It was never going to be easy facing a Juventus side totally revolutionised from the past few seasons. Unfortunately for Palermo, they had to face this resurgent side with a squad decimated by injuries and suspensions. No less than seven players for the Rosanero were unable to take part, rendering a game that was stunted from the get-go and, for the most part, hard to watch.
Yet, despite losing by two goals while barely providing a threat on the offensive end, the Rosanero can hold their heads high for putting in a gritty performance. It was only a matter of time before Juventus broke the deadlock, but for 45 minutes, the young backline consisting of Munoz, Labrin and Milanovic repelled each and every Bianconeri attack (while getting some help from the woodwork). Milanovic even broke his nose after a nasty clash saw the Serbian tumble to the ground. But, knowing the lack of options, Milan toughed it out and played through the rest of the game. A fighting spirit in the midst of terrible odds was a refreshing thing to see and perhaps a testament to the influence guys like Migliaccio and Miccoli have had in the locker room.
Speaking of influence, the time has come for Mutti to exert his own to make some key decisions to the lineup. For starters, Ilicic cannot continue to start. His horrid sophomore season has been a nightmare to all in Rosanero. The excuses can no longer be attributed to “excessive burdening” and the lost of Pastore. After all, there are things that a player can exhibit on the field that would allow supporters to give him some slack. Yet, these outward signs (putting in effort, helping out the team, appearing to care) are nowhere to be found with Josip. Obviously, the jeers do not help – and should not be directed at players in Rosanero – but Ilicic needs to do more than whine and cry when things aren’t going his way. Mutti has an option on the bench, the aptly nicknamed “El Mudo” (“The Mute”) and hardly anything has been heard from him or about him other than a handful of substitute appearances and a start. It’s time to give him a run-out in anticipation for next season. A poor attitude from Ilicic should not be rewarded with continual playing time.
As for the other Slovenian, it’ll be interesting to see how Mutti utilizes Bacinovic with Donati returning from suspension and going forward. It’s hard to see Donati ceding his starting spot to Baci, but Armin seems like he has the hunger to make an impact on the field in the handful of remaining games left in this forgettable season. If anything, it’s great to have a capable backup should either one miss any time.
Finally, it needs to be said again: Labrin and Milanovic have been two of the best surprises in the second half of the season. The two young defenders have been quality additions to a depleted and woeful defense. They’ve filled in admirably and have been relied on heavily in recent weeks. Whether one or both make next year’s squad, it’s almost a certainty that Palermo will hold onto their contracts based on their potential for future growth.
There’s no time to relax as the Sicilians travel to Firenze to take on a familiar face or two and a desperate Viola side on Wednesday.