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Palermo’s ambitions face an early staunch Swiss test

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By Andrew Harding

Thursday 04 August 2011

While their rivals are continuing their preparations for the season ahead via the classic medium of friendly matches and training sessions, Palermo find themselves effectively a game into their season and are 90 minutes away from a rather abrupt conclusion to their European campaign at the hands of Swiss side Thun. Defeat to Thun would likely lead to some questioning of Palermo’s ambitions and perhaps also of Italy’s representation in European competition.

The first leg at the Stadio Renzo Barbera saw Palermo fall behind on two occasions before Fabrizio Miccoli’s injury-time equaliser ensured a 2-2 draw. Conceding two away goals, Il Rosanero have now given themselves a difficult task as they have to score at the bare minimum in the second leg or elimination will be the consequence. This task has been made even more difficult due to a lack of available strikers with Miccoli and Pablo Gonzalez being the only options to spearhead the attack.

Their latest Coach Stefano Pioli will find his tactical acumen tested earlier than most and the game is a great opportunity for both him and the players to put themselves in a positive position going into the new campaign. Over the past few seasons, the team has had a star player in the form of Javier Pastore but now that the Argentine playmaker has moved on, there is an opportunity for the team to show that they have sufficient quality while on an individual level, the likes of Josep Ilicic and Eran Zahavi have a chance to establish themselves and become key players for the Sicilian team.

Should L’Aquile fail to progress beyond Thun then questions will be made of Palermo’s ambitions and will only add a little more pressure on Pioli. With Maurizio Zamparini as his boss, it is an opportunity best to avoid. Defeat would also bring Italian football’s standing on the continent into further questioning. The loss of a Champions League place has been a blow to the collective pride of calcio and there is little doubt that improvements are needed fast in order to reverse what some perceive to have been a historical injustice.

The hope is that with their obvious better technical quality and more time on the pitch behind them, Palermo will prove too much for the Swiss team but the key will more likely lie in their approach. If Pioli’s men are to succeed then they will need to remain patient as Thun will be well aware of the advantageous position they stand in ahead of this second leg, and will likely look to sit and absorb pressure before breaking forward via quick counter-attacks. It’s a simplistic viewpoint but one that is regularly enforced in European competition and in particular such situations as Thun find themselves in hosting Palermo.

The Europa League was far from a happy hunting ground for Italian clubs last season but with the Serie A season still some weeks away, the game at Arena Thun on Thursday night will perhaps have a little more attention from the footballing fraternity as the Italian game looks to rebuild its standing on the continent.

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