After a scintillating bout of form, Palermo are back in the abyss. Three consecutive losses in which they’ve only scored one goal while conceding nine has given Zamparini a cause for concern. His most obvious target? Bortolo Mutti. While the fiery patron didn’t state it specifically, his comments spelled out a must-win for Mutti’s men.
The Rosanero find themselves six points away from safety with 11 games to play. While relegation is not a serious threat, the club has been stuck on 34 points for nearly a month. In a rebuilding year such as this, lofty expectations were never on the cards and despite that brilliant month of play between January and February, any aspirations should have and were kept grounded. The team simply isn’t as good as it seems when they are at their best but nor are they as bad as it seems when at their worst – including their current moment. Palermo needs to focus on earning six more points and then they can focus on finding which pieces will be included for next year’s project.
Meanwhile, Lecce is a club clawing its way out of the relegation zone while fighting tooth and nail for Serie A survival. The Salentini have enjoyed a great resurgence in the months of January and February, only losing three times (to Juve, Udinese and Milan) while earning 16 points. Now, they are only six points out of the drop zone and have recaptured a belief that survival is no longer a fleeting hope.
Sunday’s match will be a test of wills. Palermo needs to fight the complacent nature that has been seen over the past few matches and find something positive to take back to Sicily. Lecce, fresh off a defeat (albeit expected) against Milan will be spurred on by their coach Serse Cosmi, who’s stint with the Rosanero was quick and painful. With a team like Lecce that has all to play for, will Mutti be able to inspire his men to a gritty performance?
Aguirregaray – Munoz – Mantovani – Balzaretti
Migliaccio – Donati – Acquah
Ilicic – Bertolo
Bench: Tzorvas; Milanovic; Della Rocca, Vazquez, Zahavi; Budan
Mutti has several decisions to make due to absences from suspension and injury. The Palermo coach hinted at switching up the formation by employing two trequartiste behind a point man like Abel Hernandez. It would seem that Ilicic has the first position locked up with Bertolo in pole for the second. Perhaps at this point it would be worthwhile to give Vazquez a run-out but that option seems unlikely. The midfield trio seems likely to be Migliaccio, Donati and Acquah but don’t rule out a Della Rocca sighting. The back line seems set and the right side of the pitch gives cause for concern on paper, with Aguirregaray and Munoz holding down the positions where Pisano and Silvestre are normally found.
Keys to the Game
1) Isolate the danger Luis Muriel presents
The nearly 21-year-old Colombian attacker on loan from Udinese is enjoying a great season with the Salentini. He’s got great pace, good technique and has a bit of flair about him. He’s already caught the eye of some big clubs with Milan very interested. He has a great future ahead of him.
2) Eliminate defensive lapses
It’s no secret that Palermo have killed off games completely due to their own ineptness on the defensive side of the ball. The loss against Roma last week was solely down to a mistake in Palermo’s own third and the Milan match was full of terrible errors. Munoz has been the principle target of several of these mistakes but he’s not alone when it comes to all of them. Mantovani, Pisano, Donati and even Balzaretti have had several poor misjudgments while defending.
3) A scorer must emerge
With Miccoli suspended against his beloved squad, the burden of scoring falls on the shoulders of another. As previously stated, Palermo only have one goal in the last three games. They’ve looked sluggish and boring. There has been a lack of creativity and ideas in the final third and the numbers don’t lie. Who will step up and put the ball into the back of the net? Abel will have a good chance and Ilicic is coming off of a really good performance last week. Nonetheless, without Palermo’s most dangerous weapon, the Rosanero need someone to emerge in the attack.
SIAMO TERRONI E CE NE VANTIAMOOOOOO!!!!