A lot of things can change in football in just a short space of time – just ask any Rosanero fan. After displaying one of the poorest performances of the season in the Derby di Sicilia, the club’s management was forced to put the squad into a pre-match training camp which included vigorous training sessions and exercises before the matchup against Fiorentina. This seemed to wake the squad up as the Palermo side that took too the pitch against la Viola looked a completely different side to the one that collapsed against Catania. The Pink-Blacks put forth one of the most solid performances they have all season against Fiorentina handing the Tuscan side a shock 2-0 defeat at the Stadio Artemio Franchi where the Sicilians have only managed four wins in 21 tries.
The following weekend saw Davide Ballardini’s men presented with an easier task as they took on fellow southerners Lecce. The Rosanero were made to work little for their three points as the Apulians displayed good spirit and resilience but awful defending which saw the Rosanero come out comfortable winners at home thumping the Giallorossi 5-2 and handing new Lecce boss Gigi Di Canio the worst possible debut as the new Salentini Tactician. Edison Cavani broke his goal scoring drought by netting a brace, Fabrizio Miccoli scored his first goal against his home town team, the ever impressive Simon Kjaer scored his second of the year and Brazilian Fabio Simplicio scored for the second game in succession. While the Rosanero continue their march towards Europe, Lecce’s relegations woes further increased leaving the new Giallorossi boss with his hands full in directing the Salentini ship away from the dreaded drop to Serie B.
Fresh rumours hit the island-based club this week with reports coming out suggesting that the Rosanero are lining up a summer bid for Napoli’s ace midfielder Marek Hamsik who is being followed by many clubs abroad and in Serie A. But despite all the reports, Palermo’s Sporting Director Walter Sabatini has denied that the club has bid for the services of the talented Slovakian stating “We haven’t made any approach for Hamsik, although he is a quality player and we like him a lot, we can’t afford to make offers of £15m or £20m for him.” The Rosanero joins a long list of teams interested in the 21-year-old, with Juventus and Liverpool also heavily linked for the ex-Brescia star who has scored nine goals so far this season equalling his total for last year with ten games or so to spare. As exciting as it might be to envision him donning the Palermo colours one day, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon as he is more likely to move on to a club with higher and different ambitions as the Azzurri’s and the Aquile’s are very much alike.
Another player making the headlines this week is the Rosanero’s talented Danish central defender Simon Kjaer. The young defender who was signed from Danish side FC Midtjylland last year has emerged out of nowhere and has solidified a starting role in the Rosanero’s back line leaving the likes of the more experienced Moris Carrozzieri on the sidelines. Juventus has reportedly shown the most interest in the 19-year-old who not that long ago bagged the best U-21 player at the annual Sicilian Soccer awards, but the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool have also joined the race for his services. Sabatini quashed any rumors, stating the club is not willing to give up another one of their talents to a bigger club so easily this time round stating: “Yes there has been interest from several sides, but we are not determined to sell him, we advised him that staying on for a further year in Palermo will be the best thing for his professional development.” The Dane has made 18 appearances so far this season and has netted two goals in the process. There is an £11m escape clause in Kjaer’s contract that would allow the 19-year-old Danish defender to move clubs during a set period in the summer, so it looks like another one of the Rosanero’s talented player’s future hangs in the balance.
As for the upcoming game, the Rosanero will travel to the north-east to meet up with an in-form Chievo side at the Stadio Bentegodi. The Flying Donkeys are on a surge of late having been undefeated in their last ten games and will look to be a tricky test to handle for the Eagles. Last weekend the Veronese easily dispatched Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico, with a brace by Sergio Pellissier and a solitary strike by Albanian Arjon Bogdani seeing Ceo through to three deserving points. Domenico Di Carlo’s side are sitting in 16th place as the clubs sudden resurgence has lifted them out of the drop zone and three points clear of Torino who occupy the final relegation spot. The Rosanero will need to take advantage of the north-easterners’ dismal home form that has been most disappointing this season with just two wins from 13 home games. If Ballardini needs to give his side any inspiration for this encounter than the poor home form will be the place to start.
The bald-headed Tactician has no new injury worries ahead of this encounter, with Igor Budan and Levan Mchedlidze both still for a couple more weeks at most. Mark Bresciano remains a doubt as he is suffering from a short-term leg-injury, whilst Moris Carrozzieri has returned from his ban and could feature at some point and the inclusion of Roberto Guana could be a game-time decision. The ex-Cagliari boss will not want to tinker too much with the team that has been exhibiting excellent displays of Calcio in recent times and have started to show signs of a strong cohesive unit. The Bresciano injury is a big loss for the Rosanero, it did look like he could suit up to play against Chievo but a slight setback in his injury could see him sit this one out. It’s a loss for sure for Ballardini as the 29-year-old Australian adds a lot more width to the sometimes narrow looking Palermo side, his ability to run down the flanks and provide good crosses is a key for Rosanero attacks, furthermore he is renowned for his versatility and although he prefers the left flank, can play anywhere across midfield. He is also quite a good set-piece specialist having scored some belters during his time in Serie A, as is considered by many as being one of the hardest working midfielders in the Peninsula.
Don’t think the thumping in the Sicilian Derby over three weeks ago has been forgotten in the minds of the Rosanero tifosi, it won’t be for quite some time and the club feels it owes it’s fans a favour after that embarrassment. But with the way the club has picked itself up from that game, it appears to be a positive sign that the club are making progress in the final stretch of the campaign. The road to Europe is still quite long and looks to have quite a few bumps along the way but if the Islanders can continue this revival then the road to Europe will doubtlessly be a lot smoother.