This week has brought about a week of consistency amongst a backdrop of an overloaded fixture list. By having a month winter break all of the fixtures must be crammed into a more condensed period of time, forcing contending European teams to really test the depth of their squad. But, with having a whole week off, they can have a full weeks training and relaxation in preparation for Sunday’s mammoth clash with Roma. Previous encounters with the title contenders this season has left the Rosanero wanting but this is their chance to make a statement of intent and begin their push up the table.
In a highly competitive season, tempers can be frayed and divisions can be created. There were rumours about a rift forming between two of the club’s stars, a rift, which could potentially disrupt squad morale and momentum. Club captain Fabrizio Miccoli has quickly stepped out and dispelled any talk about his problems with stud Javier Pastore. He did however admit to having an argument with Pastore over his effort levels a few weeks prior in a half-time team talk but these frustrations are born out of effort and shows character and drive to succeed, a pre-eminent factor to him being awarded the captaincy. He says: ‘Playing alongside Pastore is nice, we always have fun and we live football in the same way.’ This really sounds like a run of the mill fracas from a game of high emotions. One of the problems of the 24 hour media culture is that little problems are given way too much prominence and this is an example of just that. Look for these two players to once again link well on the field, starting on Sunday against Roma.
The mind games have already started ahead of Sunday’s clash but not between the two clubs, instead between the President Zamparini and the referee’s. As the referee’s have been a big factor in his desire to step down from his leadership position he has already fired the first warning shot: ‘I am thinking about the game against Roma, a match, which is worth plenty for our run in the league. I am convinced Palermo can win. And so I hope the referee is on the level too because in recent years it has not been like that against Roma. Often against them we have been made to pay.’ It is doubtful that referees intentionally favour one side over another but the Rosanero have constantly been on the wrong end of decisions when it comes to battling the Giants. So much so that Zamparini is sick and tired of this battle and contemplating walking away from the club he loves.
However, biased or not, the referees are not the salient point in this game as the players will be the ones who determine the outcome. Roma recorded a remarkable win in midweek, coming from two behind to beat Bayern Munich 3-2. They will be flying high and confident of victory on Sicilian soil. Palermo, have been waiting, resting and preparing themselves for this fixture all week and will be more fresh and ready. A victory here will even see them leap frog Roma in the table and fully restore the momentum they had garnered in the earlier part of the season.
Pastore and Ilicic will once again link up, with Miccoli spearheading the attack. Phillipe Mexes will be under considerable pressure to try and contain this highly charged offence. These front line players will be chomping at the bit to get on the field to do some damage as Roma’s defence has been woeful this season. Their main strength lies with the French midfielder Jeremy Menez, who has been in scintillating form as of late. Here, will get a true measure of the progression made by Munoz and Bovo as they will have to contain him as well as the strikers.
The narrative of the season is decided by the bigger games and filled in with the little ones. This game punctuates the way this club will go up until the break. A win, and they are surging up the table and actually mounting a title threat. A loss, and they are just another Serie A team who cannot match up to the big boys but are still clamouring for Europe anyway. Whatever the result, this battle of the established old guard versus the young upstarts will be an intriguing battle for future dominance.