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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…

— ooo —

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.

— ooo —

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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Palmeiras started against São Paulo FC as they finished against Fluminense: dynamic, fast and aggressive. Within minutes, two great opportunities created – one from each flank – leaving supporters believing it was only a matter of time before Palmeiras would open up the scorecard and start grinding down that taboo: not since 2002 have Palmeiras beaten SPFC at the Morumbi stadium.

A quick reversal after a foul on Dudu and awful timing from Thiago Martins as he tried clearing an aerial made it easy for Paulo Henrique Ganso to stuff our net. Unfortunately, that was the end of Palmeiras’ blitz: our opponents gradually took control over the midfield and tested Prass on several occasions, again showing why he is the best keeper in the competition. But that alone will not do, of course.
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A crucial aspect for Cuca to address is Palmeiras’ lacking consistency, the rollercoaster performances from game to game and, sometimes, from first to second half. This is nothing new and, partially, explains why the Palmeiras supporter nurtures an unusual strong bipolarity, normally expecting the worse and violently swinging between euphoria and doom. Yesterday, several players underachieved, most notably Dudu. Not for a lack of trying: Dudu is always full throttle and does not change his style of play for anything. Now, as he has only just returned from injury, he´s clearly not yet finely tuned with the ball and perhaps Cuca should have taken Dudu off the pitch instead of insisting in keeping him in a playmaker position where he repeatedly lost ball possession, resulting in numerous counter-attacks.

Roger Guedes was a shadow of the player we saw against Fluminense. Moisés, Tchê Tchê, Gabriel Jesus and Alecsandro idem. Only Prass was his usual, remarkable self, as was, rather surprising, Zé Roberto: many feared he would have trouble holding back Kelvin on the left flank, but the old man did splendidly well. Regardless of this, Egídio is expected back in the position against Grêmio on Thursday.

Gabriel_Jesus_2016Gabriel Jesus did not have a particularly good afternoon either: possibly his mind was partially occupied by the likely upcoming call to join the Brazilian Copa América squad, replacing attacking midfielder Rafinha (Barcelona) who recently contracted a muscle injury. The Cup takes place in the United States, 3-26 June. No palmeirense in his right mind would like to see Jesus absent for so long.  

On the same day we learnt about Gabriel’s likely exit, the Colombian federation confirmed Yerry Mina in their Copa América squad. Expectations were for the fullback to be called up only for the Olympics later in August, but apparently someone had a change of mind. Another setback for Palmeiras.

Finishing off on a happier note, the Palmeiras U17 squad is doing brilliantly over in Spain, where the Club World Cup is taking place. After having finished first in their group, Palmeiras beat Peruvian side Sporting Cristal 2-0 in the quarter-finals, before today beating Spanish side Rayo Vallecano 5-2 in the semi-finals. In the final, this Wednesday, our boys in green face no other than Real Madrid, who advanced to the title match by beating Atlético de Madrid 3-1.

Forza Palestra! Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Against Ponte Preta last Saturday, it became clear that Cuca still has work to do, and that Palmeiras continue with the same difficulties when faced with an opponent playing compacted and defensively, exploring counter-attacks. Ponte Preta deserved the 2-1 victory, Palmeiras only truly exerting pressure in the last 20 minutes of the game.
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Once again returning to the Allianz Parque, this time to face Fluminense, the question was if Palmeiras would repeat the good football from the debut against Atlético Paranaense, or if warning sirens would go off. The first half was certainly in the direction of the latter, while the second half definitely bore the mark of the former. Cuca, identifying Cleiton Xavier’s lesser inspiration and in halftime swapped him for Moisés. Simultaneously, also seeing the difficulties of playing without a centre forward, Cuca took Egídio out, promoting Alecsandro’s entrance as centre forward and dislocating Tchê Tchê to Egídio’s flank. Yes, correct: Tchê Tchê, in previous games used on the right flank and in the middle, now occupied the left flank!

VH_saltoThe changes immediately took effect and Palmeiras completely dominated the second half, scoring twice within 20 minutes through Victor Hugo (right) and Alecsandro. Excellent performances by Róger Guedes, Moisés and Prass. Dudu, recently returned from injury, is not quite up to his normal standards but is getting there. Gabriel Jesus worked hard. And Tchê Tchê is proving to be amazingly versatile and mature. Enjoy the highlights below and do not miss Guedes’ raised arms, in commemoration, well before Alecsandro takes the shot that closes the scorecard.
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Next bout, SPFC, away at the Morumbi, on Sunday.

Palmeiras are also participating in the U17 World Club Championship, taking place in Spain. After an excellent 6-1 debut against Colombian side Atlético Nacional, the boys today beat Rayo Vallecano, from Madrid, 3-0. Palmeiras await the results of tomorrow’s games to know their next opponent, now in the quarter-finals. Other teams in the tournament are Real Madrid, Tokushima Vortis and Corinthians (Group 1) and Atlético de Madrid, La Coruña and Sporting Cristal (Group 2).

Palmeiras this week become the first Brazilian football club with an official profile on Spotify, the world’s biggest music streaming service, originating in Sweden in 2008.

Through the agreement, supporters will have access to music related to the club’s history, as well as playlists compiled by some of the current squad’s athletes like Fernando Prass, Rafael Marques and Róger Guedes. Promo stunts for supporters are also in the plans.
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“Spotify is a leading brand with great presence among the young. This is a partnership that strengthens the club’s commitment to innovation and the search for the best products and services for the Palmeiras family”, says Victor Assis, Palmeiras’ branding manager.

“Music and football are two national passions with millions of fans wanting to get closer to their idols. In day-to-day life, music is always present in some way. In this partnership with Palmeiras, we provide supporters with the soundtrack of their team and of some of its players”, says Spotify’s marketing director for Latin America, Carolina Baracat.

Spotify has 75 million users worldwide and more than 30 million of these are paying subscribers, having so far generated more than US$ 3 billion to artists and labels.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra! 

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