6 Things We Learned from AC Milan vs. Palermo
Well, that looked easy. After suffering the full wrath of a revitalised Barcelona in the Champions League, AC Milan could have been forgiven for being a bit under the weather against Palermo on their return to Serie A.
But instead, the Rossoneri put in a fine performance and, with Mario Balotelli back up front, showed that, while they're still definitely a work in progress, they're likely to trouble the Catalans a lot more next season should they meet again with Balo up front.
In the first half, he won the penalty and converted it, and then he put his side beyond Palermo's reach in the second half with another strike. But then, we knew Super Mario was good. What else can we take from this match?
Palermo Were as Bad as Milan Were Good
When they're on song, this Milan squad is good enough to trouble anyone, but Palermo really should have done better.
Across the pitch, the Rossoneri embarrassed Palermo, who, for their part, offered little resistance and none of the fight you'd expect from a side sitting bottom of the league table, desperate for survival.
In a nutshell, Balotelli made Salvatore Aronica look like an amateur throughout, forcing the veteran defender into some clumsy defending, which included a sloppy tackle to give away the penalty Balo converted for his first.
It's true that the Sicilians improved after half-time, but that's probably only because they couldn't get any worse than their first-half performance.
Milan Continues to Be a Difficult Place for the Rosoneri to Come
Palermo have only won twice away to Milan in the league, so this result won't have surprised anyone. The Sicilian side have drawn twice in the north but have been on the losing side a massive 22 times, during which time they've conceded 64 goals.
Manchester City Will Be Wondering What Went Wrong with Balotelli
Mario Balotelli is on fire for Milan right now. And though his return to Italy had always looked likely at some point, the speed with which he's returned to blistering form will have many at Manchester City scratching their heads.
With Balo, it was never likely to be a crisis of confidence, so what went wrong at City? It could be Massimiliano Allegri's tactics, the fact that he's surrounded by Italian speakers again or the fact that he's playing for the club he supported as a boy. But as the super-rich City's most high profile defection, the young Italian striker's recent performance should have those in power in Manchester asking important questions about training and team morale.
Palermo Might Be out of Time and out of Luck
They're bottom of the table and in desperate need of points. But next up is in-form Roma and, following the Giallorossi, a host of tough-to-beat clubs.
Palermo have a tough run-in to the end of the season, and it's hard to see where the points will come from. With just 24 points from 29 games, the Sicilians have the derby with Catania and games with Juventus, Inter and Fiorentina up ahead. Even the "easiest" of their remaining fixtures is against solid mid-table opposition like Sampdoria and Bologna. Time is running out.
Owner Maurizio Zamparini Isn't Helping Matters
Italian football is never short of an unbalanced chairman or two, but even by Serie A standards, Maurizio Zamparini is in a league of his own.
The entrepreneur has perhaps done more damage to Palermo's hopes since buying the club than anyone else, and even though it really does seem that his efforts are made with the best of intentions, constantly sacking coaches and undermining club confidence is never going to produce positive results.
This year, Giuseppe Sannino was replaced by Gian Piero Gasperini in September, who in turn was replaced by Alberto Malesani in February only to return in Malesani's place a few weeks later. Then, to come full circle, Gasperini was sacked after just two games and replaced by Sannino.
He brought them back to Serie A, but if—or, rather, when—Palermo return to B this season, the blame must lay squarely at the feet of Zamparini.
Palermo Need Their Big Players to Perform
It's outrageous that Zamparini decided he had the right to circle Fabrizio Miccoli out for special criticism.
The ageing No.10 has been far from his best this season, but, having scored almost a goal every two games since moving to Sicily in 2007, his contributions have kept Palermo a lot higher in the tables than they otherwise would have been.
Nonetheless, the Palermo owner said of his captain:
I’m not too concerned whether he recovers in time for the game against Roma. He’s given us nothing this season and he’s in bad physical shape, as we have seen in the last few games. We miss the Miccoli of three years ago, who is not the player of this year. He’s under trained, he’s not fit.
Palermo fans will miss the Palermo of three years ago, not just the Miccoli of old. The squad has plenty of talent and should be comfortably in the mid table.
Zamparini's constant attacks don't help matters, and neither do the regular coaching changes. But if Palermo are to survive, their best players will need to rise above these troubles and do something special. Having saved the team from relegation, few would begrudge them a move to a more stable environment.