Football Italiano’s 500@five – Are Palermo Serie A’s emerging force?

Palermo produced a powerful performance against league leaders Inter as they held them to a 1-1 draw in Sicily to further their growing claims for a European place.

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One of the defining aspects of this Serie A campaign has been the rise of the traditionally mid-table teams which have proved to be extremely difficult to get past in 2009/10. One of those teams has been Palermo, which hasn’t been beaten at home in the league since November 2008. At the weekend against Inter, the Rosanero played out an exciting draw and continued to hold on to fourth spot in the table.

A couple of months ago, when this writer discussed the chances of the teams fighting for the European spots, Palermo’s form left much to be desired. However, Delio Rossi’s side has made some remarkable progress of late and is winning more and more people over in Italy. The club is still losing the odd game on its travels as we saw in the previous week against Udinese, but at home they have the second best record in the league.

The atmosphere around the Renzo Barbera suggests that the team is now ready to take the next upward step and start competing in continental competition. The last time Palermo found themselves so high up the table was three seasons ago, but Francesco Guidolin’s side collapsed in the second half of the campaign. This time though, the team seems to have the necessary components to propel it further.

The South American contingent at the club has been brilliant this term and now forms a core part of the team. Javier Pastore and Abel Hernandez seem to have brought the best out of Edison Cavani, the striker having netted 10 times this season. Fabrizio Miccoli is continuing to produce his usual high quality performances and the defence has also tightened up under Rossi. Simon Kjær is also having a brilliant season so far and is being courted by some of the best of the teams on the peninsula.

The defensive solidarity of the team was particularly visible on Saturday as Inter threw everything at the Sicilians. Fabio Simplicio has been one of the main protagonists in the Rosanero’s defensive efforts and the team will struggle to find a worthy replacement after his summer departure. Federico Balzaretti and Mattia Cassani have also come into their own this season and have established themselves in the full back positions.

For all the players, the highest praise should be reserved for Delio Rossi who has instilled a winning mentality into the squad. Under previous manager Walter Zenga, the team was unable to express itself as well as it is doing now. Rossi was instrumental in leading Lazio to the Coppa Italia last year, and seems to be doing an equally adept job in Sicily.

With only 9 rounds of the championship left, Palermo are well placed to pull off a shock fourth placed finish. The run-in sees the team face a number of sides from the bottom-half of the table and so next week’s trip to Genoa will be crucial. The clash with Sampdoria on the penultimate weekend of the season will probably decide how the campaign ends for the Aquile.

If the Rosanero do make it into the Champions League, it will be an historic moment for the side and something President Mauro Zamparini can be truly proud of.

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