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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.

— ooo —

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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Linense 0-4 Palmeiras

The “Volta Cuca” phalanx of Palmeiras’ supporters are found silent, as our men performed very well away against Linense in the fourth round of the São Paulo championship. Collective, objective and with rapid transitions, the four goals came naturally, signed Willian, Raphael Veiga, Michel Bastos and Lucas Barrios. Without a weak card in the Palmeiras deck tonight, both Bastos and Keno had a splendid evening, only toppled by Dudu, masterfully distributing the game from an advanced position and directly involved in all four braces. The starting line-up consisted of Fernando Prass; Jean, Yerry Mina, Vítor Hugo and Egídio; Felipe Melo, Moisés, Michel Bastos, Raphael Veiga and Dudu; Willian. Keno came on for Moisés already in the first half, Barrios substituted Willian in the second, and Thiago Santos came on for Melo. Highlights below.
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The one downside to the evening was a considerable one: Moisés carried out on a stretcher after a bad foul, his knee having taken the hit in a far from healthy angle. The severity of the injury will only be known tomorrow, but better prepare for the rest of this semester without him.

Some training and rest ahead of Wednesday’s away derby against Corinthians, Palmeiras players and supporters now riding on a considerable confidence boost.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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lease fee

Sunday Palmeiras made their debut in the Paulistão, beating Botafogo/SP by the odd goal, signed Tchê Tchê. It was not a good game, as they never are in the beginning of the season. Still, one could note some differences in the marking, in the more careful ball possession, in the movement of full-backs. Eduardo Baptista is implementing his own style of play, and it will differ considerable from Cuca’s. Upcoming Sunday, away against Ituano, we have another opportunity to observe the transformation.

Tchê Tchê not only scored Sunday’s winner, but also suffered a small fracture to his left shoulder and is out for 4-6 weeks. Good thing Moisés seems fully recovered from the foot surgery and is training well.

Against Botafogo/SP, Zé Roberto played his 100th game in the Palmeiras jersey. Upcoming Sunday, it is Fernando Prass’ turn to celebrate his 200th appearance in green. Giants, both of them.

Speaking of giants: our “little giant” Dudu has extended his contract with Palmeiras for an additional two years, the contract now running until end of 2020. With the extension, his salary has increased and also the release fee.

You will frequently hear both club president Galiotte and director of football Mattos state that “more important than any signing, has been maintaining the squad intact”. One of the few remaining weaker cards from last years’ squad, defensive midfielder Rodrigo, was today announced by Sport on a one-year loan with an option to buy. However, in relation to key players, Palmeiras have made an additional effort, just like with Dudu: a total of six players, including Yerry Mina, have extended their contracts. The hiked release fees work as a deterrent for other clubs, while salary increases are both a recognition of a player’s value and a means to keep him happy as new signings arrive and the inevitable salary comparisons happen.

Today, the Palmeiras squad contains eight players who have served Brazil’s national (Jean, Vitor Hugo, Dracena, Arouca, Zé Roberto, Felipe Melo, Michel Bastos and Dudu); two Colombia’s (Yerry Mina and soon-to-be-announced Miguel Borja), one Paraguay’s (Barrios) and one Venezuela’s (Alejandro Guerra). That is twelve players of National squad quality, twelve!

The squad is not only qualified but also decent-sized, which is important considering the potentially many games and the long travel distances involved in Palmeiras’ 2017 campaign. If Palmeiras were to reach the finals in every competition, a staggering 80 games would be played in the season: São Paulo Championship (18), Libertadores Cup (14), Brazil Cup (8), Brazilian Championship (38), Club World Cup (2).

Now stay tuned for the official announcement of Miguel Borja.

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In an effort to “protect” key pieces of the 2016 champion squad, Palmeiras have extended the contracts of midfielders Moisés, Tchê Tchê and Thiago Santos. The extensions are paired with increased salaries and rescission fines.

The biggest change relates to Moisés, on a contract only until the end of this year and now tied until the end of 2020. Thiago Santos’ contract was extended by one year, from end of 2018 to end of 2019. Tchê Tchê was already on a long commitment, until May 2019, and can now see the whole of 2019 out.

Earlier, Palmeiras extended Jailson’s until the end of 2018, and Alecsandro and Zé Roberto’s until the end of 2017. Palmeiras also acquired 40% of the economic rights of right-back Fabiano from Cruzeiro (now on a five-year contract), and remaining 50% of the economic rights of Dudu, the forward now belonging 100% to the Palestra.

— ooo —

Dudu and Vítor Hugo were called up to the Brazil squad taking on Colombia tomorrow in a friendly game, in Rio de Janeiro, in benefit of the families of players and staff victims in the Chapecoense plane crash. As this is not a FIFA date, only players active in Brazil and Colombia will take part.

— ooo —

mendietaOn a side note, William Mendieta has been sold to Olímpia, from Asunción. The midfielder arrived at Palmeiras in 2013, played 38 games and scored eight goals before moving on a loan deal to the Paraguayan side in February 2015. Pleasing the directors at his new club, the transfer has now been made permanent.

moucheAlso Pablo Mouche will be playing for Olímpia in 2017, the Argentine striker on a loan deal until the end of the year, with an option to buy. He arrived at Palmeiras in 2014, but has spent considerable time at other clubs, most recently at Red Star Belgrade.

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Playing before 40.986 spectators, a new attendance record at the Allianz Parque, Palmeiras were Palmeiras like throughout most of 2016: confident, in control, sufficiently efficient to secure the three points against Chapecoense and the 2016 Brazil championship title. The only goal was right-back Fabiano’s, and what a beautiful goal. His first for Palmeiras, one that will be remembered forever.

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Who contributed the most to this title, arriving after 22 long years of waiting?

Jailson, the 35-year-old who had never played a first division game in his life and stepped up in August, when Fernando Prass was injured in late July, to support an 18-games-streak of invincibility?

Dudu, the hotheaded forward who matured after receiving the captain’s armband to become the player with most assists in this year’s edition of the Brasileirão?

Tchê-Tchê, who last year seriously considered abandoning football for the lack of opportunities, today a given on the midfield on any Palmeiras starting eleven?

Moisés, “hidden away” in Croatia, ridiculed upon arriving, today considered the greatest surprise of the championship?

Gabriel Jesus, who’s splendid first half of the championship set the pace for the title race?

Jean, the experienced, polyvalent, hard-working leader?

Yerry Mina, who went straight into the starting eleven, scored, was injured, came back to score more and form a massive centre lock with Vítor Hugo?

Zé Roberto, the living myth, at 42 the heart and soul of the squad, always reminding us of the GIANT called Palmeiras?

Cuca, the prophet, the professional, the father, who knows how to create a family not through external enemies but common aspirations?

Alexandre Mattos, the director of football who contracted all the aforementioned pieces and then some?

Paulo Nobre, the club president who in four years took Palmeiras from rags to riches?

Palmeirenses near and far, tirelessly reinventing the art of supporting the team, standing ground against everything and everyone, including friendly fire?

None. All. That is what is so special about this campaign: it is a truly collective effort like seldom seen. And unbelievably well deserved.
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celebration.
I still need to come down. Pictures and videos of the magnificent celebration – all over São Paulo and all over the world – only in a day or two.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The Libertadores Cup is indeed a different story altogether. Palmeiras supporters hoping the team would step up to the challenge – yours truly included – cannot complain: the Verdão had Tuesday’s away debut against River Plate in a firm grip and was ahead twice, but allowed a draw in the end. Stepping back and cooling down, not a bad result, but still with that lingering taste of disappointment: could and should have bagged the three.

Marcelo Oliveira’s starting eleven was a bit of a surprise, with Gabriel Jesus and Robinho falling out as Erik and Thiago Santos up positions. The full line-up read Fernando Prass; Lucas, Roger Carvalho, Vitor Hugo and Zé Roberto; Arouca (Robinho), Jean, Thiago Santos, Dudu and Erik (Gabriel Jesus); Barrios (Alecsandro). A shallow analysis says “defensive”, but Palmeiras was the opposite, the quality on the midfield protecting the centre-lock but also serving munition to the offence. Jean scored his first in the Palmeiras jersey and Gabriel Jesus – who came on for Erik in the second half – was elected man of the match after becoming the youngest player to score for Palmeiras in a Libertadores game.

The goals suffered can at large be blamed on individual errors and lacking attention: Prass did commit the penalty and both Jean and especially Alecsandro acted liked rookies on that corner.

Summing up: Palmeiras and Marcelo Oliveira seem to be on the right track. The attitude was different, the passing game slightly improved, the team a bit more compact.
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Two more things: the refereeing was abhorrent, inventing and reverting fouls from beginning to end and, needless to say, never in benefit of Palmeiras – all in true Libertadores-style. And the recent bull reverberating in a selected group of media vehicles about the squad being “divided”, that Marcelo Oliveira has lost the trust of the players, is just that: bull. Both before and after the games, players refuted the rumours, expressing complete confidence and unity regarding the work carried out.

All that will be needed against Santos on Saturday. A decent turn-up expected at the Allianz Parque.

— ooo —

moisesMidfielder Moisés got unlucky in his debut against Linense last Saturday. Actually, Palmeiras and palmeirenses alike got unlucky: the 2-1 defeat at home was painful. However, even more so for Moisés, who were stepped upon, resulting in a broken foot. With a recovery time of 3-4 months, he has been cut from the Libertadores squad, Rodrigo being the last minute replacement.

Neither Leandro Almeida has been included in the Libertadores squad; he clearly burnt his last bridge with the coach against São Bento. Young Nathan, who was speculated to integrate Bahia’s squad, receives the opportunity of a lifetime.

Finally, a few words about our Allianz Parque “partner” WTorre, going from bad to worse. The most recent news is that WTorre and AEG, the leading international sports and entertainment company, have parted ways. AEG claims WTorre owes them money, while WTorre claims AEG is inefficient in bringing in revenues (events, sponsors, etcetera) to the Allianz Parque. I refrain from commenting further.

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wolvesA goalless draw yesterday against Oeste, and pressure is again on the rise. Coach Oliveira agrees that Palmeiras are not performing as expected. That’s rather obvious, but it’s still good that he acknowledges it, as acknowledging is the first step towards correcting. Not that we should be worried, not yet at least: in my book, Oliveira has plenty of credit. Nevertheless, the wolves have started moving about and this year, Oliveira has no excuse falling back on: the squad is basically last year’s with a few additions; he knows the players well; training conditions are top notch; salaries paid on time. He has to make it work.

Palmeiras’ focus now is on next Tuesday’s Libertadores debut, away, against River Plate of Uruguay. Hence, a mixed team is expected against Linense on Saturday. This will be the season’s first game at the Allianz Parque, and more than 15K tickets have been sold already. Midfielder Moisés is expected to make his debut, which is something to look forward to: he made a good impression participating in the pre-seasonal mini-tournament in Uruguay last month.

The Allianz Parque has been equipped with new grass. It’s actually the same sort of grass, but apparently with better roots and in a shape that permits easy swapping of patches, if needed. WTorre claims having invested R$ 1 million (US$ 250K) in getting the new pitch ready. Let’s hope this time it holds up – last year was a disgrace. We can’t have Palmeiras playing home games at other venues while the Allianz Parque grass recovers after a show.

Speaking of WTorre, our “partner” seems to be in trouble not only with Palmeiras, but also with all other partners and subcontractors in sight. Lagging payments, unexecuted services… There are plenty of lawsuits piling up against WTorre, all linked to the Allianz Parque and how it’s run.

Now Palmeiras’ official stores, part of the “Academia Store” franchising model, are doing very well, thank you very much. Currently with 23 establishments – all located in the state of São Paulo except for one unit, in the state of Paraná – the franchise recently celebrated three years of operations. Another 14 units are expected to open in 2016.

Anything Palmeiras was featured in two interviews recently, one in Portuguese and one in English. They turned out rather well, if you ask me. Below, the links, in case you’re interested.

Esporte Final (on the “Lance!” web portal) and BettingRunner.

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