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Atlético Mineiro 1-1 Palmeiras
Cuca used the two weeks to tweak defence and midfield creativity. Yesterday’s first test against Atlético Mineiro was an interesting albeit frustrating experience:  individual errors and a biased referee saw two Palmeiras players – Luan and Willian – sent off, not permitting the game to evolve organically. Still, the end result and, in particular, the way Palmeiras occupied spaces and to a certain extent controlled the game at the Estádio Independência – even one and later two men short – are good indicators the team has evolved. How much, possibly we will learn more about on Monday the 18th, when Palmeiras receive Coritiba.

Monday, Palmeiras are issuing a formal protest against Leandro Vuaden. On two occasions, both crucial, he failed to do the right thing: award a penalty for Palmeiras as a shot was blocked with open arms, and have a converted Atlético penalty go repeat after an Atlético player grossly invaded the penalty box. In addition, criteria for distribution of yellow and red cards were inexistent throughout the game.  
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Is there anything left for palmeirenses to enjoy this year? Sure. The Libertadores Cup spot needs securing. And seriously… Palmeiras are 14 points behind Corinthians, but the skunks have lost three out of last four games, with 15 rounds to go. Then there is the deliciousness of São Paulo FC’s desperate battle against relegation…

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Felipe Melo has been reintegrated into the squad. Not meaning Cuca will take advantage of the new-old addition. During an unfortunate press conference, the loose cannon was allowed to take centre stage and the habitual stream of bombastic bull followed. Just for starters, Melo alleged categorically not having apologized to Cuca… I expect Melo to train with the squad and, occasionally, make it to the bench. And negotiated as soon as an opportunity arises.

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Palmeiras’ youth divisions are doing well. Three athletes – midfielder Alan, centre-back Vitão and left-back Luan – have been selected for Brazil’s U17 squad playing the World Cup in India 6-28 October.

So far this year, 15 Palmeiras players have represented Brazil in one of the youth categories: nine in the Brazil U15 (keepers Mateus and Bruno Carcaioli, centre-backs Henri and Renan, defender Garcia, midfielders Fabinho and Gabriel Silva and forwards Vinicius and Gabriel Veron), another five in the U17 team (defenders Lucas Rosa and Luan Cândido, centre-back Vitão and midfielders Alan and Bruno Tattavito) and forward Léo Passos for the U20. Promising for the future.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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With 13 days to train and rest after the classico, a sense of normality has enveloped Palmeiras. The newsworthy events are few. Not necessarily is a bad thing.

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Gabriel Jesus’ former manager Fábio Caran and Palmeiras have reached an agreement whereby the club receives a further R$ 20 million (US$ 6.4 million) originating from the player’s sale to Manchester City.

Initially entitled to receive only 30% of the R$ 121 million, Palmeiras increased the club’s percentage to 50% due to the manager and his wife having breached the contract by forming a partnership with two other entrepreneurs without the club’s consent. The agreement ends a yearlong imbroglio in the courts. Caran, originally to receive R$ 28 million, thus ends up with R$ 8 million.

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Felipe Melo seems likely to return to the Palmeiras squad. No offers from abroad has surfaced and there are some legal aspects to consider if Melo would continuously be kept separate from the rest of the men. Players seem fine with a reintegration; the main concern is rather as to what point coach Cuca and Melo will be able to reconcile.

The defensive midfielder is on a contract with Palmeiras until end of 2019.

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Following Vitinhos’ loan deal to Barcelona B, a number of young Palmeiras players have followed suit, negotiated with European clubs.  

In yesterday’s last day of the European transfer window, Emerson Muller of the U20 squad was negotiated, for an undisclosed amount, on a four-year contract with Suisse club FC Lugano. In any future transfer of the midfielder, Palmeiras are entitled to 20%.

The previous day, 18-year-old forward Gabriel Barbosa was negotiated on a one-year loan deal with Italian top-division club Spal.

Centre-back Gabriel Estigarribia and forward Matheus Iacovelli have also left, both for good: the defender is with Alavés of Spain, and the forward with Estoril, Portugal.

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There are rumours Miguel Borja could be open for a transfer, concerned about limited play time at Palmeiras and the risk of losing his spot in Colombia’s national squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Both Cuca and Galiotte have however reiterated that Borja is very focused and determined to make it work at Palmeiras. The player himself acknowledge difficulties in adapting to the Brazilian style of play and Cuca’s philosophy, but guarantees he is staying. Borja has four more years to his contract.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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On Friday, ahead of Saturday’s game against Avaí, coach Cuca told the squad Felipe Melo would not be in the starting eleven nor on the bench. On Saturday night, after a convincing 2-0 against the team from Florianópolis, Cuca laid it out to the press: Felipe Melo will not proceed at Palmeiras.

Melo is an ambitious and strong-headed individual, never comfortable with the bench. Cuca does not see Melo’s playing style as ideal while seeking to emulate the characteristics of the 2016 team: speed, quick transitions, advanced positions paired with aggressive marking of the opponent. This was discussed with the player and mutual consent was reached: better part ways. Simple as that.
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With his extremely outspoken and self-promoting personality, Felipe Melo has divided opinions among palmeirenses. Personally, I have no problem with him leaving. I see better options in Bruno Henrique and Thiago Santos, paired with Moisés’ emminent return. Palmeiras are paying the price for a rather turbulent first six months, Cuca’s absence and subsequent return the pivoting factor. At this point, Cuca needs full backing to catch up for time lost, within limits reshape the squad and find that playing style he so much envisions. Anything not part of the solution is part of the problem. 

Melo has played only five games so far in the Brasileirão, he has not reached the limit that would prevent him from defending another first division team this season. There are however no indications at this point regarding his future: possibly, he will remain at Palmeiras for a few weeks, training in separate, while things are being solved. His contract with Palmeiras formally ends in December of 2019.

During his seven months at Palmeiras, Melo played 27 games and scored twice. Although his passage was brief, he certainly left his mark, always defending the club with blood and sweat.

Anything Palmeiras wishes Melo good luck in his future endeavours.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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UPDATE, 1/8/2017 – 12:55

We learnt today from Palmeiras’ director of football Alexandre Mattos that removing Felipe Melo from the squad was far from solely based on technical/tactical concerns. A number of incidents involving Melo had occurred previously, but had been dealt with internally. After Wednesday’s elimination from the Brazil Cup, Melo’s disrespectful attitude in the locker room reached new heights. As the news of the occurrence reached Palmeiras’ directors, they decided to remove Melo, having previously consulted Cuca regarding the possible impacts on the field.

Melo was formally communicated on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, the player apologised to Cuca, club president Galiotte and the squad.

Any possibility of reconciliation was effectively torpedoed yesterday night: in a leaked audio, recorded Sunday night, Melo launches a personal attack on Cuca, in addition to voicing his wish to play somewhere else.

Melo will train separated from the rest of the squad, awaiting interesting offers. Mattos stated there are none on the table at the moment.

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vitor-hugo-palmeirasPalmeiras supporters are likely to have seen the last of Vitor Hugo. Coach Cuca today confirmed the centre-defender is heading for Fiorentina, in return for € 8 million. Out of these, € 4.5 million go to Palmeiras, who in turn will pass on € 1.75 million to Crefisa – the amount corresponds to what the sponsor paid for the athlete in 2015. Thus, Palmeiras’ net revenue are € 2.75 million. The remaining € 3.5 million belong to Tombense, the other holder of the player’s economic rights.

The European transfer windows only opens in June, but Vitor Hugo is likely to be released from his obligations as of now. For Palmeiras, he played a total of 131 games, scoring 13 goals. Anything Palmeiras wishes the humble, charismatic, talented and hard-working 25-year-old the best of luck on his new endeavour. Avanti, Vitor Hugo!

As an immediate response to Vitor Hugo’s exit, Palmeiras are set to sign Juninho, a left-footed 22-year-old currently at Coritiba. The youngster is expected in São Paulo tomorrow Saturday to undergo medical and sign the contract, price tag locked at € 3 million. I have a good feeling about this one.

Speaking of Coritiba: the club from Paraná yesterday confirmed the signing of Alecsandro, beating Bahia for the contract. Palmeiras will continue to pay the forward’s salaries throughout the year in an arrangement reached to settle an unresolved balance linked to Raphael Veiga’s transfer to Palmeiras earlier this year. The experience 36-year-old leaves through the front door after 62 games for the Verdão.

Another forward expected to leave any day is Rafael Marques: seasoned, still hungry, but with oh so little space in Palmeiras’ numerous squad. Cruzeiro is a possible destination, with a player from “the Fox” likely to be involved in a swap.

Finally, a piece of news we nourished hopes not having to declare, but was confirmed tonight: the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) sentenced Felipe Melo to six games of suspension for throwing a punch while chased by numerous Peñarol players after the final whistle in Montevideo late April (recap here and here). The original three Uruguayan aggressors received five games each. The Peñarol player caught on tape knocking Willian down seconds before the final whistle goes unpunished. It is a disgrace, it is a scandal, it is CONMEBOL in a nutshell. Palmeiras have already challenged the sentence, seeking it reduced to the minimum three games of suspension. Good luck with that.

In weeks, CONMEBOL will also rule on the responsibility of each team for what happened in Uruguay. Nothing good can come out of this. At Anything Palmeiras, we stand our ground: should CONMEBOL slap a significant punishment on Palmeiras for being ambushed at the Campeón del Siglo, Palmeiras should walk out on the tournament altogether.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The additional wide-angle video footage that have surfaced in the last couple of days shows that Palmeiras were the victim of an outright assault at the Campeón del Siglo stadium, Montevideo. It all starts seconds before the final whistle, Willian going down after receiving a punch to the face, from behind, inside the penalty box. At the final whistle, Felipe Melo raises his arms towards the sky in his characteristic “thank-you” prass_attackedgesture, while several Peñarol players approach him, starts tugging (Melo still with his arms raised, defensively) then initiate a chase. Meanwhile, keeper Fernando Prass (pictured) tries to defend himself from a series of kicks and punches from three Peñarol players. As the debacle unfolds, now generalised, we see invading Peñarol supporters participating and, I kid you not, Uruguayan press (there is video footage of a photographer hitting Felipe Melo with what seems to be his tripod).

Yesterday morning, Palmeiras lawyer Leonardo Holanda personally handed in documents and video evidence at the Conmebol headquarters in Asunción, Paraguay. Piece of cake, right. Think again.

Awaiting trial, Conmebol has preventively suspended four players for three games: Palmeiras’ Felipe Melo and Peñarol players Nández, Mier and Lucas Hernandez. For starters, none of these was responsible for knocking out Willian.

Worse, the official reports from the referee and the Conmebol delegate state that the ruckus started when Felipe Melo, facing the Peñarol bench, made a gesture towards the sky, provoking a reaction from Peñarol players before mutual punches were thrown. The reports imply that “had it not been for Melo…”

On the day, Peñarol’s president stated he had ordered the gates closed out of concern for security (for whom? certainly not for Palmeiras players and staff left isolated on the pitch to face the rage of the crowds). The other day, Conmebol claimed THEY ordered the gates closed.

The signals are extremely worrying. Seems Conmebol will spare little effort to, at least partially, blame Palmeiras for the events in Montevideo. Absurd? Yes, but not that surprising, considering the entity’s stance on previous occasions involving Brazilian clubs and any other Spanish-speaking neighbours.

Considering the above, it is even sadder to register the deafening silence from the Brazilian Football Confederation. Add to that the silence from other Brazilian clubs and the overall lack of support from Brazilian sports journalists.

Seldom has it come through more clearly: we are on our own.

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Palmeiras’ spot in the quarterfinals of the Paulistão already secured, coach Baptista has been using remaining games in the group stage to test some ideas and give benchwarmers the opportunity. The alternative line-ups have not cooled down attendance: 21,5K against Mirassol at 8:30 pm on a Thursday and today, at 4 pm against Audax, a whopping 28K on the stands.

Against Mirassol, only two or three regular starting eleven players in the line-up. Same thing against Audax. One must tailor expectations accordingly. The team played surprisingly solid against the former, 2-0, goals by Rafael Marques and Felipe Melo (his first for Palmeiras). Today’s 2-2 against Audax was less satisfying (goals signed Róger Guedes and Willian), but again: only Tchê Tchê, Zé Roberto and Vitor Hugo are normally associate with the starting eleven. In addition, it is natural for players to relax a bit, as the objective – to reach the knockout phase – has already been achieved.
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F_Melo_1st_goal

Felipe Melo celebrates first goal in the Palmeiras jersey

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In any case, from the two games we learnt that Antonio Carlos is a good option in the centre lock and that Guedes is finding his form.

With today´s draw, Palmeiras sustain an undefeated home streak of 19 games, being 15 victories and 4 draws. Eight long months. Eduardo Baptista’s overall percentage is 69: in 15 games for Palmeiras, he computes 9 victories, 4 draws and 2 defeats.

Attendance
Back to the topic of attendance: already in 2016, Palmeiras were pulling ahead of other teams in Brazil. With a 32.471 average attendance in 2016, Palmeiras rank 56th in the world, Corinthians coming in at 74th with an 28.764 average. Internacional is the third Brazilian club on the top 100, at 96th, with an 25.422 average. Considering that Palmeiras also had the highest average ticket price in Brazil last year – R$ 60 (S$ 19) – one can easily imagine the long-term effects.

The aforementioned study was carried out by Brazilian newspaper Correio Braziliense and looked at 2.956 teams in 75 countries. In case you are curious, the top five teams are Borussia Dortmund (81.178), Barcelona (79.724), Manchester United (75.286), Bayern München (75.000) and Real Madrid (71.280).

Allianz Parque now family friendly
Against São Paulo FC, a novelty: Palmeiras debuted a new, designated “family area” at the Allianz Parque. Any adult buying a ticket for this area can bring a child, up to the age of six, without additional charge. Something of the sort has been a long-standing demand from supporters. Finally attended!

Players in the MD
In the medical department, unfortunately centre-back Thiago Martins has joined Moisés. The youngster ripped his knee ligaments during training the other week, and just like Moisés will need at least six month’s recovery time. The misfortune did however not stop Palmeiras from renewing the player’s contract, extending it another year, now running until the end of 2019. 

Two more player are in the medical department. Jean injured his foot against Santos, but a full recovery is expected in another week or so. Arouca had a second surgery to his left ankle yesterday and has being taken off the Paulistão list, with Hyoran replacing him. Should be interesting to watch.

Last game before the quarterfinals is Ponte Preta, away, upcoming Wednesday.

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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