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Last week, Palmeiras defined the future of centre-back Juninho and attacking midfielder Michel Bastos, none of these in coach Machado’s plans for the remainder of the season. Juninho’s destination is Atlético Mineiro (same as recent Palmeiras players Arouca, Erik and Róger Guedes), while Michel Bastos heads to Recife to pull on the Sport jersey. Both players go on loan deals until December. Juninho has a long contract with the Verdão, until April 2022, and might possibly return to the club. We should however not see more of Michel Bastos, as his contract with the Verdão expires by the end of the year.

With the departure of Juninho, Machado’s options for centre lock are Edu Dracena, Antônio Carlos, Luan, Thiago Martins, Pedrão and Emerson Santos. Michel Bastos battled for position against Dudu, Keno, Willian and Artur.

Moisés was in Machado’s starting eleven last Sunday against Atlético Paranaense, but came off already after six minutes, feeling the back of his right thigh. Yesterday, the grade 2 muscle injury was confirmed, leaving the midfielder out of combat for 4-6 weeks. No need to rush things: Moisés will have plenty of time for rehab during the World Cup.

On a more positive note, Guerra is back in full form and available for tomorrow’s Brazil Cup game against América Mineiro. Also Jean should be at Machado’s disposal any day now: the midfielder/right defender had surgery done to his right knee in January and recovery has been rather slow, but training has picked up well in the last few weeks.   

Against Alianza Lima and Atlético Paranaense, attacking midfielder Hyoran showed personality and development, the best indicators that Palmeiras’ patience with the kid should pay off. Some six kilos stronger, Hyoran has started to claim his space in the squad and is expected to become an ever more frequent piece in future starting-elevens.

Gustavo Scarpa‘s situation remains unsolved, all parties awaiting the court ruling regarding the validity of his rupture with Fluminense. Palmeiras president Galiotte has been in touch with the carioca team, expressing his readiness to facilitate things (e.g. compensate Fluminense financially), but so far, the situation seems locked. Curious how the otherwise so efficient Brazilian labour tribunal in this case moves so slowly: it’s been more than two months since Scarpa last set foot at Palmeiras, training on his own in Hortolândia, his home town.

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Late March, Palmeiras unveiled the new home kit for the season. The club’s crest is back, instead of the antique “P”, and a red star has been included as a reference to the World Club Cup title of 1951. The overall design is very clean and to the liking of supporters.
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Yesterday, the new away kit was used for the first time and, according to reactions on social media, also this model was well received. Again, a clean, stylish design. Apparently, Adidas has been saving the best for last.
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Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The debut performance of Palmeiras in the Brasileirão 2018 was below expectations, albeit the team was one of the few that did not lose playing away. The 1-1 scorecard took Palmeiras to their 9th consecutive year without losing in the opening round of the Brazilian Championship.

Borja had to be spared for this game due to a knee inflammation and Roger Machado chose Willian to replace him. This was the only difference compared to the starting-eleven against Boca last Wednesday.

As the game kicked off, the first opportunity was Botafogo’s: Léo Valencia crossed the ball, Rodrigo Lindoso’s header missing the target. Two minutes later, Palmeiras responded: Keno crossed the ball and Willian headed it firmly, Gatito Fernandez showing great skill between the posts to save the carioca team.

In the 13th minute, Diogo Barbosa’s ball crossed the whole area with no one reaching it. Palmeiras exercised superior ball possession, but were again in difficulties to create clear goal opportunities. Botafogo tried twice with long-range shots: the first from Brenner just wide the target and the second from Léo Valencia, provoking a nice save from Jailson. That was all we got in the first half.
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In halftime, Roger Machado made his first substitution: Guerra came on to replace an unassertive Lucas Lima. Already in the 8th minute, the alteration paid off: Keno passed the ball to Dudu, our captain fought for possession with the defender and then, with a beautiful pass, left Guerra face-to-face with the goalkeeper, the Venezuelan calmly concluding to score the opener.

In the 11th minute, Willian almost increased Palmeiras’ lead, but Gatito Fernandez saved his shot. Willian tried again in the 16th minute, again ending up in the keeper’s hands. The game seemed to be in control… But Palmeiras like to play tricks on their supporters.

In the 32th minute, a preview of what was about to come: a crossed ball into Palmeiras’ box and Jailson failed to put it away. The ball remained with Kieza, who missed the shot on a first attempt and concluded with little power on a second, allowing for Jailson’s intervention. Four minutes later, the announced tragedy: another crossed ball, this time deflected by Antônio Carlos, remained inside Palmeiras’ box. Jailson did not charge to put the ball away, Felipe Melo did not disputed it with Igor Rabello and Thiago Martins turned his back when the Botafogo player took the shot (and missed the ball) on a first attempt. All the individual errors allowed Igor Rabello to unchallenged have a second go, slamming the ball firmly behind Jailson to level the scorecard with less than ten minutes left of the game.

With both teams chasing victory, the game got very intense in its final minutes. Léo Valencia tried a long-range shot. On stoppage time, Guerra had one off-target and another, where he kicked thin air. And that was that.

The result was not bad for Palmeiras, coming from a difficult sequence playing twice a week, with no time to rest and practice. As the next game is only on Sunday – in São Paulo, against Internacional of Porto Alegre – Roger Machado can look forward to a few well-spent days of practice, addressing some of the visible problems of the last few games, in particular the taking but not holding on to a lead.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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After six straight wins in the São Paulo state championship, Roger Machado yesterday experienced his first draw as Palmeiras’ head coach. With the result, Palmeiras remain first in group C and are almost assured a spot in the quarter-finals, ten points ahead of third place.

Roger’s selection showed one change from the win against Mirassol last Saturday: out went Willian and in came Guerra making his first appearance in the starting eleven this year.

The game started with Palmeiras pressing the opponent and getting the first goal with just three minutes played. Guerra and Borja resembled their good times playing for Atletico Nacional, and with a top-class pass, the midfielder left the Colombian forward face-to-face with Linense’s goalkeeper. Borja didn’t miss the first chance of the game and with a powerful shot scored his fourth goal in the championship, opening up the score for Palmeiras.

After the goal, supporters at the Allianz Parque felt that this would be an easy game. However, Palmeiras slowed down the rhythm, seeming to be satisfied with the result. The punishment for this position came at the end of the first half. After a crossed ball from the right, Linense equalised with Adalberto beating all Palmeiras’ players to head past Jailson. After Linense’s goal, Palmeiras had one more chance to be back in the lead, but Borja was offside when he scored in the last minute of injury time.

Back to the second half, the teams hadn’t made any substitutions and the same scene was repeated. During the first minutes, Palmeiras pressed up high in the field and Marcos Rocha passed the ball behind the defenders to Borja. The Colombian tricked his way past the goalkeeper and just rolled the ball to score his second goal in the game.

As in the first half, Palmeiras slowed down and Linense equalised again. In the 30th minute, Murilo Henrique fired against Jailson. The shot was easy to save, but deflected on Thiago Martins and Jailson couldn’t get to the ball. The score was now 2-2.

Palmeiras had 15 minutes to find their third goal and keep the winning sequence, but even with Scarpa, Willian and Keno coming on, the victory wasn’t possible. The 25.712 supporters had to be satisfied with a draw that still makes Palmeiras the only undefeated club in the championship.
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After the game, coach Machado stressed the need for better defensive transitions to be able to get the ball faster from the opponent. He also praised Borja for his two goals and Guerra for his participation on the first goal.

Palmeiras’ next game is against Ponte Preta in Campinas. The game takes place at 7:30pm at the Moisés Lucarelli Stadium. This is the last game before the derby against Corinthians on the 25th.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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Last week’s signing of Bruno Henrique was met with scepticism. “Palmeiras need no more defensive midfielders”, they said. “Squad already too numerous”, they said.

After losing to Coritiba on 7 June, Palmeiras have played four games and lost three defensive midfielders due to injury: Palmeiras 3-1 Fluminense (Felipe Melo, thigh and hand, 4-6 weeks); Santos 1-0 Palmeiras (wounded pride, as Santos’ goal was an assault and Palmeiras was denied a clear penalty in the dying minutes); Bahia 2-4 Palmeiras (Thiago Santos, thigh, 3-4 weeks) and yesterday’s Palmeiras 1-0 Atlético Goianense (Tchê Tchê, thigh, awaiting confirmation).

Both against Bahia and Atlético, centre-back Luan came on in the second half to populate the midfield. Out of necessity, rest assured Bruno Henrique will make his debut sooner than expected.

Dudu spent three weeks with the medical department, coming back yesterday in the second half. Others Palmeiras players have been serving their national squads. Cuca’s task has not been easy. Nevertheless, the team’s performance has progressed in a consistent manner, as also reflected in the numbers: two thirds of Palmeiras’ points were collected in the last four rounds. Before playing Bahia, Palmeiras had not scored a single away goal, while the baianos had won their three home games.

The Verdão currently rests in seventh place at 13 points, 7 behind leader Corinthians, one game short.

With the international transfer window now open, football director Alexandre Mattos is certainly scanning the market. A forward with characteristics similar to Borja – who scored the winner yesterday – is a priority. The flanks are also a concern, in particular the left: Egídio has been inconsistent and Zé Roberto is increasingly suffering with keeping the pace up.

On a positive note, Guerra has evolved tremendously, and so has Roger Guedes: both are in splendid technical and physical form, being decisive in every game as of late.

On Sunday, Palmeiras travel to face Ponte Preta. Another away victory, and we could certainly say the tide has turned.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Toward the end of the month, we´ll have two rounds of qualifying games for the 2018 World Cup. All in all, four Palmeiras players have been called up to defend their countries: Yerry Mina and Miguel Borja for Colombia, Alejandro Guerra for Venezuela and Dudu for Brazil.
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Dudu received the call later than the rest: Douglas Costa suffered a knee injury during training at Bayern München last Friday, and coach Tite picked Dudu as the replacement. This is the striker’s third time in the yellow shirt: his first appearance was under Mano Menezes, in 2011. Then a long break, before Tite called him up in January of this year. However, all previous occasions have been friendly games. Finally facing the “real deal”, Dudu is in ecstasy. Well deserved!

Brazil plays Uruguay away on the 23rd and Paraguay at home on the 28th. Palmeiras’ quartet will miss the last three group-stage rounds of the São Paulo championship: another involuntary test of the squad’s quality and resilience. Also, another proof of the incapacity of Brazilian football federations to set up a decent calendar throughout the year.

Good luck to the four: may they all return safe and sound to Palmeiras.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Eduardo Baptista picked his starting eleven well in line with what players have shown performance-wise in the last few rounds: Fernando Prass; Jean, Mina, Vítor Hugo and Zé Roberto; Felipe Melo; Keno, Michel Bastos, Dudu and Raphael Veiga; Willian.

In spite of Palmeiras’ on paper stronger squad on practically every position, and in spite of Corinthians playing the second half one man short due to a scandalous referee error, Palmeiras did not deliver. The first half was levelled but lacked in quality, with Corinthians applying pressure and hampering Palmeiras’ transitions.

In the second half, Baptista swapped Veiga and Melo – both booked early in the first half – for Guerra and Thiago Santos. Palmeiras took absolute control of the game, but ball possession did not translate into creating chances, the team lacking in pace and determination. With many balls being crossed, Baptista took Willian out, placing Alecsandro as a reference point inside the box, only to see the team give up on crossing. Punishment arrived with only minutes remaining on the clock, turning a sufferable draw into Palmeiras’ first defeat against Corinthians in years.
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No telling where this is going. Many criticize Baptista, but personally, I agree with most of his choices yesterday, both before and during the game. Perhaps, when Felipe Melo asked to come off (tired, and with a gigantic cut to the brow) Baptista could have gone more offensively by promoting Egídio on the right flank, displacing Zé Roberto to the centre. In any case, the absences of Tchê Tchê and Moisés were felt.

“Why Alecsandro and not Barrios?” some might question. Because Lucas Barrios left Palmeiras that same afternoon, his agreement terminated in mutual consent. The 32-year-old striker arrived in mid-2015 thanks to sponsor Crefisa, who also have been paying his salaries. With the signing of Willian and, especially, Borja (the latter also arriving through Crefisa) Barrios expressed his desire to move on. In total, the Paraguayan played 45 games for Palmeiras, scoring 14 goals. Until mid-2018, he will play for Grêmio of Porto Alegre.

In terms of player options, I see no reason to crack down on Baptista. And although tactical execution was not great, the main ingredient lacking yesterday was determination. True, It is “only” the Paulistão, and it is still early in the season, but a derby against Corinthians is NEVER “just another game”. In an attempt to take pressure off, Baptista downplayed the relative importance of the clássico in a way that possibly contaminated our players.

Some serious locker room talk before turning the page and work work work. Already on Saturday, Ferroviária await. Arouca and Tchê Tchê are in their final stages of recovery. Felipe Melo, with 13 fresh stitches, might be left out of this one. Same does not apply to Guerra, certainly dying for the opportunity to start erasing yesterday’s blunder from the collective memory.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Palmeiras have announced a fourth reinforcement for 2017, and this time a heavy-hitter: offensive midfielder Alejandro Guerra, of current Colombian Libertadores Cup champions Atlético Nacional.

Guerra was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and is 31 years old. El Lobito – the little wolf – stands 169 cm tall and was elected MVP at this year’s edition of the Libertadores Cup, being decisive in his 13 appearances, scoring 3 goals. In addition to his highly successful earlier years at Venezuelan club Caracas and, more recently, at Atlético Nacional, Guerra totals 60 caps for the Venezuelan squad, including 10 caps this year.
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Guerra arrives to fill a crucial spot in Palmeiras’ starting eleven: the absence of a playmaker has been topic of much discussion in the last years, ever since the departure of Valdivia. The irregular performances put out by the likes of Mendieta, Robinho and Cleiton Xavier had Palmeiras’ coaches look for creative solutions: Cuca occasionally used Zé Roberto, Jean and, in particular, Moisés as the link between defence and offense, making these players abandon their positions of origin. With Guerra in command of the offense, Zé will stay on the left flank, Jean on the right, while Moisés will do what he does best: compose that first line of defence, albeit with much offensive qualities added. On paper, a splendid setup.

The length of Guerra’s contract and numbers have not yet been disclosed: they will be known when the contract has been signed, after completion of medical exams.  

felipe-melo-inter-de-milaoReportedly, Palmeiras are also in advanced negotiations with defensive midfielder Felipe Melo, since 2015 a player at Internazionale, Italy. In the last eight years, the 33-year-old Brazilian have added major clubs like Fiorentina, Juventus and Galatasaray to his CV, in addition to 22 caps for the national squad. Melo is characterized by his energetic and very physical playing style, which sometimes renders him premature visits to the locker rooms. His possible arrival is praised by many, but no doubt his temper should be regarded as a concern.

Palmeiras are clearly looking for experienced players with a bit of an edge, players that do not buckle under pressure, players deemed fit for Libertadores. Alejandro Guerra is the first of these to arrive. Expect a small number of strategic signings – which should include a killer striker – ready to go straight into the starting eleven. In addition, Palmeiras will sign a few younger, promising players – as the three already announced – to provide Eduardo Baptista with options during the very long and exhausting campaign ahead.

Palmeiras’ current firepower is impressive, measured by Brazilian and South American standards. Best thing, it is all carefully calculated, sustainable, based on assets in the club’s savings account and realistic projections of revenues in the year to come. Palmeiras are not taking loans, nor picking up advance payments from broadcasting rights or anywhere else, nor being at fault with other financial obligations. Palmeirenses in the loop understand the shift in paradigm, and rejoice. Adversaries, not so much.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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