SEASON 10: PUSHING FOR SILVERWARE
With just 8 games left in the league Palermo are aiming to win as many as possible to try and finish in the top 4. But the immediate focus is on Leipzig and trying to turn around a 2-0 deficit. Semp has been working on tactics behind the scenes and could see a change in formation to suit his emerging young star, Maric who prefers to play as an attacking midfielder. Palermo have real tough opponents still to face in the league, and the Coppa Italia Final against Juventus will be played just 2 days after the two sides meet in the league. The Palermo squad players must step up and perform now. These are Palermo's remaining fixtures:
Europa League Semi Final Leg 2
Palermo v RB Leipzig
Just says before the Europa League semi-final, Palermo defender Djordjevic picked up an injury that will put him out for two weeks. He has developed into a fantastic defender and will be sorely missed. Eric Dier is the only other player right now out injured for Palermo. Palermo stick with their usual 4-3-3, but will play with a more attacking approach. Duncan, Susa and Joensen have been playing well together and their contribution will be crucial as Palermo need at least two goals in the game. Young Belgian defender De Vos, came in for the injured Djordjevic. Klopp matched Palermo's tactic and bough in experienced CB, Akanji to play alongside Konate. Werner leads the line, with Hodges and Soloman on the wings, two top players who will need to be watched closely.
Palermo start the game as well as the possibly could. In the 5th minute Duncan crossed the ball in from the left side of the pitch, and Pol Joensen was there to finish. Palermo take an early 1-0 lead and are right back in the tie now. That is Joensens 13th goal of the season. In the 16th minute a RB Leipzig counter attack results in midfielder Ignacio Gonzalez scoring to tie the game. Leipzig now lead 3-1 on aggregate and with an away goal it is going to be very hard for Palermo to come back now. Just 2 minutes later Palermo reply. They scored an almost identical goal to their first goal. Duncan crossed from the left side of the box and Joensen once again scores the goal. 2-1 on the day and 2-3 on aggregate, what a match so far. In the 32nd minute Stevan Susa who had been quiet all game, darted down the left wing and clipped a lovely ball to the back post, and that man again, Joensen scored! That is his hat-trick and a third header, Palermo lead 3-1 and have tied the game on aggregate, they must score again though as at this stage Leipzig would progress with the away goal rule in their favour. Joensen has been incredibly clinical today. He now has 15 goals this season, not bad for a winger. Right before half time Urso makes an important save to prevent Leipzig from leading the tie. The teams go in at the break, with Palermo leading 3-1. Joensen clearly the best player so far, but Palermo cannot stop now and need to score another in the second half. Semp was full of praise at half time but also demanding more. Palermo are 45 minutes, and 1 goal away from the Europa League Final! 55 minutes in Goretzka strikers a powerful shot from the edge of the box and Urso makes and unbelievable save. Leipzig have come out stronger in the second half and Palermo need to wake up again. 59 minutes in Duncan was through on goal, but from a tight angle cannot beat the Leipzig keeper. In the 71st minute, Palermo still searching for another goal to see them through, Roudaut looked exhausted so he was taken off for Bruno Fernandes. 77 minutes in Bruno delivered a lovely free kick into the box and Acascibar scored, but he was offside. The Palermo players are furious and surround the ref. They now have just over 10 minutes to find the winning goal. Semp decides to bring on Roberts for Susa and push Maric into the CAM role changing to 4-2-3-1, it is now or never for Palermo. In the 85th minute Palermo have a free kick on the edge of the area, and Bruno struck in nicely but too straight, an easy save for Stojkovic. Just 5 minutes left Palermo are now going all out attack. Palermo create the last chance in the game but cannot score and the game ends. Palermo fought so well to get back into the game and are heartbroken as Leipzig will progress to the final thanks to the away goal scored from Gonzalez. A dream Europa journey is now over for Palermo, they played so well and will take the positives, and come back stronger next season.
Werner leads RB Leipzig to the 2029 Europa League Final
For Palermo now the attention is back on the Serie A battle. Two tough away games against Napoli and Juventus, before the Coppa Italia Final which will be the next 'feature match'. The Palermo players are gutted after their brutal exit from the Europa League, and to have to play Napoli away just 2 days later is going to be a tough battle.
A heavily rotated Palermo side suffered a 2-0 defeat to a resurgent Napoli. Boss Semp not too disheartened as he is resting his more important players for the cup final, it will be a similar situation in the next league game against Juventus, who are currently top of the league, tied with AC Milan. Semp doesn't want to risk picking up any more injuries and is thinking of more of less throwing the league game to focus on the cup.
As expected a second string Palermo suffered defeat to Juventus who are aiming to win every league game and secure the league title. The Palermo team that lost 4-0 will look completely different to the starting XI that will play Juventus again in 2 days time. Semp didn't want to have to throw games, but due to the scheduling of fixtures was left with no choice, and after the cup final can focus finishing the league campaign strong.
Coppa Italia Final
Palermo v Juvenuts
Palermo are licking their lips at the opportunity to play in another Coppa Italia Final. They suffered defeat last year against Inter Milan, and are completely focus on the challenge of playing Juventus. Palermo have never won the Coppa Italia, so winning the final would go down in the club history. On the other hand, Juventus have won the cup 14 times. It is a David vs Goliath encounter that will surely bring a lot of entertainment. Keith Duncan, is predicted to be the star man of the final, he is the current top scorer in the competition, but Juventus obviously have a lot of star power in attack themselves. Zidane and Semp face off in the dugout, with all the pressure on the Frenchman. Juventus reportedly demanding he wins the league this year, or they will find another man who can. For Semp, he is over achieving, and being in the final is seen as a success to the Palermo board. Both Juventus and Palermo start the game playing 4-3-3. Palermo now at full strength bar the injured Djordjevic, so De Vos gets the nod. Palermo's lethal front 3 is back on the pitch, and Joensen is beaming with confidence after his hat-trick in the last game he played against Leipzig.
Palermo created a good opportunity for Duncan in the first minute of the match, but experienced goalkepper Alisson was quick off his line to deny the Scottish striker. In a rather dull first 30 minutes, not a lot has happened, Maric played a good ball to Susa who couldn't cause Alisson any trouble with his shot. The fans were expecting more action, but it hasn't lived up to the hype just yet. In the 37th minute, Dembele reacted quickly in the box to give Juventus the 1-0 lead. 43 minutes in Palermo broke with a lighting quick counter attack, but once again Susa couldn't finish. Palermo need to start testing Alisson more, at this stage it is looking like Palermo are struggling under the pressure in such a big game, as they did last year against Inter. At half time Juventus lead the match 1-0, Semp rallying and encouraging the boys to push on and play more attacking in the second half, it could potentially leave them more open at the back, but they need a goal. 54 minutes in Duncan went through on goal, and Alisson made another good save. Palermo have started the second half much better than the first. In the 58th minute the ball was in the back of the net for Palermo thanks to Duncan, but he was ruled offside.. In the 66th minute David Neres struck a powerful shot that was heading towards the top corner, but Urso made a flying save to keep the score at 1-0. In the 71st minute Roudaut played a corner to the feet of Susa on the edge of the box who shot first time and it skimmed the post, Palermo so close to equalizing. Semp turned to the bench and couldn't really see who to bring on to make a difference so he is sticking with the 11 players on the pitch to try and find the equalizing goal. With 10 minutes to go the Palermo players are exhausted so Semp brings on Salah and Roberts, can they go on to make the difference? In the 89th minute Salah had a good chance but he couldn't hit the target. Once again, Palermo lost the Coppa Italia Final. Juventus win the game 1-0. Palermo have been hard done by the last few seasons, and are so close to winning a major trophy. Juventus add another cup to their already impressive collection.
With 6 games left in Serie A, Palermo can now focus their attention completely on the league. Top 6 finish is the target now, if they finish 7th they have a Euro League II Play-Off. With some very tough games still to play against Inter, AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina it will be an uphill battle. But Palermo are now a team that can compete with the biggest and best clubs in Italy.
Palermo began the run of final league games with a poor result against Inter Milan. A 5-1 loss, Fabio Silva was ruthless scoring a hat-trick in the match. When having to rotate players this season, certain players have been proved incapable of effecting the match, Lukaku, Sgro and Kingsley are three players who we are going to look to move on next season, as they simply aren't good enough. Lukaku's contract will end at the end of the season, he has been terrible for Palermo this season, with 0 goals, his wages will be used much more efficiently on other players next season. Salah will also leave, as he is retiring, although he has contributed at times this season, he will free up even more wages. The next match was a 2-0 home win against, Palermo's first win in 4 games since beating Leipzig in the second leg. Miele and Duncan with the goals. Just 4 games left now and Palermo are pushing for Europa League football qualification for next season as the top 4 is now out of sight. We suffered a 2-0 defeat at San Siro to Milan. In a tight away game against Cagliari, we played well and created a lot of chances but only managed to earn 1 point with a 1-1 draw. Once again, Duncan was rested and we struggled to take our chances. With just 2 games left now, the congestion of fixtures and playing in multiple competitions seems to have had a negative effect on our league campaign and we now are most likely to finish in 7th place (still exceeding the boards expectations). The next match is against 4th placed Lazio, and our nightmare, Esposito, who always scores against us. The plan is to man mark him and crunch him the entire game. The 26 year old Italian has 26 goals this season, and he is top scorer in the league with 21, Parrott has 20 and Fabio Silva has 19. Djordjevic returned to the side after a 2 week injury and the big Serbian defender scored a strong header to give Palermo the 1-0 lead! His 5th goal of the season, he has been a revelation this season. Djordjevic goal was the only goal of the game, and Palermo earned a very important 3 points. The final game of the season is against Fiorentina, and we are 1 point away from Europa League qualification for next season. We would have loved to be in the top 4 and back in the Champions League again, but Europa League is a more fair reflection of where we are currently at. Duncan gave us the 1-0 lead after 31 minutes and it looked like we were going to win the match until Urso fumbled a shot from Rabbi in the 91st minute. The match ended 1-1 which was enough to see us finish 6th in the league.
We have to be happy with that season again. Although we didn't win anything we progressed well in Europe, made another cup final, and securely finished in the top half of the season. Next season we will look to strengthen the squad once more, definitely looking for another striker. We will also likely play 4-2-3-1 next season rather than 4-3-3.
Th board have given Palermo a good amount of money to work with to try and add more depth to the squad. The starting XI is very good but we need more back up.
The Europa League Final was a madness, Ex-Palermo man Hodges scored, and Lepzig were 2-0 up, but Tottenham came back to score 3 goals in injury time! I would be fuming if that happened to me...
End of Season Awards
Goal of the Season: Joensen v AS Mocano
Player of the Season: Keith Duncan: This man was a great signing for us this season, and well worth the money we spent. He scored 27 goals in all competitions and still only 21 years old, can become even better. When he didn't play he was sorely missed, so we are praying for the schedule to be fixed next season, as he will be able to play more games then.
Full Squad Stats
The club vision remains the same, the board just wants a top half finish, and we have almost guaranteed that with the quality in our squad, we are now certainly one of the better clubs in Serie A, and will have no problem finishing in the top half for the next few seasons.
Another season done, we now embark on Season 11 with Palermo! Thank you for all the continued support on my story, some days I don't feel like writing, but when I see your comments and that you enjoy reading it keeps me motivated, with Palermo we have made them a very good team but the challenge now is to win our first Serie A title, and solidify ourselves in Europe. As always, thanks for reading! Forza Palermo!