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Dorival Júnior promoted five changes to the starting eleven we saw last week against Fluminense: Deola substituted Fábio between the posts; Lúcio returned from injury to compose the centre-lock with Nathan; 17-year-old João Pedro made his debut on the right flank; Cristaldo and Mouche up front with Henrique.

Pressure was on already before kick-off, as a couple of bad results were pushing Palmeiras down the tables: Fluminense lost to Vitória (goals by former Palmeiras players Dinei and Vinícius) while Criciúma were beating Figueirense.

31-year-old Deola had not played a game since March, but he was not to blame for the disastrous first half. Palmeiras had no creativeness on the midfield and the use of the flanks was easily neutralised by Flamengo, easily approaching the Palmeiras box. With six minutes, Juninho, on the midfield instead for on his usual right flank, was booked. At ten minutes, he almost saw his second yellow. At twelve minutes, he screwed up while trying to clear the ball, and Flamengo open up the scorecard.

Diogo failed in everything he tried. Flamengo withdrew slightly, clearly awaiting those mortal opportunities to counter-attack. At 32 minutes, Lúcio didn’t move in harmony with the offside trap, leaving two Flamengo players clean with Deola, who rushed out to clear the ball, which bounced up on the Flamengo attacker hand before he passed it on to Alecsandro – in offside position – to increase the lead. Nightmare.

At 42 minutes, Palmeiras were denied a clear penalty as Henrique was dislocated in plain flight, in excellent scoring position.

In half-time, Dorival swapped Henrique and Mouche for Allione and Valdivia, the only question being why he waited so long.

Kick-off and full speed ahead. With 2 minutes on the clock, Diogo scored his first goal in twelve months. We saw a completely different game, it was night and day in relation to the first half. Valdivia was instrumental, as he normally is when on the pitch.

Palmeiras dominated the following 15 minutes completely, then Flamengo started to adapt to the new scenario. But it was Valdivia, exchanging quick passes with Diogo and Victor Luis, who allowed the latter to whip in the equaliser with 23 minutes on the clock. The 21.500 at the Pacaembu exploded: our supporters never stopped chanting – not even during the most dreadful moments of the first half of the game – and now they were rewarded for their loyalty.
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Palmeiras looked as if winning the game was possible, pressuring Flamengo hard, but that changed in the 37th minutes when man-of-the-match Valdivia did what he does best: leaves everyone flabbergasted with his immaturity. This time he STEPPED on a lying opponent, deservedly being sent straight to the showers. Unbelievable. The man is a mental case. When he doesn’t get injured, he does something incredibly stupid. Valdivia is an idiot. A complete idiot. This must be dealt with. Internally.

With the results from this 22nd round, Palmeiras are back in the relegation zone with 22 points, ahead of Criciúma (22) and Vitória (21). Above, we find Botafogo (22), Bahia (23), Coritiba (23) and Chapecoense (23). Nice and intimate.

Today was the first of six crucial games against direct contenders for relegation: Flamengo (home), Goiás (away), Vitória (home), Figueirense (away), Chapecoense (home) and Botafogo (away). We’re not off to a good start, although today’s draw admittedly carries a certain air of victory due to the circumstances. Watching the team react was actually a relief. Deola played well. So did João Pedro – just a kid – in his debut.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Palmeiras lost fair and square to Atlético Mineiro, the scorecard reading 2-1 at fulltime. An open game, with both teams pursuing the three points. It would actually have been a pleasant game, had it not been for the festival of errors: some 100 passes didn’t find the right destination. Pleasant, had it not been for the eight straight game without victory in the Brasileirão. And the apparent low gears of Leandro, Wesley… The absurd limitations of Josimar, Menezes… You know the script.
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The Verdão are 1 point from the relegation zone after 14 rounds. Have not won a game in the Brazilian championship since the post World Cup retake. Obviously, Palmeiras haven’t got the best of squads, but it’s still, on paper, far from the worst. Many more humble squads are doing better. We need answers, and quickly, in order to avoid the disaster of all disasters in this year of the centenary.

The rumble is not only affecting players, but players have started creating their own. Something’s cooking involving Wesley, Leandro, Deola… Especially Wesley – considered a central piece and a good player – has been underperforming for quite some time. The locker room was apparently very tense after yesterday’s game. His contract is about to be renewed. Or is it? I seriously don’t know what to hope for, but based on my gut feeling, it might be best if he walked.

There’s also rumble on president Paulo Nobre’s doorstep. Literally. As these lines are being written. Palmeiras’ largest supporter group – the Mancha Alviverde – are positioned outside Nobre’s house. Two busloads and then some. A peaceful protest; at least that’s the order. But pressure is rising, no doubt.

In the meantime, mixed expectations in regard to Sunday’s derby against São Paulo. A victory is fundamentally important. Palmeiras should have Valdivia back in the starting eleven – or at least on the bench. If papers from Ukrainian side Metalist arrive tomorrow, Cristaldo will sign a four-year contract, make his debut in the second half and score the winning goal for Palmeiras.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The squad for the 2014 edition of the Brasileirão is in formation. Starting with the removal, at least for now temporarily, of players that have not lived up to expectations during the São Paulo Cup.

Striker Vinícius is packing his bags, heading for Vitória/BA, on loan until the end of the year. Youngest ever to debut in the Palmeiras jersey, he has only scored eight goals in the 100 and something games played for the Verdão. He won’t be missed.

There’s also a bunch of players returning to Palmeiras from other State of São Paulo teams: keeper Deola (relegated with Atlético Sorocaba), centre-back Marcos Vinicius and midfielder Ramos (both at Rio Claro), midfielder Bruno Dybal and striker Emerson (relegated with Oeste), midfielder Diego Souza (Grêmio Barueri), midfielder Edilson (Penapolense) and striker Tutinha (relegated with Paulista). All these player are training in separate and should be again passed on to other clubs, in the hope they develop and one day are considered ready to join the ranks (re-join, in some cases).

Deola might be heading for Criciúma. I say Palmeiras ought to find opportunities also for Bruno, giving 23-year-old Fábio a shot at fame and fortune as second keeper after Fernando Prass.

Alan Kardec is very, very close to signing a new contract with Palmeiras, an agreement having already been reached with Benfica. Kardec is fine with the productivity model adopted by the Nobre administration and happy at the Club.

Another player seemingly ready to accept the productivity model is forward Patrick Vieira. His agent ruled it out completely just a couple of weeks ago, but the tide has apparently changed. Good.

Coach Kleina is more closely observing the youth academy, looking for signals that someone might be ready for greater responsibilities. Players at other clubs are also being observed – the list includes a couple at Ituano, the team playing Santos for a draw in order to bag the Paulistão title on Sunday.

telao_Wagner_pesinatoNot only the squad, but also the Allianz Parque is shaping up. Yesterday, one of two larger structures were being prepared for lifting: these will support the largest TV screens currently existing in Brazil, each measuring some 103 square meters and costing approximately US$ 3 million. The high definition screens will be placed at the far ends of the Arena, behind the goals. Picture to your right, courtesy of Wagner Pesinato.

WTorre has also recently released pictures of the proposed colour scheme for the seats at the Arena, sporting an abstract pattern, perhaps resembling camouflage. White and two shades of green will be used.
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Speaking of design: pictures of the third jersey for the centenary are out. The piece seeks inspiration from the very earliest models worn by the players of Palestra Italia. Gorgeous.
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To round things off, a video of Mr John Farrell, head of YouTube’s Latin America division, paying a visit to Palmeiras. In the interview, Farrell expresses how impressed everyone is at the growth of TV Palmeiras, within days bound to reach 250.000 followers on YouTube. Dedicated supporters, good publicity work and exclusive content is the key to TV Palmeiras’ success, in Farrell’s view. I’d say especially the last ingredient has been important in this specific case: Palmeiras supporters are very thirsty for backstage news. The insights into training and preparation routines of our players before and after games have approached players and supporters, showing supporters the human filling out the jersey out there on the pitch: a human of flesh and blood with aspirations, desires, fears and faith.
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If TV Palmeiras and media coverage interest you, you’ll certainly enjoy the upcoming article here at Anything Palmeiras: an extensive, all-exclusive interview with Mr Stefano Bozzi, Head of Programmes at Manchester United TV. MUTV was launched in 1998 and has today an estimated global audience of 6 million in 85 countries. Bozzi will tell us a little about concept, strategy, and how it is to work for a club with one of the largest – if not the largest – supporter base on the planet. Stay tuned!

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Again, our favourite moustache man had to improvise due to the large amount of injured players: Luan, Maurício Ramos, Thiago Heleno and Román are all recovering from muscle-related injuries, while Barcos is in the final stages of recovery from the appendicitis and Assunção has been feeling pains in the knee. The solution is bringing up the new generation and again, Wellington took position alongside Leandro Amaro as centre-back in Bruno’s 50th game between the posts in the Verdão jersey. Full line-up: Bruno; Cicinho (Artur), Leandro Amaro, Wellington and Juninho; Henrique, Márcio Araújo, João Vitor and Valdivia (Daniel Carvalho); Mazinho and Obina (Betinho).

The little more than 7.000 souls that showed up at the Barueri stadium saw Palmeiras in one of their best performances this year: rapid, precise and fluent passing, excellent tactical effort by everyone on the pitch and just the correct amount of intensity – players showing that they knew when to push hard but also when to slow down. The end result was a resounding 3-0, with Obina participating in each of the three goals. I’m telling you: the giant has woken up and will give a great deal of teams a great deal of trouble in this year’s edition of the Brasileirão. It’s joyful to see the newfound confidence in the whole squad.
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Considering all of the above, Valdivia’s comments after the game are even more unfortunate. The “I’m staying” was yesterday exchanged for a “We’ll see” attitude as he again evoked the image of his split family and uttered the phrase “contracts exist to be broken”. We all have Kleber aka Gladiador aka Judas in fresh memory and Valdivia’s stance surely echoes the attitude of the former. The last thing Palmeiras need is another backstage vendetta. If Valdivia is at all concerned about Palmeiras, he should simply put keep his mouth shut and quietly decide about his future.  

— ooo —

The pressure on Deola became too much and the former keeper of choice, replaced by Bruno, is being transferred to Vitória for the rest of the season. It should be a good solution for everyone: at Vitória – a club from the state of Bahia and currently in the second division – Deola should have little problem securing his spot in the starting eleven. Hopefully he recovers his form and either returns to Palmeiras in 2013 or is sold for a hefty amount.

The vacant spot as Bruno’s substitute will be filled by the very promising Raphael Alemão from the youth academy.

Avanti Palestra!

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Scolari did the right thing and opted for observing a large batch of the prospects from the youth academy against Ponte Preta (obviously not wanting to risk his best players due to this coming Wednesday’s Brazil Cup final against Coritiba). We saw Deola; Luiz Gustavo, Leandro Amaro, Román (Wellington, 20′/1st H) and Fernandinho; Patrik, Márcio Araújo, João Denoni and Felipe (João Arthur, 28′/2nd H); Maikon Leite and Patrick Vieira (Caio, 9′/2nd H).

The kids are alright. Those who disappointed were the few “veterans” on the pitch: Marcio Araújo, Leandro Amaro and Patrik. Not to mention butter-fingers Deola.

Second negative aspect: both Román and, worse, Maikon Leite were taken off the pitch due to injuries; most likely none of them will be at Scolari’s disposal on Wednesday. Talk. About. Bad. Spell.
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Palmeiras finally give signs of recovering from the dramatic dip in performance and confidence ever since that defeat against Corinthians in early April. Already knocked out of the São Paulo Championship, Wednesday’s away game against Paraná was crucial. The result – a win by the score of two goals to one – leaves Palmeiras in good conditions to secure a spot in the quarter-finals of the Brazil Cup. The second leg will be played on 9 or 10 April.

Scolari provoked some changes to the squad, swapping heavily criticised Deola for second keeper Bruno, promoting recently arrived Mazinho on Luan (suspended) and Valdivia pairing with Barcos. Both Bruno and Mazinho left good to great impressions, partly comforting the supporter fearing a more acute lack of options on the bench. Especially Deola might have to get used to playing second violin. For how long, only time will tell.

The pitch of the Durival de Britto stadium in Coritiba endured perfectly well the hours of heavy rain and permitted a good game of football. The wetness even proved an ally for the lethal professional named Marcos Assunção. With uncanny precision he opened up the scorecard with a textbook free kick: over the wall, centimetres from the post, dropping to hit the slippery grass only a meter or so in front of the diving keeper. Unfortunately, minutes later he left the pitch due to pains in a leg and a few ribs – injuries contracted during the game against Guarani.

Overall, Palmeiras dominated the action but suffered the equalizer before halftime in one of Paranás few opportunities. Luckily, this time nerves stayed in place and our players methodically continued creating opportunities, not least through Mazinho’s investments on the left flank. It was however the opportunist Patrik who recovered a ball deep in enemy territory and rapidly advanced into the penalty zone before being summarily mowed down by a Paraná defender. While Valdivia discussed with the referee, calling for a yellow card, centre-back Henrique stepped up and placed the ball on the chalk. He slammed the penalty high and hard in the middle, closing the scorecard. A good result, actually great considering the circumstances. Highlights below.
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With two weeks to rest and practice, the squad has plenty of time to get prepared for the return game. Felipão should have Daniel Carvalho and Assunção once again at his disposal. It takes just one victory to make palmeirenses smile again.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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Deola reaches 100
This Sunday against Comercial in the last round of the pre-knockout phase of the São Paulo Cup, 28-year-old successor of Saint Marcos, Deola, completes 100 games for Palmeiras. Let’s hope that he will be able to look back on the game with pleasure and that three point will suffice to propel Palmeiras into fourth place. And turning 29 in less than a week (19 April to me exact), why not turn those three points into a little present in advance?

Wesley
One who will have no choice but to watch all the action from the safety of his couch is Wesley: the midfielder underwent surgery Wednesday morning and is already up and about on crutches. The medics claim the surgery was a complete success. Already next week Wesley will initiate physiotherapy but his return to the pitch is, as previously announced, expected to take something between 6-8 months.

Lid on
In order to facilitate players focusing on the important games ahead – both in the final stages of the São Paulo Cup and the upcoming games in the Brazil Cup – Palmeiras’ management have wisely decided to not discuss the future of any of their strikers, even though the contracts of both Ricardo Bueno and Fernandão expire in May. Vinícius is another player who’s future is soon to be decided upon. However, the message is clear: any transfer of players will be discussed after the end of the Paulistão.

Palmeiras B
Palmeiras B finished the A/2 competition in 17th place and dropped to A/3. Yes, A/3. That would be of less importance if Palmeiras B served as testing grounds and incubator of future stars. Problem is Palmeiras are notoriously bad at bringing up talents. And the B squad is huge, currently 56 players, at a monthly cost of approximately US$ 200.000. Money well spent? One would hardly think so. Yet, Palmeiras B survive. Seems like quite a few and influential people might have vested interest in the scheme, including shares in player transactions and the like. In any case, the information is out that the squad will be slimmed down to 24 and the budget cut by some 40 per cent, awaiting a decision regarding the maintaining or not of Palmeiras B expected in October. This piece of info has however not been officially confirmed.

— ooo —

Off on duty travel for the lions’ share of the coming week, expect no updates to the blog before next weekend. Take care you all and AVANTI PALESTRA!

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