At the beginning of the season, most would have described Palermo as potential Champions League contenders. Having narrowly lost out to Sampdoria last season, the Rosanero could already be close to accepting fourth place has eluded them again. But should Palermo admit defeat? Is the Europa League all they can hope for, or is the Champions League still within their grasp?
The Rosanero currently sit seventh in Serie A, just four points off fourth place. Since the turn of the year, their form has, on paper, been indifferent with a record of four wins, one draw and three defeats. Arguably the most interesting of these results were two of the defeats – the 3-2 reverse at the hands of Inter and this weekends 4-2 defeat to Fiorentina. In both games Palermo started off superbly, dominating the opening exchanges and taking the lead before succumbing to late comebacks.
These late collapses have led to speculation regarding the future of Delio Rossi as the notoriously eccentric Maurizio Zamparini has regularly criticised his Coach after defeats. If Zamparini still views the Champions League as a realistic target for his team, he would perhaps be wise to hold onto Rossi at least until the end of the season. While he may feel the Coach has been at fault when his side has lost, Rossi has been the mastermind behind impressive victories over Roma, Sampdoria and Juventus. The potential disruption his sacking would cause appears to have dampened the president’s desire for the head of Rossi, with vice-president Guglielmo Micciche saying: “There is no serious problem, we just need dialogue to understand the cause of difficulty.”
So, assuming Rossi is safe for now, Palermo still appear to be in with an outside chance of taking fourth spot. With the likes of Javier Pastore, Fabrizio Miccoli and Josep Ilicic in the squad, the Rosanero have all the weapons in their arsenal to compete. In fact, Giuliu Migliaccio stated as much recently, saying: “Palermo’s objectives? The Champions League.” The midfielder went on to assert the young squad was taking things one game at a time and was well aware of their position as underdogs.
In the longer term, Palermo will be keen to shake the tag of a selling club. After Edinson Cavani’s summer move to Napoli, they will be keen to hold on to talents like Pastore and Ilicic. One player to recently commit his future to the club is forward Abel Hernandez. The young Uruguayan was one of the reasons the club were willing to let Cavani leave in the summer and they will hope, should the likes of Pastore continue to impress, they will follow his lead and stay with the side.
So while Palermo are still very much a part of the race for the final Champions League spot, they are certainly the underdogs. Interestingly, their success or failure leading up to the end of the season could have a huge influence on their ability to keep the current squad together for next season’s challenge.