There was a lot of feeling, after last Sunday, that Palermo’s audacious bid to reach the Champions League had come to an end. Although it is out of their hands, there is still one more round of fixtures to be played. Rossi will focus his players on the field and the board are doing their best to play mind games with Sampdoria off of it.
The Rosanero sporting director Walter Sabatini is piling the pressure on to Sampdoria by claiming their opponents Napoli will put up a tough fight: ‘Walter Mazzari is a sportsmen, a true opponent, and I don’t think he will stand aside.’ Palermo themselves will be reasonably confident that they can beat Atalanta in the final round. If they do, all they will need is for the Blucerchiati to drop points for them to regain fourth dramatically. Sabatini is just reminding the players of the pressure they face in their final match. A tactic commonly employed by Sir Alex Ferguson to great success, Palermo supporters will be hoping for a similar outcome. Fabio Liverani has also chimed in, reminding Sampdoria of their difficult task: ‘There are still 90 minutes, and it will not be easy for them against Napoli, who will give it their all to win.’ These comments from the Rosanero camp are nothing revelatory, but the column inches given to them will just keep reminding the Blucerchiati players of how close they are. There is a chance for nerves to build up and for tension and angst to drain their energy before kick off. It will all come down to how well they can handle the pressure.
These comments splayed across the back pages, and not just from these two mentioned, are also there to remind Napoli of their responsibility. They really have nothing left to play for as they have guaranteed themselves a Europa League spot. They will not need reminding about professionalism however, and will want to show that they are capable of great things by beating a potential Champions League team. As Abel Hernandez said: ‘We’re certain the Azzuri will turn in a great performance.’ These mind games are an intangible factor in the modern game with all its pressures. Sampdoria have proven they are a strong team over the last few months and will most likely be impervious to such taunts. When you are close to achieving your goal, however, the mind is not always your ally. We will have to wait until Sunday to see what affect they may have in what is sure to be a thrilling climax to the season.
Special mention must be made to Mark Bresciano, who has just agreed to leave Palermo via the Bosman ruling and join Saudi Arabian giants Al-Nassr. Here, the injury prone midfielder will re-unite with former Head Coach Walter Zenga. Bresciano spent 11 seasons in Serie A with the last four in the Rosanero colours. Signed in 2006, he was a key part in the Zamparini revolution as they tried to establish themselves as regular European competitors. A set piece specialist who was potent in both attack and defence when healthy. His recent troubles with injury are no doubt the primary reason for him being allowed to leave. His departure signals an evolution in Zamparini’s era, a transition to a more youthful time. This has been going on for a while now but Bresciano’s move is really a symbol of this. Initially Zamparini brought in established stars to create an immediate winning culture. With Serie A status secure and pushing for Europe continually, the Palermo board are looking to the future for the long-term ambitions of the club. With core youngsters right through the spine of this team, Zamparini has brought in key talents who will grow with the club.
This eye on the future puts some perspective on Sunday’s game and that Palermo fans should not be too disheartened if they are still in fifth come Monday morning. There is a bright future ahead in Sicily, with the good leadership and stewarding pushing the club forward. Rossi and his charges will do their utmost on Sunday to ensure that they will be starting that bright future next season under the glittering Wednesday night-lights. The battle is not over yet as they will still hope that the cruel mistress of Lady luck has one more favour left for them to finish the season in style.