When Palermo take on Catania at the Massimino on Sunday, it will be a tale of many things, the fact that it’s a derby notwithstanding. The two sides represent the best of Sicilian football, and while both sides will claim that theirs is better (the facts end any such debate in the overwhelming favor of the beloved Rosanero), they find themselves only two points apart in the table with Palermo in sixth and Catania close behind despite being in 11th place. Both clubs took the initiative to depend on very young managers. Both Devis Mangia and Vincenzo Montella are the youngest coaches in Serie A, born in the same month of the same year. The Palermo boss is 12 days older than his Catania counterpart but both have proven to be shrewd coaches very early on in their managerial careers.
Historically, much can be said about the passion between the two teams. There have been ignominious defeats, phenomenal performances and even a terrible tragedy over the years. The teams have also shown a willingness to exchange players between the two sides. No clearer is that seen than this past year with Davide Lanzafame and Matias Silvestre making the switch to the other team. With the 2011/12 season underway, both teams have played beyond expectations and all eyes in Sicily will be focused on who can come out on top.
Aside from the obvious significance to a win, the psychological impact a derby can have for the winning side is no minimal effect. The Rosanero win last season against Catania spurred the side to take 13 out of a possible 18 points from the proceeding games. If ever there was a time for Mangia’s side to be thrust forward as the result of a tremendous win, Catania is the perfect party to launch them. Forza Palermo!
balzaretti – silvestre – migliaccio – mantovani
alvarez – barreto – della rocca – bertolo
iličić – miccoli
Bench: brichetto; aguirregaray, cetto; bačinović, lores; pinilla, budan
Mangia has a quagmire on his hands. The suspensions of Acquah and Munoz in addition to the injuries to Pisano, Zahavi, Tzorvas and Abel Hernandez mean that the young coach has to put together a very raw lineup with players playing in all sorts of positions that normally aren’t their own.
Benussi will be the keeper, that is assured given the Greek’s absence to injury (notwithstanding Ciccio is now the team’s number one). Brichetto will make the bench as the backup. In the back, Balzaretti will make a very rare foray as the team’s right back since the injury to Pisano has left a void. Mangia apparently prefers Balzaretti to fill the hole at RB while Mantovani takes over at LB. Aguirregaray doesn’t appear to be in the running for a starter’s spot. Centrally, Silvestre will face his old team alongside the invaluable Giulio Migliaccio.
The midfield will have four players who have yet to experience the Sicilian derby, save Bertolo who appeared in the 2009/10 season as a substitute for 28 minutes. The four man line should be Alvarez, Barreto, Della Rocca and Bertolo. There won’t be many options off the bench either, with only Armin Bačinović and Lores a lock for the bench. Unfortunately, Armin’s poor attitude from the previous game means that he lost his starting spot and penalizes his teammates as a result. It doesn’t seem likely that he’ll get the nod, but maybe he’s shown something in practice that makes up for his actions.
Up top, Mangia confirmed that Miccoli would start while the on-fire Josip Iličić will partner alongside him. Budan and Pinilla remain on the bench.
Those wary of the derby on Sunday have every right to be. Not only has the team from the other side of the island managed impressive results against their better counterparts in recent seasons, they will be playing at home where Palermo has not won since 2007. Beyond that statistic, Palermo’s awful road form continues with a goal for the Rosanero yet to be scored this term. The injuries and absences to Palermo leave this team decimated and disappointed from the midweek loss to Siena, ending their time in this year’s Coppa Italia as abruptly as their Europa League campaign at the very beginning of the season. There will be plenty of new faces who will be experiencing their very first Derby della Sicilia. The game carries a significance and weight to supporters from both sides and the players will need to respond to the emotional pull with a proud performance. Mangia’s men have an opportunity to seize if they can overcome the game’s difficult odds.
LA SICILIA VERA SIAMO NOI!!!