As game time draws near between Palermo and Udinese on Saturday evening, many still remember the haunting 0-7 loss the Rosanero suffered at the hands of the Zebrette a year ago at the Barbera. It was a match that won’t quickly be forgotten – ensured by the fact that Zamparini had custom made handkerchiefs with the scoreline printed on them as a keepsake for his players. Guidolin, the former Palermo coach who was hired and fired numerous times by the temperamental Zamparini, came to the Barbera and delivered a brutal beating on the Rosanero. And, it could have been worse, had Guidolin not told his players to hold back. The day after, Zamparini sacked Delio Rossi and derailed the club’s season even further. Now, Palermo welcomes a dangerous Udinese side to the Barbera once more, but will hope the result is different this time.
The Sicilian club is still in the midst of a poor run of results. Last week’s draw against Lecce was needed if only to stop the string of defeats. It came with a price however, as Bertolo received a three match ban for his headbutt on Lecce’s provocateur Delvecchio and Migliaccio broke the fifth toe in his left foot. Nevertheless, there was an additional benefit from last Sunday’s match. Ezequiel Munoz – the villain and hero of the encounter – picked up a yellow which forces him to miss the Udinese match due to card accumulation. The unfortunate Argentine has had a horrific season by all accounts and despite the fact that he is still very young and only in his second year in a new league, the supporters can breathe a collective sigh of relief that he won’t be around to deal with the likes of the ever-dangerous Di Natale.
While Palermo have only managed a draw from their last four matches, Udinese has had mixed results in their last four. They beat Bologna and drew against Napoli but failed to get the full points at home against Atalanta (0-0) while losing to Novara away. Nonetheless, the team has also been dealing with Europa League fixtures and a mounting list of injuries. Guidolin will not be able to count on the likes of Benatia, Badu, Ferronetti and Isla (season over) due to injuries while Floro Flores, Fabbrini and Domizzi are all suspended. Nevertheless, Di Natale is a game changer by his lonesome and others like Abdi, Armero and Torje have the ability to be constant threats to a shaky Rosanero defense.
Official Lineup (updated)
Labrin – Milanovic – Mantovani
Pisano – Migliaccio – Donati – Barreto – Balzaretti
Abel – Miccoli
Bench: Tzorvas; Aguirregaray; Acquah, Della Rocca, Vazquez, Ilicic; Budan
Mutti’s comments in his pre-match press conference leave a lot to be desired in terms of how the Rosanero will lineup. The Palermo coach admitted several things that could happen, starting with the module they employ. Mutti has been using the 4-3-1-2 in the past few games, but suggested he could switch to a 3-5-1-1 or 3-5-2 against Udinese. With Silvestre and Munoz both out, only Mantovani and Labrin seem sure of earning a starting spot. Meanwhile, should Mutti opt for a three man back line, Milanovic would get his debut in Rosanero, with Bortolo stating that he’s always given youngsters playing time. However, given that the club have yet to reach 40 points, it seems more likely that he’ll opt for the 4-3-1-2. In the middle, the big doubt is over Migliaccio and his broken toe. The warrior managed to make the call-up list, but it remains to be seen whether or not he’s risked on Saturday night. Should he be held out, Della Rocca would be his replacement. Up top, look for Ilicic, Miccoli and Abel to pull the strings.
Keys to the Game
1) Contain Antonio Di Natale
He’s old, but he’s more dangerous than ever while being the heart and soul of this miraculous Udinese side. The man has scored 19 of the team’s 38 goals while assisting five of those 19 where he didn’t score. The key to this match is simple on paper: stop Di Natale and Palermo will very likely earn three points. The problem is, it’s not something that just can be stated. The man is to the Zebrette what Miccoli is to the Rosanero. They are very much alike in just about every aspect. Mutti would be wise to have a man mark him the entire match.
2) Prevent an early goal
In the last two weeks, Palermo have given up a goal in the sixth and third minute of each game, effectively putting the side at a disadvantage almost straightaway. the biggest crutch to this team is its defense. Given the way Udinese can counterattack, it’ll be imperative to make sure the Rosanero aren’t out a goal quickly for the third consecutive week.
3) Open up on offense
Miccoli’s absence proved to be costly last week as the Rosanero struggled to find creative ways forward. Ilicic had a good game but missed a one on one that could have regaled the club with three points. Beyond that, the attack was stale for the most part once again. With the likes of Ilicic and Miccoli and the pace of Abel, Palermo should be able to open up the field of play and create more dangerous opportunities from all sides of the pitch.
SIAMO TERRONI E CE NE VANTIAMOOOOOO!!!!