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Archive for the ‘Libertadores Cup’ Category

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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After defeating Grêmio 1-0 last Saturday, Sunday was all about resting. Today Monday, only a light training session in the morning before heading off to Ecuador, where Barcelona de Guayaquil await on Wednesday. The Libertadores matchup for the group of 16 is illustrated below, with the second leg taking place in a month’s time.
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Ten days ago, CONMEBOL announced they were changing the rules regarding how many players a team could swap in their Libertadores squad – funny enough only hours after River Plate saw seven of their players fail a doping test. At the wave of a wand, the limit went from two to six players. Palmeiras today swapped four: Bruno Henrique, Juninho, Luan and Mayke replaced Rafael Marques, Vitor Hugo, Vitão (only still at Palmeiras) and Alecsandro.

The additional two swaps Palmeiras can (and certainly will) do up to 48 hours ahead of the second leg. One spot is dedicated to Moisés, who is in the final stages of recovery from his knee surgery. The last spot will probably go to a forward in Mattos’ crosshairs. Could be Diego Souza, currently at Sport. Before the weekend, we will know.

— ooo —

Palmeiras appealed and CONMEBAL revised the absurd rulings following the debacle in Montevideo: Felipe Melo’s ban has dropped from six to three games, and the three-game ban on Palmeiras supporters during away games has been reduced to one game (which will be the one against Barcelona on Wednesday).

— ooo — 

Alberto Valentim is back at Palmeiras as assisting coach, after a brief spell at Red Bull. He left Palmeiras in December of last year, after it became clear he was not taking over after Cuca’s exit. Everyone celebrated his return, although Valentim himself recognises he is taking a step back in order to advance two steps in the future.

— ooo —

Someone on the verge of taking a major step is 19-year-old attacking midfielder Vitinho. Seems Barcelona are close to finalising a loan move with an option to buy. Cuca has publicly given his approval: “Good for the player and the club if he goes to Barcelona B. He’s training well but, unfortunately, he can’t get the necessary minutes with us. At the moment, he needs to play”, Palmeiras’ coach recently stated.

— ooo —

English football magazine “World Soccer” annually lists their Top 500 in the World, and the 2017 edition sports six Palmeiras players, more than any other Brazilian club: Felipe Melo, Dudu, Borja, Guerra, Mina and Tchê Tchê.

— ooo —

Saturday, the Allianz Parque hosted Ariana Grande. Already on Sunday, pictures showed the stadium in shape to receive a game, with the pitch apparently intact. For the first time, stadium management had used a technique to anchor the stage not on the ground but using the ceiling, resulting in considerably less strain on the pitch and much shorter disassembling time. Not a day too early.

— ooo —

The Allianz Parque, as first stadium in Brazil, has received the “Guiaderodas” seal of approval. The seal is given to venues that has proven fully accessible to wheelchair users and people with other physical disabilities. Unlike the old Palestra, the Allianz Parque was designed with full accessibility in mind from the start: parking lots, stands, restrooms, snack bars… There are 15 elevators and 26 escalators, and staff have been given specific training to meet the needs of disabled visitors.

As palmeirense wheelchair user Renan Barreiros commented: excellent news; will be even better once Palmeiras implement mechanisms that assure only disabled persons are able to reserve the specially designated seats at the stadium, as well as secure the same discounts that non-disabled, enrolled in Palmeiras’ supporter membership programme, enjoy for certain sectors. Seems Palmeiras are working on solutions; this is something worth keeping an eye on.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Having “många järn i elden” is a Swedish expression for doing several things at the same time, stemming from how blacksmiths in ancient times carried out their work. Palmeiras are currently administrating three rods: Libertadores Cup, Brazil Cup and the Brazilian Championship.

Yesterday, Palmeiras concluded the Libertadores group phase beating Atlético Tucumán 3-1 to finish top in group 5, with 13 points. Among the 16 advancing to the knockout stage, Palmeiras are likely ending up in 5-7 place overall, a rather modest +4 goal difference being the determining factor.

Again, the transformation in team performance due to Cuca’s return was evident: Palmeiras came out smoking and opened up the scorecard at the 15 minutes mark through a splendid set piece identical to one successfully executed against Coritiba last year. Perfection through practice, as Mina pushed the ball into the back of the net after Dudu, Zé Roberto and Roger Guedes had played their parts in the sting.
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Shortly after halftime, Atlético equalised. Cuca sensed he had partially lost the midfield and made some swift changes, promoting Fabiano on the right so that Jean could take up a centralised position, and swapping Borja for Willian. The changes quickly yielded and Palmeiras controlled the action, with Willian and Zé Roberto decreeing the final score. At 42 years and 10 months, Zé Roberto is the oldest ever to score in a Libertadores Cup game and the second oldest player in the tournament’s history (number one is Peruvian Vicente Villanueva, forward for Sporting Cristal in the 60ies, 43 years and 10 months old at the time).
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Cuca now has 41 days to prepare for the knockout stage, time he will need: Palmeiras must become more consistent in order to survive the stiffer competition.

— ooo —

Last week, on the Saturday, Palmeiras followed up their excellent 4-0 Brasileirão debut against Vasco with a 1-0 defeat away to Chapecoense. The game was poor in every aspect, Cuca opting for an highly alternative line-up, already eying yesterday’s decisive Libertadores bout. Under ordinary circumstances, a win or at least a draw would be acceptable. Actually, these are ordinary circumstances. But OK, the tournament has just started and so has Cuca. Let us hope these three points will make no difference in December. Next up, this Saturday, are SPFC away.

— ooo —

Finally, the Brazil Cup. In the group of 16, Palmeiras played the first leg against Internacional of Porto Alegre, winning at home by the odd own goal signed Léo Ortiz. That being said, Palmeiras did play well and controlled the action most of the time. The result leaves Palmeiras with a good advantage, as a draw will suffice upcoming Wednesday. Moreover, should Palmeiras score at the Beira Rio, Inter must bag trice.

Two teams are already ready for the quarter-finals: Santos and Flamengo, having eliminated Paysandu and Atlético Goianense respectively.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Conmebol’s Disciplinary Committee has made public its ruling on the scandalous events following the Peñarol vs Palmeiras Libertadores Cup game. As previously reported, Felipe Melo received a six-game ban, while three Peñarol players received five games each. In addition, Peñarol must play their last home game before an empty stadium: a slap with a silk glove, as the Uruguayans are already eliminated from the tournament. Palmeiras on the other hand was sentenced to three away games without supporters, meaning that only in the case of advancing to the finals, palmeirenses will be present.

Palmeiras promptly issued a formal statement, which you find below, in a free translation.

“In view of the disclosure of Conmebol’s ruling on the incidents related to the match against Peñarol, the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras hereby announce that:

1 – The feeling is one of total indignation and revolt for the lack of criteria in Conmebol´s application of penalties for the two clubs and their athletes.

2 – It is on the verge of mockery that Peñarol, the club responsible for the safety of the match and the one who did not fulfill its function, receives a penalty lower than that of Palmeiras. Palmeiras, both team and supporters, being the victim of an evident ambush, in addition to other crimes. It is worth remembering that, in spite of the tense atmosphere during the first leg against Peñarol, safety at the Allianz Parque was guaranteed by nearly 600 professionals, able to avoid any kind of incident. This contrasts to the tiny and unprepared group of 60 private security guards hired by the Uruguayan club for the second leg.

3 – The Conmebol Disciplinary Committee has short-sightedly preferred to base its evaluation on the consequences and not on the causes of events.

4 – Palmeiras reiterates what the club has sustained from the first moment, at the stadium in Montevideo: the club and its players were victims and not causers of the incidents after the game. We proved to Conmebol, through a vast selection of videos, photos and testimonies, what really happened in that game. By the outcome of the ruling, it seems technical criteria were not taken into account, which is completely inadmissible and inconsistent. It is unacceptable that a Palmeiras athlete be punished for defending himself against a clear attempt of aggression and that supporters – clearly cornered, attacked and the target of racist manifestations – are now prevented from following the team through the competition.

5 – Palmeiras’ Legal Department is preparing an appeal, contesting the penalties applied to player Felipe Melo and the club. The appeal will be brought before the Conmebol in the coming week.

6 – The Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras will seek justice. The club does not accept any other position of Conmebol’s Disciplinary Committee but a revision of its decision and a ruling solely based on technical criteria.”

Needless to say, supporters are wholeheartedly behind the club on this one. Many hold the opinion Palmeiras must withdraw from the tournament should Conmebol maintain its ruling.

For Palmeiras’ upcoming last game in the group stage on Wednesday, at home against Atlético Tucumán, a silent protest against Conmebol is planned. During the National Hymn, supporters on the stands will raise their arms towards the sky in the same manner Felipe Melo did after the final whistle against Peñarol. In the same manner he does after almost every game. In the same manner now labelled “a provocative gesture” by the referees and Conmebol, a gesture they argue sparked the violence.

Anything Palmeiras strongly urge everyone to adhere to the protest on Wednesday.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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