The fire and passion of Sicily will be well and truly brought to life again at the weekend when Catania make their shortest trip of the season to pay a visit to island neighbours Palermo. The victory over Reggina last weekend ended a run of five games without a win for the Rossazzurri, but Walter Zenga’s men, denied by a late Giuseppe Colucci equaliser in their last away game at Chievo, have yet to pick up all three points on the road this season. Palermo has only dropped nine points at the Renzo Barbera stadium after defeats to Fiorentina, Inter and Juventus, so for Catania to break their duck against their local rivals is a big ask.
The win against the bottom side opened up an eight-point cushion and Zenga can breathe a little easier going into the Derby di Sicilia. Palermo on the other hand currently lie in ninth position, seven points adrift of the European places and with arguably more to play for. In derby matches however, pride is at stake, and for Sicilians that is perhaps more valuable than three points.
After such a good start to his tenure at the Stadio Angelo Massimino, a downward spiral in 2009 has brought Zenga’s continuation with the Sicilian club into question. Chairman Antonino Pulvirenti has quashed rumours they are considering a change at the helm by announcing Spiderman will be at the club come the end of the season. Considering the Rossoblu are having one of their most successful periods in their history, even the suggestion to relinquish the contract of the former Italian No.1 is ridiculous. He has only been in the job a little under a year and it would appear the rumours are nothing more than media speculation.
The Catania Coach is unlikely to change his side much for the trip to Palermo, sticking with keeper Albano Bizarri, with Cristian Silvestri, Matias Silvestre, Lorenzo Stovini, Ciro Capuano ahead of him. Ezequiel Carboni alongside Marco Biagianti will be positioned in a two man holding midfield allowing playmaker Pablo Ledesma to roam ahead of them and link with the front three. Biagianti will look to bring the ball forward at given opportunities and spray the play wide with raking passes. Top scorer Giuseppe Mascara will lead the attacking trident with Mariano Izco and Jorge Martinez, who was a constant threat against Reggina, likely to be named in the supporting roles. Both can play in wide areas and are effective cutting inside. Takayuki Morimoto’s goal against Reggina last weekend may not be enough to warrant a start against the old foe, but he may feature at some point if Zenga feels the need to inject more pace.
Palermo are a potent attacking threat themselves having registered 23 times in front of their home fans already this season. Having conceded 15 however, they are not entirely organised in defence and are susceptible to breakaway attacks. This will not concern Coach Davide Ballardini too much for the time being as he has been exploring ways to find the right balance. The midfield trio of Marco Bresciano and Antonio Nocerino in the centre appears to be his best option just ahead of deep laying playmaker Fabio Liverani. The midfield trio have the quality to compete, but at times don’t look to have an understanding of which positions to take up. They may still be adapting to the 4-3-1-2 formation, but must discipline themselves defensively if Palermo are going to improve on last year’s eleventh place finish.
Edison Cavani is one of Palermo’s emerging young talents and has already earned the praise of his President Maurizio Zamparini who has tipped him to become one of the best strikers in Europe. The Argentinean is strong in the air as well as a clinical finisher and in a partnership alongside the prominent force of Fabrizio Miccoli, the duo has notched eight goals apiece. Supported by the craft and vision of Fabio Simplicio, it is not beyond them to add to their tally this weekend.
Goalkeeper Marco Amelia has not looked convincing on crosses, but will retain his place between the posts, protected by an emerging centre pairing of Cesare Bovo and another impressive youngster, Simon Kjaer. The nineteen-year-old Danish defender has retained his place in the side after impressing as a half-time substitute against Fiorentina back in October and looks to have a bright future ahead of him. Federico Balzaretti and Mattia Cassani will complete the backline filling in the fullback berths.
Both Sicilian teams are making good progress under the guidance of their respective Tacticians – both of whom are in the first full season with their new clubs. The first meeting between the pair earlier in the season ended with a 2-0 victory for Catania – damage the Rosanero will be anxious to repair this time around in front of their fans. With Rossoblu fans banned from travelling to attend the game in a move by authorities to combat football violence, the only battle taking place in Palermo this weekend will be on the field. It has the makings of an enthralling contest.