Thursday night saw Palermo on the receiving end of a clinical performance from one of Europe’s most powerful teams. CSKA Moscow, who made it into the quarter finals of last seasons Champions League, looked every bit a team that had managed to knock outt Sevilla and troubl Inter. CSKA dominated possession and never gave the Rosanero a hope of winning, the 3-0 score-line was just reward for a professional performance. The suspension of Pastore will make qualification even more difficult after his antics got him two yellow cards. To be without both Ilicic and Pastore for the next tie is putting the team in a very tricky situation.
After this result Palermo lie third in the group, behind CSKA and Sparta Prague, making qualification to the next round difficult. Some critics will argue that to be out of European competition will benefit this team due to the size and strength of the squad. However a consistency in results is important and continually struggling in Europe could detrimentally affect their league form.
Delio Rossi was dignified in defeat: ‘Today we lost to a different calibre of opponent. The team took the field with pride but unfortunately CSKA were too strong for us.’ It seems like they won’t be dwelling on this defeat, which is probably for the best. The confidence and development of this side is starting to form and the sooner they forget this, the better.
This next month, will really show how strong this Palermo side is. With some very tricky European encounters, as well as League games against Milan, Catania and Lazio all coming in the next few weeks, this period will prove whether they were just successfully beating up on the weaker teams this last month or whether they have a chance to repeat and better last year’s success.
This Sunday will see the first of the challenges as the Rosanero travel to to Friuli-Vnezia to face Udinese. Here they will come up against one of the world’s brightest young talents in Alexis Sanchez, there are not enough superlatives to describe his talent, recently he has been likened to Cristiano Ronaldo. To see both him and Pastore on the field will be worth the entrance fee alone. With Bovo suspended, this will be one of the defence’s biggest challenges as they will also have to try to stop Antonio Di Natale. Udinese have lost two of their three games at home this season, and are languishing in the relegation zone but this is a team with far more potential than it is showing. These are the games you must win in order to be near the top of the table come May. Palermo are a good side and will need to start grinding out these wins if they are to fulfil their potential.
Zamparini has claimed that his team are actually better than Juve: ‘In comparison to them we have something more.’ It is not a huge revelation that the Sicilians are better than the Old Lady but the President’s point is that they should garner more respect and attention from the media and pundits. Calcio is still very much dominated by the former giants, in terms of revenue, publicity and general cultural exposure. Juve are no longer the European giants they formally were and yet their global fan base dictates their prominence. What he is trying to do is to promote Palermo as a similar brand and in doing so attempt to create large new streams of revenue. By stressing the emphasis on his revolution being permanent, he is laying down the first foundations of an ambitious business plan. It will be fascinating to see how this develops over the next few years.
All these plans will be conditional on the ability of the team to perform consistently on the field. This is a trait of champions and one which every team will often struggle to find. These last few weeks have been fantastic for the fans and there is every chance this could continue with the form being shown. What has been most pleasing is the attitude of the players and the coaching staff to work hard and get through their early season struggles and finding a way to win. Forgetting the CSKA game, they have raised the bar of expectations now and we will see over these next months how successfully they live up to it.