With the first kicks of anger now behind us, we can officially declare that Palermo’s season has started. And it started with a comfortable 3-0 win, which would have shown the coaching staff very little against an inferior team who spent 53 minutes with 10 men. Maribor, who currently top the Slovenian league, did offer up some opposition in the first 30 minutes with passing that cut through the Palermo defence, something that may worry Head Coach Delio Rossi, but when Abel Hernández was brought down in the area by ‘keeper Marko Pridigar, he was shown a straight red card and the match was effectively over. From that moment the Rosanero dominated possession and the game.
It was a gentle way to start the season and also a good way of getting competitive minutes into the legs of the players before the start of the league season. A pleasing note for the fans was the emergence of Hernández, who looked lively the entire game. If he can step up a level this season, the loss of Edinson Cavani will not really be felt greatly. Cavani, despite being relatively youthful at the age of 23, seemed to have hit a plateau last season, which was highlighted by a mediocre World Cup performance. Many scouts have said that Hernández has the higher ceiling and this season he will get his chance to prove himself. Another bright light was Javier Pastore, who has deservedly garnered many column inches on this website. He once again proved he will be the heartbeat of the team and it was good to see him play well and score a thunderbolt from 12 yards after neatly skipping past a defender.
A concern that Rossi may have is with the defence and the lack of cohesion between the players. If it was not for poor finishing and the new Italian international Salvatore Sirigu, the scoreline could have been much worse. Simon Kjaer was never going to be easy to replace but Kamil Glik will need to fit alongside Cesare Bovo quickly if the Rosanero are hoping to attain a Champions League place. Coach Rossi revealed after that the problems were due to ‘personnel’, and that they suffered in the first 20 minutes due to a ‘tactical problem.’ The Polish defender has already proclaimed that he wants to make the fans forget who Kjaer ever was. A bold claim but proof that he is not lacking confidence, which is a positive sign for both him and the team. He will improve as the season goes along – the fans will just be hoping that he can live up to his self-induced hype.
Looking at the bench on Thursday evening, it is clear that the squad is thin and any glut of injuries will result in an exposure of a young and inexperienced player. This is why the enigmatic President of the club, Maurizio Zamparini, has stated that a new midfielder will be signed before the transfer window closes: “There are deals in advanced stages…..someone will arrive before the end of the season.” One player heavily linked is young Argentinean midfielder Claudio Yacob. He is a holding midfielder with a bright future but ultimately another young player who has not established himself in Europe. There is a need for a blend of experience and youth in a squad and although Zamparini’s youth revolution is commendable, an imbalance can lead to a myriad of problems.
Thursday night proved to be a good warm-up for Palermo and a chance to blow away some of the cobwebs from the summer break. Maribor were a difficult side to break down and it pushed the offence to work themselves, which will be beneficial for the start of the league. The away leg will prove even more of a challenge but the tie should be safe now and a chance to play in the group stage of the Europa League awaits, and all the dreams of European glory stay alive.