This week was less headline-grabbing on the transfer market, but a ton of deals got done, especially involving the lower-table clubs. But let’s start off with some news pertaining the sports justice, which has had a leading role this summer. Parma and Emanuele Calaiò partially won their appeal: the club will no longer be deducted any point but will simply be fined, while the striker is suspended until December 31st, down from the initial two years, for sending some inappropriate texts that the prosecutor believed to have the purpose of fixing a match.
The Serie A roster got completed last Sunday as Frosinone beat Palermo in the playoff final. The Rosanero lost their first appeal against the validation of the result as they believe there were some irregularities and promised to keep fighting. The Ciociari, whose promotion does not seem in danger, will play two games with closed doors because some objects were thrown onto the pitch and for time wasting by the ball boys.
There could be trouble in Parma, as the club has been deferred to the sports justice for attempted offence due to some text Emanuele Calaiò sent to some Spezia players ahead of the final and decisive game, inviting them not to play too hard. Continue reading
On Saturday night, Frosinone defeated Palermo two-nil in the return leg of the Serie B playoffs and returned to the top league after a two-year absence. It will be the Ciociari’s second appearance in Serie A: in 2015/2016 they finished 19th, fading down the stretch after being fairly competitive in the relegation race.
The Gialloblù were among the favourites all year long and spent the better part of the season in the top two spots. They had the opportunity to be promoted directly up until the final match day, but they fumbled it away due to a last-minute 2-2 tie with Foggia, which allowed Parma to leapfrog them. However, they were able to regroup and eliminate Cittadella and Palermo in the postseason. Continue reading
Incident is never far from the Stadio Renzo Barbera. Palermo are magnets for it, specifically President Maurizio Zamparini.
The fiery patron is known for his short fuse and has well and truly earned his reputation as a Manager Eater. That came to a head last season as Palermo went through nearly as many coaching reigns – nine – as they did victories – 10. That they survived the drop was remarkable in itself.
But a squad which in the summer lost its best player Franco Vazquez, as well as the experience of Alberto Gilardino and Stefano Sorrentino, is set to struggle to stay afloat for another season.
Speaking before the season opener at home against Sassuolo, coach Davide Ballardini acknowledged they are predicted to be among the relegation candidates – “We want to prove that we belong in Serie A, even if some expect us to be in the bottom three” – but insisted the squad is united.
That’s more than can be said for the tactician and his boss. Zamparini scoffed at Ballardini’s public assertion the squad needed reinforcements. Notably, Ballardini was after an experienced goalkeeper, with first choice Josip Posavec only 20-years-old. His deputies are 21 and 18 respectively.
“We brought in Rajkovic, Gazzi, Aleesami, Nestorovski, Sallai: three youngsters like Embalo, Bentivegna and Lo Faso. I want to see trust and enthusiasm, not requests.” Zamparini continued: “Ballardini needs to learn to shut up and let the pitch do the talking, seeing as he’s a fine coach.” Norwegian international Aleesami looks the best of the new purchases, but question marks remain over the squad in general.
It’s not exactly an ideal way to approach the season, especially seeing as Ballardini was fired and re-hired last term and Zamparini is known to let coaches go even after one defeat.
Sunday night did not help. In hoping to steer clear of the relegation mire this season, Palermo started in poor fashion as they went down to a Domenico Berardi penalty. Sassuolo dominated the match to leave Sicily with a 1-0 result. Ballardini was disappointed with the result, but not the commitment shown by his players.
History suggests that won’t be enough to curb Zamparini’s insatiable fury. Will it be a season of toil for Palermo? If they continue down the path with this squad in tow, Serie B looks on the horizon.
Serie A’s European race came to an exciting conclusion on Saturday, as the race for second spot shifted between Napoli and Roma. The Partenopei started in second, but after Roma netted at Milan had to go on the charge against Frosinone. Gonzalo Giguain’s hat-trick helped them to a Champions League group stage position.
A day later it was all about survival. Palermo sat in 17th, a point clear of Carpi. At home to already-relegated Verona, Palermo were expected to get the win required. Carpi had to go to Udinese, who had nothing to play for other than to send departing club legend Antonio Di Natale off on a high.
Controversy surrounded Verona’s trip south. Serie A’s parachute payments for relegated teams ensured Hellas stood to make more money if Palermo survived. Carpi pressured the League to keep a close eye on proceedings. But any suggestion Verona would simply lie down proved incorrect.
Palermo did win. So too Carpi. The Rosaneri survived, but only just. An awful campaign had a nerve-tingling ending, but credit should go to coach Davide Ballardini and his team for leaping the hurdles set before them from within.
This is Ballardini’s second stint on the bench, taking part in a coaching merry-go-round which made Palermo a laughing stock. His first reign took a shocking twist away to Verona in January as a major rift developed between him and the players. For all intents and purposes, captain Stefano Sorrentino led the team at the Stadio Bentegodi, while Ballardini stood emotionless on the sidelines.
They seemed to bury the hatchet and Sorrentino was one of Palermo’s stars in the latter weeks. They won three of their last five matches to survive. Enzo Maresca was another to stand up when it mattered most. Frozen out by Ballardini earlier in the season, his looping header minutes after Verona equalised sent Palermo on their way. Alberto Gilardino’s goal then sealed the win, although Verona made the last moments interesting by pulling one back.
Relief fell over the Stadio Renzo Barbera at full-time. Players, coaches and fans rejoiced at the end of a difficult season. All have endured the incomprehensible whims of President Maurizio Zamparini, which nearly took Palermo down. They went through nine different coaching stints. The team could never settle under a regime.
That they survived was testament to the willpower of the players, and Ballardini, to persevere. Carpi deserve praise for their gallant effort. But Palermo’s season must be a warning for Zamparini: such a campaign cannot be the norm.
It was the sort of drama-filled contest only the end of season scraps can produce. Drama encapsulated in 90 minutes. But that’s scant consolation for Carpi, whose action-packed 3-1 defeat against Lazio means they have dropped into the relegation zone with one match remaining. Serie A safety will ride on a tense final round.
It could have been so different had Jerry Mbakogu held his nerve from the spot. Not once, but twice. Instead, Federico Marchetti proved a brick wall as he saved two first half penalties. The Lazio goalkeeper guessed right twice and it was Lazio two goals up at the break. It may have been more had Senad Lulic’s shot not hit both the crossbar and post.
After Miroslav Klose netted, Mbakogu finally did get the better of Marchetti, while Lazio ended with nine men following red cards to Lucas Biglia and Filip Djordjevic. It proved something of a hollow victory for the capital club as they cannot reach Europe next season, but defeat was costly for Carpi. Especially as Palermo left Florence with a point to go 17th.
“We didn’t deserve to lose, we were unlucky today,” coach Fabrizio Castori bemoaned. “We created very many chances and missed two penalty shots, while they were a lot more cynical.”
But he was not about to lay the blame at Mbakogu. “The player assigned to the penalty shoots it the way he feels he must. You can’t reproach him that. Let’s just accept what happened on the pitch.”
The Biancorossi are now 18th, with the final spot to join Verona and Frosinone to Serie B decided on the final day. It is a battle between the promoted club and crisis-ridden Palermo, who have finally found some form to go four games unbeaten.
The head-to-head record between the two sides is level as they approach the final round. Palermo host Verona knowing a win will be enough, while Carpi will go to Udinese hoping for a favour in Sicily.
What can Castori’s team do this weekend? “We have the duty to keep trying until the end.” But Carpi have won just one away match in 2016, going scoreless in six of their last seven. Meanwhile, Palermo have not conceded a goal in three games as they prepare to face Serie A’s lowest scorers.
After Sunday’s amazing loss, it will take something special to see Carpi remain in the top flight.
Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini has let fly in recent weeks. Outbursts from the controversial figure are nothing new, but he has directed his ire at those perceived to be against Palermo. As the Sicilian club creep closer to relegation the strain is showing on a President who has been central to Palermo being in this predicament.
While the battle for the Scudetto is over, the action is heating up at the bottom. Verona are now relegated, with Palermo, Frosinone and Carpi scraping to avoid the other two positions.
When Frosinone scored a late goal in their relegation six-pointer at Verona on April 17, Zamparini accused the home team of letting the Canarini score. “For the Frosinone goal the Verona players looked the other way. Am I doubting the good faith of Hellas Verona? I’ve already said everything. You look at the match. If there is to be TV evidence then it should be used in this case.”
Frosinone President Maurizio Stirpe called the comments “offensive to the whole of football.” But that hasn’t stopped the fiery Zamparini.
His next target was referees. On Sunday, Palermo won a crucial match at Frosinone, their first since January 24. But victory for Carpi over Empoli saw the minnows stay in 17th, three points clear of Palermo.
“The fight to avoid relegation was conditioned directly by the referee Paolo Valeri in the Carpi-Empoli match yesterday,” a statement from the President read. He was incensed at the first half dismissal of Empoli’s Levan Mchedlidze, plus a disallowed goal and a penalty not given to Empoli. Carpi won 1-0.
Rather than complain about referees, Zamparini must look in the mirror for the cause of Palermo’s struggles. They have made nine coaching changes this term – that’s more than their number of wins, eight.
Zamparini sacked Giuseppe Iachini citing an ability to play the football needed to succeed. He later brought him back, only to sack him once more weeks later. Davide Ballardini’s absurd fallout with the squad late last year mattered little as he is back on the bench. Walter Novellino lasted only a few matches. Then there was the Guillermo Schelotto debacle. The Argentine did not have the correct licence to coach and had to be replaced by a series of youth and assistant coaches.
Palermo’s squad is not one which should be fighting for survival. But thanks to the farcical nature of Zamparini’s leadership and his penchant to hire and fire like it’s nothing, Palermo have been severely crippled. They have three games left to mount a recovery.
It should have been a celebratory day for Juventus. Napoli had lost the day before at Inter, so a win over Palermo would extend the lead at the top of Serie A to nine points.
Massimiliano Allegri’s Bianconeri obliged, putting four past the relegation-threatened Sicilians. Paul Pogba starred with a goal and an assist – the latter for Sami Khedira. Juan Cuadrado dazzled for the third goal, while Simone Padoin finished it off. A 4-0 win has Juve within touching distance of a fifth consecutive Scudetto.
But that wasn’t the story of the day. There was consternation as Claudio Marchisio went down inside the opening quarter-hour clutching his left knee. Scans later confirmed anterior cruciate ligament damage, meaning Marchisio must undergo surgery in the upcoming days. His season is over and his place at Euro 2016 gone.
“The news from the test results inevitably hurt me, but these are the risks of the job,” Marchisio later wrote on Instagram. “I have a great deal of strength and desire to get back as soon as possible.”
Juve felt the shock on the pitch as Palermo caught them napping on a few first-half occasions. Gianluigi Buffon had to deny Ivalyo Chocev and Aleksandar Trajkovski saw a potential equaliser cleared off the line by Andrea Barzagli.
But they steadied to score three times after the break. They will also need to steady in the final weeks without Marchisio. So important in the centre of midfield, the Turin-born midfielder has taken over the mantle left by Andrea Pirlo. Not the same type of player, but just as significant.
“There is little to celebrate today, as we have lost a fundamental figure both on the field and in the locker room,” Leonardo Bonucci said afterwards. Mario Lemina, who came on for Marchisio on Sunday, is the most likely candidate to take over the role. Juve have five games left in which to close out a fifth consecutive Scudetto, while there is also the matter of a domestic double, with the Coppa Italia Final against Milan still to come.
Antonio Conte will also be scratching his head as Marchisio was set to line-up for a fourth successive international tournament. Instead he will be sidelined as Italy go to France. Conte’s problem may run a little deeper as Marco Verratti is also currently injured and Daniele De Rossi out of form this term.
It’s a solution neither Conte nor Allegri wanted to deal with at this stage of the season. It’s a blow for both Juventus and the Azzurri, who miss a central heartbeat of the team.
Even Maurizio Zamparini knew a split wasn’t permanent: “[Giuseppe] Iachini? I hope that I’m not forced to call him back and that Ballardini does well, but with my past I would say that you can’t rule anything out in life!”
The fiery Palermo President said that on 17 November, just a week after sending Iachini packing. The Coach was sacked despite victory over Chievo, Zamparini claiming the team was headed in the wrong direction. Players were sorry to see him go. It would prove to be the start of a disastrous spell for the Sicilians, which – perhaps – culminated on Monday.
Hiring and firing coaches is nothing new for Zamparini. This season’s particular set of circumstances, however, is. Davide Ballardini lasted two months in the job, sacked in mid-January after he “committed career suicide”, according to the President. His reign ended despite another win, this time at Verona, after an incredible series of events. The Coach clashed with captain Stefano Sorrentino and did little to resemble a leader, leaving the captain to take team duties in the build-up. When Palermo scored he stood statuesque. Ballardini was there only in body.
One fan banner this past Sunday summed up the most recent, shambolic, period, reading ‘Excuse me, who is on the bench today?’ A day later, as Iachini returned, Zamparini was forced to apologise after the latest mishap. Ballardini’s replacement was Argentine Guillermo Schelotto, who had been in charge of Lanus. Only problem, he did not have the necessary licence to take charge.
Schelotto was to take control behind the scenes, leaving a string of tacticians with the qualifications to sit on the bench. First it was assistant Fabio Viviani. Then Giovanni Tedesco was hired. Finally, youth boss Giovanni Bosi took charge. When Schelotto’s problems weren’t resolved he left Italy. Even before the appointment, Iachini had been recalled, only for it to be cancelled after an argument with Zamparini over transfer strategy.
All the while the team has stumbled through this inexplicable period. The Rosaneri won just three of 13 matches between Iachini’s dismissal and return. They were also eliminated from the Coppa Italia by third-tier Alessandria.
Zamparini has provided Palermo with positive times in his decade-plus in charge. They’ve reached Europe and been home to talented players. But his petulance hampers Palermo. There’s no stability. It’s a harmful environment. The President can change his mind on a whim. It’s also taxing on the fans.
Palermo are only four points above the relegation zone with a squad which should be clear of danger. With a difficult upcoming run which includes Roma, Napoli and Inter in the next four matches, Palermo could find themselves in the dogfight in short time.
Luigi Delneri insists his team will fight until the bitter end. It’s all they can do. Sitting bottom of Serie A, Verona are already a massive 11 points from safety. Most concerning is they are yet to win a game. They look relegation certainties, but how about the other contenders at the halfway mark?
It’s probably no surprise that the relegation zone is rounded out by Carpi and Frosinone. Promoted from Serie B, they are amongst two of the smallest clubs to ever reach the top flight. But they are no means doomed.
It has been a rollercoaster ride for Carpi. Fabrizio Castori led them to an extraordinary promotion, but was sacked after just six winless matches. Replacement Giuseppe Sannino won only once, so Castori was reinstated. That seemed to galvanise the Biancorossi, who have since picked up eight points.
Frosinone boss Roberto Stellone has his side a point ahead of Carpi, on 15. Starting the term with a quartet of losses, the Canarini then stunned Juventus to then pick up their first ever Serie A point. Some have found the trip to the Stadio Matusa a tricky one, but cutting out the heavy defeats – Frosinone have conceded a League-high 41 goals – will aid their chances of survival.
Two experienced Serie A campaigners are also in the firing line. Genoa and Palermo hold the two positions immediately above the drop zone. The Rossoblu picked up a much needed win at Atalanta to round out the first half of the campaign, having lost six in a row beforehand.
Meanwhile, Palermo are on their third Coach. Ex-Lanus boss Guillermo Barros Schelotto comes in for Davide Ballardini, who had replaced Giuseppe Iachini. Curiously, both sackings occurred after victories. It appeared only a matter of time as Ballardini lost the confidence of the players. But both, as well as Bologna and Torino ahead, have the experience and squad strength to survive the drop.
That possibility is decreasing each week for Verona. Last term led by the goals of Luca Toni, his spell on the sidelines hurt dearly. Andrea Mandorlini was sacked, but Delneri’s arrival has not altered the course. They have just eight points.
Delneri says the team will fight to the end, but with their confidence shot it will be a long road back in the second half of the campaign. Who else will be staring at a Serie B future alongside Hellas?