Club Focus – Palermo – The 30m Euro game

There is fantastic symmetry in football. All across the world and throughout the different leagues, you will quite often find very similar stories. This week Serie A is mirroring the Premiership as both the fourth and fifth place teams will play-off for the lucrative final Champions League spot. On Sunday Palermo will host the high-flying Sampdoria in a game they will need to win to finish fourth.

In Eastlands on Wednesday night, the away team who arrived in fourth walked away with the three points. Palermo fans will be hoping that the pattern stops here and that the Rosanero continue their home dominance. This is the most important game in the club’s history so far, not only financially but for the prestige as well. They have performed above expectation since the arrival of Head Coach Delio Rossi, and now have the chance to take what they have earned.

The bookies have made Palermo surprisingly strong favourites in what is likely to be a nervous encounter. This will fundamentally be due to the fixture being played in Sicily, where the Rosanero have gone unbeaten all season. Sampdoria’s away form has been questionable, having only won a third of these games from their friendly confines. The victor in this game will be the team who can nullify the opposition’s attack most effectively.

The Blucerchiati will most likely play a similar tactical game as the one against Roma a few weeks ago. They will play a back four with the wing backs rarely pushing forward but there to pick up any Palermo width. Two defensive midfielders, who will play very much in the same vein as Inter in the Champions League this year, and who will try to stop Pastore. With the possession they do have they will look to spring the counter attack through the wide midfield players. But, their strength really lies in their two forwards, Cassano and Pazzini, who have for the most part finished the opportunities they have received. Sampdoria were successful against Roma in result only, which is why they may well stick with the same tactical approach. They were, however, outplayed for the whole 90 minutes but caught them on the break twice to score.

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By playing a counter-attack game, Sampdoria will effectively concede the possession battle. Fabio Liverani can expect much time on the ball and if he can pass and create like he has in recent games, then Palermo will have a great chance to win. With Balzaretti surging forward he can limit the right midfielder Semioli, to predominantly defensive duties, which takes one of the attacking out-lets out of contention. Miccoli has been in great form recently and there has been many calls for Lippi to bring him into the Azzuri set up. He will be able to put heavy pressure onto the central defensive partnership, and combined with Cavani’s movement will definitely create some chances. As a team they have scored nine goals in their last three home games and will be very confident going forward.

The question for Palermo is can Simon Kjaer and Cesare Bovo cope with the Sampdoria front men? They have been electric this season and have combined for 29 goals in all competitions. If the Rosanero defence can limit their opportunities and stifle their time on the ball then they will have an excellent chance to win.

Sampdoria will come to Sicily knowing that a draw is a good result for them, and a win will secure them fourth place. Palermo need to win, it is as simple as that. Expectation of this young side has been rising every week, the pressure has been intensifying and they have still been winning. It is a mark of good leadership that Rossi has maintained the squads composure and keeping them very level-headed throughout this run-in. North Sicily will be at fever pitch come Sunday afternoon and we will see how much the squad have matured throughout the season. Whether they can handle the pressure and succeed or crumble under its weight.

Sampdoria is the in-form team, having one their last five league games and is the perfect litmus test to see if the squad are ready for the premier competition in Europe. They definitely have the potential, but now is the time for them to produce and show they are worthy of everything they can achieve.

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