Club Focus is a new regular feature on Football Italiano that aims to bring you up-to-date with your favourite clubs from the Peninsula. Each week we bring you the latest news, previews and commentary focused solely on an individual club. We aim to provide you with well-formed, in-depth debate on the latest events surrounding some of Serie A’s biggest clubs. This week sees the first segment of the Palermo and Roma Club Focuses.
First things first, the Derby di Sicilia match between Palermo and Catania. This match had everything – red cards, disallowed penalties, controversy and probably the goal of the season. Club President Maurizio Zamparini stressed beforehand how important a win over gli Elefanti was going to be, especially for the fans. In an recent interview with the La Repubblica he said, “For me these are three fundamental points just like all the others, but I also know how much supporters care about this game.”
In the end though, Palermo fans were left disappointed as they succumbed to a 4-0 home defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals. Three first half goals courtesy of Pablo Ledesma, Takayuki Morimoto and that Giuseppe Mascara belter from the halfway line coupled with Mark Bresciano’s sending off capped an abysmal first half for Davide Ballardini’s side. Despite an improved second half performance with both Guilio Migliaccio and Edison Cavani going close for the Rosanero, Walter Zenga’s side still managed to get the fourth goal courtesy of a Michele Paolucci strike. The Rossoblu have now won the last three Sicilian Derby matches and capped off their landmark 400th game in Serie A with their first away win of 2009.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Sicilian side in pink – good news came out recently about newly acquired striker Abel Hernandez, the 19-year-old who was signed from Urugyuan side Penarol in January. He has yet to suit up for La Aquile, mainly because of the fact that while doing his medical, club doctors had discovered a heart athymia condition and expected him not to play for quite some time, but news came out just recently from club doctors that the condition is not as severe as first expected, with a delighted Zamparini stating, “I’m really happy for Abel as he is an excellent player and with him in the squad Palermo can be a step ahead.”
In the recent South America U-20 tournament the Urugyuan netted a hat-trick against Brazil which is no small feat at any level against the Selecao and he was truly a stand out player at that tournament “He’s got great technique and agility, but he is young and needs to mature,” stated the clubs Sporting Director Walter Sabatini.
Next weekend the Rosanero will travel north to Tuscany to play fourth place Fiorentina who are trying to cement that Champions league place. These teams met in October where la Viola took home the three points defeating the Rosanero by a 3-1 score at the Renzo Barbera Stadium, Adrian Mutu scored twice and Alberto Gilardino netted the other goal with the sole reply for Palermo. The leaky Palermo defence will have their work cut for them trying to contain the Gila-Mutu partnership who together have netted a impressive 27 goals and are a no doubt one of the most feared attacking forces in Serie A if not Europe. They both come into this game in impressive form with Mutu having scored some crucial goals for the Tuscan side recently.
Davide Ballardini seems to use quite a consistent formation from game to game preferring to stick to his favoured 4-3-1-2 lineup, where there’s a lot of interchanging between the three usual midfield players of Antonio Nocerino, Fabio Liverani and Mark Bresciano with a fourth midfielder acting as the playmaker, usually Fabio Simplicio (who has scored six goals to date). The Brazilian is key to Palermo attacks, creating the link between midfield and attack trying to add fluidity in attacking build-up and to cover for the lack of width further up the pitch, whilst usual fullbacks Mattia Cassani and Fedrico Balzaretti supporting from further back along the wings. This formation doesn’t always work well with some teams but the ex-Cagliari Tactician has done a great job of making it fit into the Rosanero playing style this season after the sale of Amauri forced a rethink in the summer.
Marco Amelia is most probably going to get the nod in goal and the defensive partnership of Cesare Bovo and Simon Kjaer is likely to retain it’s place in the starting line-up against Cesare Prandelli’s men. Kjaer has especially impressed many in his short time at the club, just recently picking up the best U-21 player in the annual Sicilian Soccer Oscars, with the award presented to him by Palermo President Giovanni Avanti.
Up-front the attacking duo of Fabrizio Miccoli and Edison Cavani has developed a great chemistry this season scoring eight goals apiece. When fit and on his game, Fabrizio Miccoli is a useful weapon for the Pink-Blacks but he is prone to frequent muscular and ankle injuries. Edison Cavani seems an exciting young player who is having a break-out season this year and the Rosanero Tactician has given high praise to the young Urugyuan saying that one day he will develop into one of the best strikers in Serie A. Beyond those two, Palermo do not have much available in terms of attacking support for the time being with injured Igor Budan who was picked up in the summer from Parma only making five appearances to date and Levan Mchedlidze also out injured. Both are close to returning having resumed light training which is surely a big boost for the Rosanero attacking options.
The next few weeks will surely be an important stage for the Sicilian side as they make a late push for Europe, but they will need to pick up the slack and start to find a way to manufacture a few more goals having failed to score in four of the last five league games. Hopefully March will be a more fruitful month for the Rosanero as February ended on quite a sour note with a thumping in the Derby di Sicilia.