who later, completely exhausted, gave way to Guerra. Perhaps that was the defining feature: Palmeiras playing the first half without much creativity on the midfield. However, neither Guerra nor Moisés were in shape to stand the trail and Cuca new it.

It was nevertheless a joy to see Moisés back on the pitch: the game immediately gravitated towards him as he commanded the midfield, controlling the pace and distributing passes. The goal was his, a little gem, Dudu responsible for the assist.

Palmeiras were centimetres away from 2-0, Keno absolutely incredulous after hitting the crossbar.

Penalty shootout. Guerra and Tchê converted, Bruno Henrique did not. Keno and Moisés then converted and Jailson saved Barcelona’s fifth to leave it 4-4. Egídio blew Palmeiras’ first alternate and curtains down.
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Earlier this week, the Verdazzo published an excellent article, highlighting that everything is evolution, everything is process, that an elimination would be terrible but not the end of the world. The work must continue, errors must be corrected and Palmeiras improve what is already there to, in 2018, emerge stronger than ever. True, everyone expected trophies this year; after all, Palmeiras are the current Brazilian champions, enjoy the largest sponsorship deal, the largest supporter membership programme, draw the biggest crowds to Brazil’s best stadium, make the most money and sign the best players. Only to prove, once more, that football is not an exact science.

The challenge today and for the next few weeks is to exercise rationale, finding a state of normality within this universe of disappointment. Evaluate the positive and the negative, make adjustments, train hard, play hard. And go skunk hunting.

Yesterday, our supporters once again put on an amazing show: the 360-degree mosaic, the enormous banner, the instruments… Beautiful. Winning or losing, it was beautiful. Nothing can take that away. (thank you Leonardo Fioretti for the video)
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Inhale. Exhale. Today is a new day.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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An early exit from the Brazil Cup combined with an overall decent performance in the Brasileirão – albeit nowhere near Corinthians’ splendid run – have funnelled down Palmeiras’ year to Wednesday night’s clash with Barcelona de Guayaquil.

Palmeiras created a bit of momentum after the Brazil Cup elimination to Cruzeiro, beating Avaí 2-0 and Botafogo 1-2 in the Brasileirão. Yesterday, welcoming Atlético Parananense at the Allianz Parque, Cuca fielded a completely alternative line-up, correctly opting for resting all his strongest players. The game turned out a lame affair, Palmeiras’ long streak of undefeated home games interrupted. Only positive aspect was the return of Moisés after close to six months of rehab due to a severe knee injury. Yesterday, the midfielder showed surprising vigour, making him a force to reckon with possibly even on Wednesday, if necessary.

Halfway through the Brazilian Championship, the table stands as below. Snatching the title from Corinthians will be extremely hard: they are surprisingly consistent this year – in part a consequence of not having any other competitions to worry about. Grêmio might still put up a fight, but for the rest it is all about finishing in the top six (and preferably top four) in order to secure a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup.
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Cuca and the squad are secluded in Atibaia, seeking that little extra level of concentration ahead of Wednesday’s task of reverting the 1-0 score from the first leg, advancing to the quarterfinals. Any victory by a margin of two goals does the trick. Another 1-0 and there will be a penalty shootout. Naturally, not conceding a goal to Barcelona is imperative.

Expected line-up on Wednesday: Jaílson; Egídio, Luan, Mina and Mayke*; Bruno Henrique, Thiago Santos and Guerra; Dudu, Deyverson and Roger Guedes.

*Mayke twisted his ankle on Sunday’s practice and will be under observation for the next couple of days; Jean, Fabiano and Tchê Tchê are options.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Fair and indisputable. Corinthians came focused, confident and tactically obedient to the extreme, executing their game plan ad perfectum. Full merit to coach Fábio Carille and the squad. Also to Corinthian’s directors, who somehow manage to prevent that turmoil from the club’s shady activities influence day-to-day work. Oh, the irony: on the day Corinthians put an end to Palmeiras’ streak of 28 home games undefeated, already on the 13th round placing both hands firmly on the Brasileirão trophy, the club’s most notorious supporter – former President of the Republic Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – is sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for corruption.
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Recognising the merit of the opponent does not mean exempting Palmeiras. Coach Cuca was honestly outspoken at the post-game press conference, admitting not yet having found the recipe. He several times referred to last year’s excellent mesh, lamenting his inability to repeat the formula. He took full responsibility.

It is time for some serious soul-searching and stepping up to the challenge: get Palmeiras ready for the two upcoming, very difficult do or die games against Cruzeiro (26 July, Brazil Cup, away, first leg 3-3) and Barcelona de Guayaquil (9 August, Libertadores Cup, home, first leg 1-0).

Cuca needs to find his starting eleven, define positions and patterns. The rest of the season depends on it. The “no time to train” excuse is dead, it is a matter of priorities: with the Brasileirão title down the drain, he must make time available by sparing key players the competition. The squad at his disposal is qualified and numerous enough to muddle through in the weeks to come, while key players prepare for the task at hand: by any means advance in the two cups.

All this, while Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte is on a month-long holiday. Absurd.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Update: If you think the outset of facing considerable prison time would dampen the swagger of former president Lula, think again. The architect behind the Itaqueira stunt today tweeted “Forgive me for not talking to the press yesterday. I needed to see Corinthians beat Palmeiras.”
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Yellow and black filling stands, the Isidro a wasp’s nest.

Patches yellow on a fast, irregular, unfriendly stage.

Green halfway through turn yellow, cornered, tired.

The result a reflection of deflection.

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