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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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Unusual in Brazilian football, and certainly for Palmeiras, the club recently saw two of their players suspended on doping charges: seasoned forward Alecsandro and midfielder Arouca.

622_269bb3e3-71bd-341a-a34d-ef7d65aaab0cThe scenario looked particularly bad for Alecsandro, tested positive twice and slapped with a two-year ban by the São Paulo Tribunal of Sports, practically ending the career of the 35-year-old. However, in a surprising turn of events, the international doping agency Wada informed the Brazilians that the second test was, in fact, a false positive.  In other words: no confirmation of illegal substance detected. With that, he was immediately cleared for training and play at Palmeiras.

As for Arouca, the club’s lawyers are confident he will also be cleared. Although an illegal substance was indeed detected in the athlete’s urine sample, it is the result of an intra-articular procedure, approved by Wada, whereby a certain drug is applied directly to an injured joint in order to lessen an inflammatory process. Due to this, although Arouca is awaiting trial, he is free to play for Palmeiras until further notice.

The World Cup qualifiers continue to take their toll on Palmeiras. Gabriel Jesus has been called up for Brazil’s home game against Bolivia on 6 October and for the away game against Venezuela on the 11th. In addition, Lucas Barrios has been summoned for Paraguay’s games against Colombia and Argentina. The offensive duo will miss two games in the Brazilian championship: against América Mineiro away on 9 October and against Cruzeiro at home on the 12th. In addition, there is a considerable risk/chance Yerry Mina will be called up by Pékerman for Colombia’s clashes with Uruguay and, as mentioned above, Paraguay. In the light of the above, Palmeiras are likely to request the game against Cruzeiro be transferred to the 13th, in order to have the two/three players back and in playing condition. Stay tuned.

gabriel_1191zh9i8iq9e1me42945gns1rDefensive midfielder Gabriel and Palmeiras seem close to sign a new, five-year agreement. The player is on a two-year loan from Monte Azul and was a pillar in Palmeiras’ defence throughout most of last year, until a severe knee injury took him out. Only recently has Gabriel showed he is returning to good old form. In order to secure the player’s economic rights, Palmeiras will reportedly pay approximately US$ 1.6 million.

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Saturday last week, Palmeiras went to the Itaqueirão to beat Corinthians 2-0, goals by Moisés and Yerry Mina. That ended Corinthians’ streak of 34 games undefeated at home. Palmeiras keep the lead in the Brasileirão, with Flamengo one point behind. Palmeiras’ next victim, Coritiba, Saturday, at the Allianz Parque.

Yesterday, Palmeiras secured their spot in the Brazil Cup quarterfinals after an uninspiring game against Botafogo/PB. As the first leg ended 3-0 in Verdão‘s favour, Cuca opted for resting all regular starting eleven players except Zé Roberto in this second leg, and the odd goal defeat was fair enough. Tomorrow Friday, the draw to define Palmeiras’ next opponent: Corinthians, Santos, Grêmio, Cruzeiro, Atlético Mineiro, Internacional/Fortaleza and São Paulo/Juventus are the contenders.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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When Cuca claimed Palmeiras would bag the title this year, many a palmeirense cringed. Then, sports journalists started expressing the view that the Verdão were indeed a major contender. With the squad training hard and key players staying out of the medical department, even the most skeptic supporter started to believe the hype.
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“We stand together, heading for the title”

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In recent times, we have seen expectations grow then being crushed before a large and incredulous home crowd. Would Saturday’s debut in the Brasileirão prove to be more of the same, or would Palmeiras actually deliver, delighting the 33.000 supporters at the Allianz Parque?

What we saw was Palmeiras’ best championship debut in 20 years. The 19 days Cuca has had at his disposal shone through as Palmeiras came on stronger, faster, more technical and tactical than in a long time. Ball possession at 61%, over 500 passes, the players radiating confidence and determination, every one of them knowing their tasks and executing them well. 4-0 against the Paraná state champions Atlético Paranaense. No one could have asked for a better start. Highlights below.
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In an afternoon marked by collective strength, a few players nevertheless stood out. Cleiton Xavier is back with a vengeance, dominating the midfield like a true playmaker. Tchê Tchê alternated between defensive midfield, offensive midfield and right-winger, constantly swapping positions with Jean: the kid has been at Palmeiras less than a week and is just killing it. Barrios is not scoring (yet) but plays a fundamentally important role, keeping the defenders busy and opening up spaces for Gabriel Jesus and Róger Guedes, Palmeiras’ mortal strikers. In the second half, Alecsandro, Rafael Marques and Moisés came on: tough luck for anyone wanting to see Dudu, Arouca, Gabriel, Allione, Thiago Santos, Cristaldo, Zé Roberto, Erik… Not even mentioning Mina, who only arrives in June.

A special nod goes to Barrios who asked the Paraguayan national coach not to call him up for the Copa America competition, outright expressing his desire to remain at Palmeiras in order to obtain a sequence of games and acquire rhythm. That’s commitment. As also displayed by Alecsandro, giving the referee a nasty look as he blew the final whistle 20 seconds before stoppage time, adding no injury time to the clock: Palmeiras were 4-0, but Alecsandro wanted more.

This squad, under Cuca´s command, has huge potential. It’s for everyone to see. Even those visually impaired.

Saturday, a group of 21 blind persons, each with an accompanying assistant, got a special treat: first, a guided tour of the Allianz Parque, then, seats right behind one of the goals, enjoying a specialized, live descriptive transmission through headphones during the game. The video below is in Portuguese, but I assure you that you will find that completely irrelevant. Congratulations Palmeiras and everyone involved: fingers crossed this beautifully moving experience can grow into something more than a one-off event!
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Palmeiras now enjoy another week of rest and training before heading to neighbouring city of Campinas and Saturday’s game against Ponte Preta.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Nerve-racking, as could be expected, and a closer call than needed be, had the referee been better positioned to signal that second penalty which most likely would have seen Palmeiras 3-0 in halftime.

Never mind. It was a terrific game, frank and fought just like the away game previous week. Difference this time, Palmeiras completely dominating the first half, every single man stepping it up, not least Amaral, Jackson and youngster Matheus Sales, freshly promoted from the youth academy and as of day one showing surprising maturity. Robinho, back after injury, immediately restoring a good level of creativity to Palmeiras’ midfield. Barrios, the author of two goals that should have been an authentic hat-trick. Last but not least, man of the match Fernando Prass, with decisive saves in the dying minutes of the game, then a giant during the penalty shootout. Enjoy, just as the close to 40.000 palmeirenses in the stands did yesterday.
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In the other corner, Santos effortlessly beat SPFC 3-1 to advance to the finals.

“The Fish” certainly are on a roll and many a sports journalist consider them favourites to win the finals. I would have to agree, were the games to be played on the 4th and 25th of November, as originally planned. However, Santos thought better the games be delayed, received support for the idea from the other three semi-finalists, and convinced the Brazilian Football Federation to change the dates to 25th November and 2nd December respectively. There is no doubt in my mind the three extra weeks will do more good for Palmeiras than Santos, allowing the Verdão to recover both Arouca and Cleiton Xavier, while Marcelo Oliveira continues tuning the machine.

Sunday, the same Santos await at the Vila Belmiro in the 33rd round of the Brasileirão. Depending on other results, a victory – although of course difficult – is enough to propel Palmeiras from 8th back into 4th position.

There you go. With a squad completely reassembled at the beginning of the year, Palmeiras reached the finals in the São Paulo championship, the finals in the Brazil Cup, and are two points shy of a spot in the G4. Any Palmeiras supporter telling you this year is a failure you put over your knee and give a good spanking.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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We witnessed a horrendous first half from Palmeiras, completely lacking offensive impetus: only minutes before halftime, a first shot at goal. Palmeiras went into the dressing room losing 1-0, Jackson having failed at clearing a corner, leaving it to Jean to stuff the net. Had it not been for Fluminense’s obvious weaknesses, it could have gotten very ugly.

Coach Oliveira promoted Rafael Marques on Egídio in halftime, Zé Roberto as usual being dislocated to the left flank. Palmeiras improved significantly, but it looked like curtains as Cícero, on a rare venture into Palmeiras territory, expertly folded his knees as Fernando Prass slid towards him, the referee confirming the penalty.

Fred stepped up to the spot. Had he made it 2-0, I guess Enderson Moreira would still be coaching Fluminense – as it happens, 40 minutes after he final whistle he received the boot, the carioca team now looking for their fourth coach this season.

With renewed hope, Palmeiras went for it. Oliveira swapped Arouca for Allione and Alecsandro for Barrios, and in a matter of minutes Palmeiras equalized through the latter. Less than ten minutes later, Gabriel Jesus stole the ball from a Fluminense defender and blasted it passed Cavalieri. Fluminense fell to pieces. On stoppage time, Barrios bagged another two braces.
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barrios8The day before yesterday, Barrios rejoiced as he announced he had come to an agreement with Cleiton Xavier to swap numbers: Barrios has always preferred the 8, and Xavier agreed to let it go, taking the 10 instead. Immediate results: last time a foreigner scored a hattrick for Palmeiras was in 1969 – Argentine centre-forward Luis Artime, against Botafogo-SP.

It has been eight long years since Palmeiras last beat Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro.

Palmeiras, Flamengo and SPFC all have 41 points, our rivals however with one game less played. Depending on today’s results, Palmeiras are a draw from the G4. Not that we can afford thinking about anything but victories: that last spot in the G4 is within the reach of many, and particularly Flamengo and Santos are looking increasingly strong in form.

Coach Oliveira needs to take a darn good look at his starting eleven and how the men are prepared. You cannot even compare Palmeiras’ first 45 minutes to the last 30, the difference is absurd. Oliveira must promote change, both to the line-up as well as psychologically speaking.

Let’s see which Palmeiras come on against Grêmio on Saturday.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Marcelo Oliveira promoted change, opting for speed and agility against Cruzeiro’s slower defence. Gabriel Jesus and Barrios were found in the starting eleven, as was João Pedro, replacing Lucas on the right flank. Zé Roberto and Robinho in the middle, with Amaral positioned in front of centre-backs Vitor Hugo and Jackson. Egídio back on the left flank, Prass and Dudu completing the setup.

Within eight minutes, Barrios’ first goal in the Palmeiras jersey was a fact, beautifully assisted by Jesus. After that, it was all about the 18-year-old: he volleyed in 2-0 after a cross from Egídio, and then humiliated Cruzeiro keeper Fábio in a man-to-man duel, taking full advantage of the perfect pass received from Dudu to make it 3-0 with another ten minutes on the clock before halftime. Pure bliss.
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With Cruzeiro suddenly needing five goals, the game died right there. Palmeiras administered the result in the second half, a bit sloppily allowing Cruzeiro – with only ten men on the pitch – to score not once but twice. Coach Oliveira was delirious with the first half and unhappy with the second; understandable, but also understandable that players hit the breaks to save up energy ahead of Sunday’s important game against Joinville.
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The result propels Palmeiras into the quarterfinals of the Brazil Cup. Five other teams secured their spots yesterday: Fluminense, Santos, SPFC, Figueirense and Vasco. The last two spots are defined tonight, with Internacional (vs. Ituano) and Grêmio (vs. Coritiba) in the driver’s seat. Another positive aspect: Mouche came on in the second half, having been eight months absent from the pitch due to a serious knee injury. No mistaking his enthusiasm upon returning, but he will have to work hard for a place in the starting eleven: direct contenders are Dudu, Gabriel Jesus, Rafael Marques, Kelvin and Cristaldo.

Ticket sales are good ahead of Sunday’s game, with a packed Allianz Parque to be expected.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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As predicted, Sunday’s away game against Atlético Mineiro proved a hard nut. Palmeiras got the early goal, Andrei Girotto bagging his first for Palmeiras putting his forehead to a perfectly timed cross by Lucas. As we’ve seen before, the goal stopped Palmeiras dead in the tracks and Atlético dominated the rest of the first half completely, going into halftime with a 2-1 lead after two goals by Lucas Pratto.

Marcelo Oliveira promoted change already at halftime and again with ten minutes on the clock: Egídio (again terrible) gave way to Robinho, who did a good job in the middle while Zé Roberto took over the left flank. In another offensive move, Gabriel Jesus replaced Girotto. Palmeiras gradually increased ball possession and pressure, which culminated as Barrios replaced Alecssandro. Unfortunately, and in spite of many chances, Palmeiras were unable to equalise.
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Palmeiras are parked fifth in the tables, now twelve points behind Corinthians and eight behind Atlético. Grêmio are six points ahead, Fluminense two. Some palmeirenses are chucking in the towel, forgetting the title and refocusing on the Libertadores spot (awarded to top four teams). Too early, in my opinion: Palmeiras have every possibility to win upcoming games against Joinville and Goiás, before receiving Corinthians at the Allianz Parque. Nine points won, and anything can happen.

Lucas Barrios seems to understand this. Yesterday, we learnt that he asked Paraguay national coach Ramón Díaz not to call him up for a friendly against Chile in two weeks’ time. Barrios explained he preferred fine-tuning at Palmeiras and be available for the derby, and his request was duly granted by Mr. Díaz. Now that’s how you make an impact.

Leandro Pereira seems to be feeling all this and possibly preparing a move. The current top scorer has not had many opportunities with Marcelo Oliveira as of late and a deal seems close with Belgian club Brugge. Palmeiras hold 50% of the 23-year-old, the parcel purchased for R$ 5 million. If the deal goes through, Palmeiras might make a small profit, something like R$ 1 million. The transfer window closes on 31 August.

Thiago-Santos-Palmeiras-Foto-Divulgacao_LANIMA20150825_0051_52Defensive midfielder Thiago Santos is the 25th athlete to join Palmeiras this season. The idea is for Thiago to suppress the impact of Gabriel’s absence (out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury). Sporting good numbers playing for América Mineiro in the second division, Thiago is welcomed by former club companions Vitor Hugo and Andrei Girotto. Also worth mentioning: the 25-year-old was brought in with the help of main sponsor Crefisa, who paid the fine to yank him from América and will also pay his salaries. In other words, same procedure as with Barrios. Thiago’s contract ends December 2018.

Speaking of injuries: Cleiton Xavier has come down with a muscular problem and is expected back in playing condition no earlier than late September. Arouca is recovering, but will not face Cruzeiro tomorrow, hopefully being available against Joinville on Sunday.

Palmeiras have released pictures of the new third jersey for 2015: a silvery/gray piece with something resembling a watermark on the chest, displaying an image of the 1915 Savoia Trophy – the first trophy won by Palmeiras/Palestra Italia, beating Sport Club Savoia 2-0 in the team’s first game ever.
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The official launch of the jersey is scheduled for this upcoming Thursday, the day after…

PALMEIRAS 101th BIRTHDAY! Yes, tomorrow Wednesday 26 August marks the first year of Palmeiras’ second centenary!

And what a birthday, with a decisive away game against Cruzeiro for a spot in the quarterfinals in the Brazil Cup. A draw and Palmeiras are through to the next phase.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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