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Toward the end of the month, we´ll have two rounds of qualifying games for the 2018 World Cup. All in all, four Palmeiras players have been called up to defend their countries: Yerry Mina and Miguel Borja for Colombia, Alejandro Guerra for Venezuela and Dudu for Brazil.
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Dudu received the call later than the rest: Douglas Costa suffered a knee injury during training at Bayern München last Friday, and coach Tite picked Dudu as the replacement. This is the striker’s third time in the yellow shirt: his first appearance was under Mano Menezes, in 2011. Then a long break, before Tite called him up in January of this year. However, all previous occasions have been friendly games. Finally facing the “real deal”, Dudu is in ecstasy. Well deserved!

Brazil plays Uruguay away on the 23rd and Paraguay at home on the 28th. Palmeiras’ quartet will miss the last three group-stage rounds of the São Paulo championship: another involuntary test of the squad’s quality and resilience. Also, another proof of the incapacity of Brazilian football federations to set up a decent calendar throughout the year.

Good luck to the four: may they all return safe and sound to Palmeiras.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Must admit I expected an easier task. Jorge Wilstermann proved to be well trained, tactically obedient, a hard nut to crack. Both Tchê Tchê and Dudu suffered strong, individual marking throughout the game and Wilstermann’s line of five defenders recomposed quickly at every turnover, making triangulations at the flanks difficult.

Our line-up consisted of Prass; Jean, Mina, Dracena and Zé Roberto; Felipe Melo; Tchê Tchê, Guerra, Dudu and Bastos; Borja.

Palmeiras were in control the whole game, not only enjoying much superior ball possession, but also using it objectively and offensively: numerous clear chances were created, especially in the first half, Borja again and uncharacteristically blowing his share. Close to no shots were fired by Palmeiras from outside the penalty area: a mistake, as this allowed the opponent to compact his defence even further. Even so, on several occasions a Palmeiras player, often Dudu, was inches from breaking free with the keeper, the linesmen having a very busy night. All in all, Palmeiras performed decently well, with plenty of intensity, just not getting that last detail right.

The referee allowed for more than he should but overall kept things (in my opinion) rather balanced. That being said: in true Libertadores style, the catimba was reigning, Jorge Wilstermann delaying the action whenever possible. One of theirs even teared his own shirt in order to render Yerry Mina a yellow card.

At the second half progressed, nervousness kicked in both in the packed stands and on the pitch. Palmeiras dipped a bit in production, but picked up speed in the last 15 minutes, pressuring hard. Guerra and Bastos gave way to Keno and Roger Guedes, the latter much involved in the action evolving toward the end, especially on the right flank, including the cross that Yerry Mina met to declare victory in the game’s dying minute. Relief!
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With four points after two games, Palmeiras (at least temporarily) assume top position in group 5. Later today, Peñarol receive Atlético Tucumán; should the visitors win by two goals or more, they take Palmeiras down a notch.

Next Libertadores round takes place in little less than a month. Palmeiras now refocus on the São Paulo championship, where we have the four last round of the group phase before the quarterfinals. Santos await at the Vila Belmiro upcoming Sunday: expect another exciting match.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte and the club’s director of football Alexandre Mattos have spent days in Barcelona, working on an agreement with the Catalan club regarding centre-back Yerry Mina. Today, it was formally announced that Barcelona have agreed to extend their priority of buying Mina by a year, more precisely after the 2018 World Cup. The previous deadline was July 2017, smack in the middle of the Brazilian championship and the Libertadores Cup. Being able to keep the Colombian national throughout the season and more is excellent news for Palmeiras.

Yerry Mina arrived at the Verdão in May of 2016, after a dispute involving high-ranking teams in Europe. At the time, Mattos knew he could not compete with salary offers arriving from Germany, but he also knew Barcelona were monitoring Mina, likely to try a signing in one or two years’ time. Mattos contacted Barcelona, got the thumbs up, and then had Barcelona’s director of football call Mina up: “If you one day want to play for Barcelona, you must first head for our partner, head for a club we trust, and that is Palmeiras”.

In addition to the dealings involving the Colombian defender, Galiotte and Mattos advanced with negotiations aimed at a formal partnership between Palmeiras and Barcelona. Methodology of work, exchange programmes for coaches and youth division players were among the topics discussed. Stay tuned for further developments of this very promising alliance.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu flanked by Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte (right) and director of football Alexandre Mattos (left), with Barcelona vice-presidents Javier Bordas (far right) and Jordi Cardoner (far left).

 

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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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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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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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A classico is always a classico and results are unpredictable, no matter what shape the teams are found in at the moment of the clash. Some were hoping for a slaughter yesterday, but the most important thing were the three points, securely tucked away after an awesome display of airborne offensive firepower from our centre-backs Yerry Mina and Vítor Hugo – in their homage, the A10 “Warthog” illustration above, signed Mark Karvon.

Allianz Parque yesterday sported the second best attendance record of all times, just shy of the 40K mark. In an effort to spare Gabriel Jesus, the kid having played the lion’s share of Brazil’s World Cup qualifier against Colombia less than 24 hours previous to the Palmeiras game, coach Cuca opted for Allione on the right and Rafael Marques on the left, Dudu more centralised. Moisés was back in the starting eleven, which is impressive: during the week he did not train with the squad, only doing recovery exercises for the ankle strain he suffered against Botafogo/PB.

São Paulo were, as expected, cornered from kick-off to final whistle. Still, although Palmeiras were in control, the first half did not offer up many opportunities, partially due to São Paulo shrinking the spaces, partially due to uninspiring performances from Rafael Marques and, especially Allione. The Argentine forward has been given plenty of opportunities, but he just never ever… I believe yesterday was “it”, that we will not see more of him in a while, if ever.

Instead of Palmeiras, it was São Paulo getting that lucky break they were hoping for, opening up the scorecard early in the second half. Cuca, frustrated, swapped Allione for Gabriel Jesus, and things started to flow, Palmeiras inching closer to the goal by every attack. And although Dudu, Moisés and Tchê Tchê all had their opportunities, it was the set pieces that made all the difference. Enjoy the highlights below.
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Jean and Mina saw their third yellow and are not travelling to Porto Alegre to face Grêmio. The gaúchos a few weeks back seemed very much in the title race, but have not impressed anyone in the last rounds and are now 10 points behind Palmeiras. Yesterday, Grêmio visited Coritiba and were losing 4-0 already in halftime. Palmeiras will certainly try to take advantage of the situation, returning from the south with three points in the bag.

Apart from finding suitable replacements for Jean and Mina, Cuca needs to imprint players with the importance of staying cool and making the outmost effort to avoid bookings against Grêmio. Palmeiras cannot risk facing runners-up Flamengo without key players, and that certainly includes Gabriel Jesus. Will he escape the trap on Sunday? The championship could depend on it.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Palmeiras exercised superiority on the pitch as well as on the stands: for every tricolor there were at least four palmeirenses yesterday at the Mané Garrincha stadium, Brasilia.

With Gabriel Jesus back in the stating eleven, Palmeiras’ offensive game once again grew. The kid is very fast, always keeping defenders on their toes, and his dribbles free up space for his teammates, allowing Palmeiras to attack in waves, keeping the pressure high. Already up by two terrific goals (Dudu and Jean) halfway into the first half against the best defence of the championship, Palmeiras were closer to the third than Fluminense to diminish the gap.

In addition to Jesus, Yerry Mina also made his comeback, placing Thiago Martins on the bench. And what a comeback by the Colombian, clearing everything high and most things low, in addition to showing personality initiating plays, occasionally venturing into the midfield.

Indeed the whole squad worked hard, but there is room for extra praise of Dudu, Moisés, and also Jaílson, who once again left no one longing for Prass’ return: our keeper was calm and always well positioned the few times Fluminense were on target.
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The 22nd round was excellent from Palmeiras’ point of view: Corinthians lost to Ponte Preta, Santos lost to Figueirense, Atlético Mineiro drew away to Grêmio. Of the direct contenders, only Flamengo came out victorious – against Chapecoense – and are the new runners-up, three points behind Palmeiras.  Worth noticing is Palmeiras’ superior goal balance: 18 against Flamengo’s 6.

There is currently only one, major concern at Palmeiras: the accumulation of yellow cards, leaving key players hanging on a thread. Before yesterday’s clash, Palmeiras had four players with two bookings each: Cleiton Xavier, Jean, Rafael Marques and Matheus Sales. Against Fluminense, five more players joined the list: Vitor Hugo, Mina, Arouca, Dudu and Gabriel Jesus. Out of these nine, six are normally found in Cuca’s starting eleven. Administering well this situation would allow Palmeiras to face direct contenders Grêmio, Flamengo and Corinthians – all three within the space of eleven days (7-17 of September) – in acceptable conditions.

But first, Copa do Brasil. This Wednesday Palmeiras debut against Botafogo of Paraíba, at the Allianz Parque. Anything but a victory would be a huge surprise. Cuca certainly will leave key players out, already thinking about Sunday’s Cuca has indicated he will use his best lineup against Botafogo, not showing concern regarding next week’s derby against a São Paulo FC in total disorder.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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