Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Andrew Murray On February - 23 - 2012

Team of the Week: Palermo Batter Lazio as Run Continues

Serie A was flush with top performances this weekend and the Team of the Week award could easily have gone to Bologna, Napoli or Lecce for their respective three-goal victories. The standout performers, however, were Palermo. Bortolo Mutti’s men put on a five-star goalscoring clinic to thrash Champions League-chasing Lazio 5-1 and continue a run that’s seen them win four of their last six games.

Despite lining-up without Abel Hernandez, Edgar Alvarez and Armin Bacinovic, things looked good for Palermo from the get-go. Fabrizio Miccoli returned from a one-game absence to face a makeshift Lazio defence featuring midfielder Cristian Ledesma and ageing wing-back Luciano Zauri in a wobbly back three.

Lazio were still weary from a midweek defeat by Atletico Madrid and never looked like denting the Rosanero’s exceptional home record. Edgar Barreto nutmegged Federico Marchetti after 10 minutes to open the scoring, Massimo Donati hammered in a superb second 10 minutes later and Matias Sylvestre made it 3-0 before half-time.

Hopes of a Lazio comeback were dashed just 90 seconds after the restart when resurgent striker Igor Budan beat the offside trap and slotted past Marchetti. It was 5-0 minutes later when Miccoli scored the goal his performance deserved. The visitors turned the pressure up shortly after but it was too little too late: Libor Kozak’s late striker was scant consolation for a terrible defensive display.

The result sees Palermo comfortable in 8th in Serie A. They have the second best home record in Italy with 10 wins from 12 and are now just four points from fifth-placed Roma, who occupy the last European place (5th).

Mutti deserves a lot of credit. Hastily appointed in the aftermath of Devis Mangia’s shock departure, the former Brescia and Atalanta striker was hardly a popular appointment. His previous spell in the Renzo Barbera hotseat ended in an 11th-place Serie B finish (2001-02) and his Serie A coaching record is patchy at best. Atalanta and Bari, Mutti’s latest top-tier clubs, were both relegated with him in-charge.

Good results have swept much of the pessimism away. The Rosanero were winless in Mutti’s first three games in-charge but January 22nd’s 5-3 rout of Genoa proved a real turning point. In addition to drawing 4-4 with Inter, Palermo have beaten Novara, Atalanta and now Lazio since with the sole blemish coming in a 2-1 loss at Cagliari. Its not world-beating form, but it’s far removed from the six-game winless streak they’d suffered from December to January.

Mutti’s football is fast-paced and wonderfully attacking. He’s shown faith in his system and stuck by it when results weren’t going his way, and it appears to be paying dividends. Maurizio Zamparini has left him to his own devices, and he would do well to maintain the breathing space that Mutti seems to be thriving in.

Zamparini, however, remains Mutti’s biggest obstacle to success. The eccentric owner has done great things for Palermo, but he remains something of a megalomaniac when it comes to coaches. No fewer than 16 coaches have come and gone in Zampa’s 10-year reign, and the chairman showed his impatient side once again by firing Mangia, a man Zamparini once called “my Wenger,” just six months into his managerial tenure.

For the Rosanero to succeed in the long run, Zampa has to take a step back. Mutti is Palermo’s third coach of the season (Mangia’s predecessor, Stefano Pioli, lasted just three games) and such upheaval is unsustainable for a club with European ambitions. Zamparini’s track record suggests that this is little more than wishful thinking, but his suffocating presence and interference has been the downfall of many a Rosanero coach.

Mutti faces a long, uphill battle to remain on the owner’s good side (just ask Delio Rossi), but he’s worked wonders with Palermo’s squad in the last few games. Budan, a man who looked destined for the Rosanero scraphead, has scored five goals in his last six games. Barreto, a gritty player who’s been the subject of much criticism lately, had a great game on Sunday. Donati, an unheralded January signing, has slotted-in effortlessly.

No player, however, has shone brighter than Miccoli lately. The diminutive forward had an excellent game on Sunday, providing a goal and two assists while continually terrorising Lazio’s makeshift backline. Miccoli has seven goals and eight assists from his last seven appearances. All in all, Miccoli has contributed 11 goals and 11 assists from just 16 starts. Phew.

It’s a shame that Miccoli’s international career appears to have ended, as he’d have made an excellent option for the Azzurri at Euro 2012. The Azzurri need all the firepower they can get with Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi absent, and there isn’t an Italian forward in better form than Miccoli at the moment.

Can he keep it up until the end of the season? Fabrizio has had his injury problems, but he remains one of the peninsula’s most naturally talented players. Miccoli has found a great foil in the reborn Budan and is just as adept at creating as he is scoring. Provided he plays consistently, the ex-Juventus can make a difference every single time he plays.

It’s difficult to predict how Palermo’s season will conclude. Things are going well at the moment, but who knows when Zamparini will return to the ways of old and undermine his coach? Above them Napoli, Roma and Inter should improve as the season goes on, but a continued run of form could see them climb even further up the table.

For now, Rosanero fans won’t be looking much further than the next fixture. This season has brought so much upheaval that expectations are now impossible to establish. Palermo should look forward to this week’s tie with Siena knowing that their team may finally be heading in the right direction.

Andrew Murray

Scottish football writer with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for all things calcio. Visit for more from Andrew.

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