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prass2014.
Home form has always been spoken of as a crucial element in the fight against relegation. It appears the rule applies even for giants like Palmeiras, threatened with the prospect of relegation for the last couple of months. The uneasy dip into the relegation zone a few weeks ago brought back ghosts from the past, but a run of four wins in the last five matches has propelled the Verdão closer to mid-table places. True, Brazilian betting odds from Betfair still places Palmeiras as one of the relegation candidates, but nevertheless, palmeirenses as of late sleep better at night.

Where does the transformation come from? We’ve earlier touched upon the importance of two key players performing: Fernando Prass and Valdivia. With these two in the starting eleven, Palmeiras as a whole change, the team clicks.

That being said, keeper Prass himself has laid a finger on the support from home fans as the reason for the recent turnaround: out of the four victories that the club has achieved in the last five matches, three have come at home. Indeed, anyone who saw 30.000 palmeirenses carrying Palmeiras toward victory against Grêmio last Saturday knows what Prass is talking about.

Brazilian football has been criticised in recent times for being fickle, but Prass has praised Palmeiras’ supporters for sticking with them even during tough times. There was a period when the club went ten matches without a victory, but even then, Palmeiras were capable of pulling in a regular crowd through the gates, even at more often than not abusive tickets prices.

Palmeiras may have put a four point buffer between them and the relegation zone, but the fight is not over just yet: bringing out the best for the upcoming tough games against Santos and top dog (or rather, fox) Cruzeiro is crucial. Focus and dedication is key, in addition to the continuation of striker Henrique’s good form. With ten rounds to go, an additional four victories should see Palmeiras clear of relegation. A little bit more, and we could even picture grabbing a spot in next year’s South America Cup. Who knows we might even celebrate a golden boot for Henrique at the end of it all?

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Scholars of chaos theory sometimes make reference to “the butterfly effect”, in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name of the effect was coined by Edward Lorenz, who claimed that a hurricane could have its origins in something as humble as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly weeks back in time.

In chaos theory, the mathematical models are absurdly complex and, infallibly, most factors that should be taken into consideration are not even known to the scientist. Even so, these brilliant minds come up with rather astonishing models.

That being said, I dare any of them to explain football.

After the 2-2 draw against Flamengo, Palmeiras’ ability to react – even under severe pressure – seemed to point in the right direction. Dorival Júnior might not have the best of squads in his hands, but enough material do work with – physically and mentally – to rebuild something that would resemble a team.

On the Sunday against Goiás, Palmeiras’ momentum of evolution was to be confirmed. But Palmeiras were beaten to a pulp. 6-0 are shocking numbers against any team and, with all due respect, even more so against Goiás. After a defeat like that, and with Palmeiras finishing the round in the bottom of the tables, obviously the President steps up to face the music. Well, not our president: 48 hours after the disaster, Paulo Nobre was still nowhere to be seen. Journalists were instead treated to 19-year-old Nathan – who made his first team debut against Fluminense on September 13 but didn’t even come on against Goiás – to quench their thirst. Apparently, the kid trembled like a leaf during the press conference but nevertheless stood his ground: “I’m only 19 but I speak for Palmeiras. I’ve waited for this opportunity and I’m ready”.

Nathan was found on the bench the following game against Vitória. Against a direct contender for relegation, Palmeiras did well at the Pacaembu and won 2-0 after goals from Lúcio and Henrique, one in each half. The three points did not lift Palmeiras out of the relegation zone, but close enough to relight hopes amongst supporters.

Hopes trashed the following Sunday, as Palmeiras let an odd goal away victory over Figueirense bizarrely slip away in the last 15 minutes, the game ending 3-1.

Yesterday, it was once again all or nothing against another direct contender for relegation: Chapecoense. Palmeiras came on guns ablaze and we could have had 2-0 within 15 minutes. Instead, the action slowly levelled and then, just before halftime, Chapecoense took the lead. With ten minutes of the second half, not a soul at the Pacaembu stadium was believing the scorecard was still 0-1, Chapecoense having blown three clear opportunities to drive it home. Everything spelled disaster and relegation when Wesley – in the starting eleven enjoying the confidence of coach Dorival, who worked with him at Santos – equalised. Jaws then dropped all over the universe as Henrique quickly followed up with a legitimate hat-trick, before Chapecoense made it 4-2 in the dying minutes of the game.
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The three points lifted Palmeiras out of the relegations zone, regardless of other results in this 26th of 38 rounds taking place this weekend. Henrique is currently top scorer in the 2014 Brazilian championship. Our next adversary are crisis-stricken Botafogo, and another victory could put Palmeiras at a distance of no more than one or two points from the upper half of the tables. Suck on that, professors of chaos.

— ooo —

Today the national transfer window closed and Palmeiras brought in two second-division players: keeper Jaílson from Ceará and defensive midfielder Washington from Joinville (although negotiations were conducted with Penapolense). Jaílsons contract with Palmeitras runs until May next year. He was second option between the posts at Ceará, but that might very likely be better than Palmeiras current first and second option. Washington was a regular in Joinville’s starting eleven and should be able to fight for a position also at Palmeiras’. He has three months to make a lasting impression. More on these two later.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Mail_Online2.
It’s a well-known fact: Brazil has only won the World Cup when there were Palmeiras players in the squad. Mazzola in 1958; Djalma Santos, Vavá and Sequinha in 1962; Baldochi and Leão in 1970; Zinho and Mazinho in 1994; Marcos in 2002.

No Palmeiras players are to be found in the Brazil 2014 World Cup squad. The closest we have is defender Henrique, who transferred from Palmeiras to Napoli a few weeks before being called up be Luiz Felipe Scolari. No player, up until now, that is.

Seems like the sports section of prominent, UK based Daily Mail has decided to give Brazil a hand. In the picture above, “Scolari’s Henrique” has been substituted by Palmeiras’ centre-forward Henrique, recently arrived from Portuguesa. If you look carefully, “Palmeiras Henrique” (second row, second from the left) is even wearing a yellow Palmeiras jersey, paying homage to a historical game in 1965 when Palmeiras represented the full, Brazilian national squad in the opening game of the Mineirão stadium in Belo Horizonte, defeating Uruguay 3-0.

Thank you, Daily Mail: at least now, Brazil stands a fighting chance!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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High noon, and all spotlights were directed toward Bruno César, the 25-year-old competent midfielder receiving his Palmeiras jersey, number 30, from the hands of president Paulo Nobre. We learnt the player gave up on receiving US$ 800.000 – a debt Al Ahli wanted to pass on to Palmeiras but the club was more than hesitant to take on – in order to speed up the transfer process. We learn he is eager to show his worth, to get in shape as soon as possible, preferably to debut for Palmeiras against his former club, arch rivals Corinthians. We learnt this and more, but unfortunately, our attention was irrevocably diverted by the unexpected news that our team captain, Henrique, was leaving for Napoli. The Swedes call this “smolk i bägaren”, dirt in the cup. You’re commemorating, you’re lifting your glass to toast, and something comes in the way to ruin your happiness.
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henrique.
Napoli had expressed interest in Henrique before, but as a loan. Now, with the transfer window closing on Friday, they turned it up not one but many notches: €4 million for Henrique, offering him a four-year contract. The players’ agent deemed Napoli’s offer irresistible, and so did Henrique, signing the agreement as Palmeiras gave their blessing. Of the €4 million – actually corresponding to only two thirds of the stipulated transfer fee – Palmeiras pocket 80%, the remaining 20% to be split between the player and his agent.

Henrique is a good player. And our captain. But he’s not irreplaceable. If the “irre$i$tible” offer made him change his mind, better let him go before he contaminates the rest of the squad. €4 million is not bad cash. The timing is not good, but that’s out of our director’s control. Now, a replacement is needed, and fast. Depending on what will arrive, we’re in better shape to judge to what extent Henrique’s exit was beneficial or detrimental to Palmeiras.

A final word, and always worth remembering: We Love Palmeiras. Players do not. They play for Palmeiras, and they get paid for it. Never expect their love, much less demand it. Hell, distrust any player who expresses his love for Palmeiras (there are a few exceptions to this last sentence, and we all know who they are). Adopting this posture will save you from disappointments, time and time again.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Ave César

The long awaited transfer was sealed yesterday, as Al Ahli sent the confirmation fax, allowing Bruno César to put pen to paper. Al Ahli were actually prolonging negotiations a fair bit, expecting other clubs to show interest, but Bruno César made it very clear he wanted Palmeiras and nothing else. The midfielder even accepted a 50% salary reduction and has, as all newcomers, adhered to the new productivity contract model. At the end of the year, Palmeiras have the option to buy, with the price fixed in the contract: €5 million. Very good reinforcement, this one. Can’t wait to see his debut.

Ave Palmeiras
Speaking of debuts: Palmeiras opened the season last Saturday against Linense in the São Paulo Cup with a 2-1 victory, goals by Mazinho and Alan Kardec. Serginho on the right flank, and with França’s debut in the middle of the second half. Highlights below.
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Ave Lúcio

Then, last Thursday, we had Lúcio’s debut in the away game against Comercial. The experienced centre-back was in the starting eleven and played the full 90 minutes, showing he’s ready for whatever might come. Palmeiras killed the game in the first half, with Juninho and Wesley on the scorecard in halftime (Serginho should have been there too hadn’t the lineswoman incorrectly called an offside). Second half was all about control, with the heat at +30 degrees Celsius. Highlights below.
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Ave Jersey
The launch was originally scheduled for the 30 January, but we already have official pictures of Palmeiras’ jersey for 2014. Rather restrained, I’d say. In any case, Palmeiras and Adidas will be launching other, commemorative jersey during the year.
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In addition, Palmeiras will next week launch the Família Palmeiras, a sort of fidelity programme that will distribute points to participants. Details to follow.

Ave Muller
matheus_muller2Remember we highlighted the performance of left-back Matheus Muller during the recent Sub20 competitions? Well, he was called up for the Sub20 National squad ahead of a friendly against the Mexican Sub21 happening tomorrow Sunday. Keep up the good work and good things will happen. Avanti, Matheus!

Ave Henrique
Also our team captain Henrique has had searchlights on him, but of a different kind: Italian club Napoli are looking at reinforcing their defensive sector. It’s not the first time they try to snatch Henrique, but timing couldn’t be worse: we’re in Palmeiras’ centenary, with the World Cup coming up (and Henrique stands a chance, although remote, to be called up by Scolari), and with the inauguration of the Allianz Parque only months away. Henrique has made it very clear: he wishes to stay at Palmeiras. But Palmeiras might want to sell if the price is right. If indeed a deal is reached with Napoli, it’d better be the deal of the century; that or Nobre/Brunoro be prepared for a storm of protests.  

Ave Bruninho
bruninhoWhile we’re on the topic of transfers: Palmeiras have signed a pre-agreement with Bruninho, a defensive midfielder from Portuguesa. The 21-year-old, by most considered quite the promising player, is free to sign with other teams and would come to Palmeiras for free. Seems like the club is willing to offer him a longer contract, four years. If confirmed, he’ll be joining the squad in the window between the state championships and this year’s Brazilian Championship.

Without a doubt, of all major clubs Palmeiras have signed the most and best so far. Certainly other club directors are scratching their heads, looking our way, contemplating a thing or two.

Copa do Brasil
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) this week launched dates and places for the first round of the Brazil Cup. Palmeiras will travel to the state of Rondônia, playing against the team of Vilhena on 12 March. An away victory by two or more goals, and the Verdão eliminate the need for a return game.  

Paulistão
Tomorrow Sunday, Palmeiras play Atlético Sorocaba in the third round of the Paulistão. Aiming for the third straight win, coach Kleina has called up Valdivia to integrate the squad. With Bruno César in direct competition for the spot as playmaker, Valdivia better stay sharp.    

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The week that started off with a bang in Boston also brought about sadness in São Paulo as a wire on one of the cranes in operation at the construction site of the New Arena snapped, dropping a load onto a group of workers, killing one and injuring another two. A thorough investigation will be carried out, as always when these kinds of unfortunately not so uncommon accidents happen. Work was supposed to gradually return to normal beginning on Wednesday, but until now (Thursday night) everything’s quiet at the construction site. During tonight’s game Against Sporting Cristal, our players wore a black arm band as a tribute to the deceased.

The tragic accident is the wrong backdrop to announce the mega-agreement being finalised as these lines are written: unless something unexpected surface, Palmeiras and WTorre will shortly announce the selling of the New Arena naming rights to Europe’s largest insurance company, German Allianz. The deal is speculated to be worth some US$ 150 million for a period of 10 years, the New Arena joining the Allianz family members in Germany (Allianz Arena, Munich), England (Allianz Park, London), France (Allianz Riviera, Nice) and Australia (Allianz Stadium, Sydney). “Allianz Palestra”, anyone?

ayrton_palmeiras_afp.jpg_95Back to the Libertadores game. Palmeiras sent a decimated squad to Peru, as Kleina wisely opted for letting Henrique and Vinícius rest – they had two yellow cards each and thus risked missing out on the first leg of the knockout phase if booked in the last game – instead promoting Vilson and Ronny. Our men in green didn’t maintain the posture from recent games and managed the least likely: lose to already disqualified Sporting Cristal, while Tigre, in Assunção (!), were beating Libertad by a margin of three goals and pushing Palmeiras down to second place. On stoppage time however, Libertad scored and propelled Palmeiras back into first position. Phew. In theory, easier competition in the next round and the advantage of playing the second leg on home grounds.

EDIT: Tijuana/MEX are up next. First game away, second in São Paulo.

Speaking of Henrique: our captain was called up by Scolari for the friendly against Chile on 24 April in Belo Horizonte. The centre-back will commemorate his return to the national squad in company of Leandro, the young striker enjoying his second opportunity to make a lasting impression. All in all, Scolari called up 18 players, all active in Brazil.

Thankfully, Henrique and Leandro should not be missing any games for Palmeiras while serving the national squad.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra! Although not today. But hey, we finished first, didn’t we?

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It took seven rounds, but Palmeiras finally won a game in this year’s Brasileirão (check out the tables to the right). The 3-1 against Figueirense came at an important moment to release at least some of the pressure: everyone can focus on the Brazil Cup final with a victory vibe.

Not that it was an easy game. Palmeiras, featuring Deola back in the starting lineup (12 games absent due to Bruno’s better form), came with Cicinho, Thiago Heleno, Maurício Ramos (Román – 19′ 1st H) and Fernandinho; Márcio Araújo, João Vitor, Felipe, Daniel Carvalho (Valdivia – 22′ 2nd H) and Felipe (Mazinho – 26′ 2nd H); Maikon Leite and Barcos. Plenty of traditional bench warmers, but what we got was an open game with plenty of chances being created on both sides. Figueirense could have walked away with victory had they taken better advantage of theirs, but in the end the pendulum swung in Palmeiras’ favour, honouring the hard work of front men Barcos and Maikon Leite. Not an unjust result but perhaps slightly misleading. Highlights below.
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Maurício Ramos felt his left thigh already in the first half, leaving way for Román, but today received positive news from the medial department and trained in the afternoon before leaving with the rest of the squad for a hotel in the northern parts of São Paulo. Coach Scolari has anticipated the seclusion and will conduct secret practice sessions as of tomorrow.
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Palmeiras’ squad is complete with the exception of centre-back Henrique: as these lines are in the making, he’s defending himself in the Supreme Tribunal of Sports. It will take a miracle. IF (in major capital letters) Henrique escapes – and he should if any higher justice remains – I’ll let you know a.s.a.p.

— ooo —

Off topic: the voting for the 2012 Football Blogging Awards closed last Friday and so it happens that Anything Palmeiras made the shortlist in the Best Club Specific Blog category. Winners will be announced at the official Awards Ceremony talking place in Manchester (UK) on 14 July. The ceremony will have live comments on twitter (@TheFBAs) while pictures and videos in due time should appear on the FBAs official facebook page. 

Fingers crossed!

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