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Palermo-Milan Preview: Sicilian Monkeys


I hate having monkeys on my back. They’re hairy and heavy and they smell, but they’re especially annoying. Milan have a big fat monkey on their back. They have not won at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in 5 straight tries between the league and Coppa Italia matches. Whatever it is about that cursed place that has our number, I say it’s time we break the curse. We beat them in October in our house, with Nocerino scoring against his former team. Now it’s time to take the big monkey off our back and take full points, too.

The rare pink shirted Sicilian monkey tracks Flamini to attach himself to his back


Last week’s contest ended in a draw, this week we’ll want to take full points to maintain our lead at the top of the table. With Juventus right behind us as they head into their game in hand midweek and us in the Champions League, all we can do is win. Which seems easier said than done with our track record Away to Palermo. But with criticism and questions still flying around the team, a win is the best way to silence them.

Certainly if there were a time to get this monkey off of our backs, this would be it. In the midst of all of the controversy last weekend, we were given a bit of a gift: Balzaretti was red carded just 1:10 into their 4-1 loss to Siena for a poor tackle just in front of the box. If you’re as tired as I am, that means he will be suspended against us on Saturday. I have always loved that man, best fullback in Serie A right now, but I kinda love him a little bit more now and could develop a ridiculous crush if we win in his absence on Saturday.

Wow, a gift card would have been great, but a red card? Even better. Thanks!

So Palermo are coming off of that 4-1 loss to relegation-threatened Siena, and have slipped to 8th in the league, tied on points with our dear cugini nerazzurri, Inter.  That loss probably hurt, considering it was following a 5-1 trouncing of Lazio the week before that. While Palermo have been consistent of late, most of their losses have been away, and those big wins are all in the fortress they call home. In fact, they are 10 out of 12 games at home this season, with 31 home goals, the most in the league.

Last time we met, the caretaker coach, Mangia was in charge. But Zamparini has a “proper” coach now in Mutti. We’ll see if he knows the voodoo necessary to keep the monkey on our backs curse. He’ll probably line up something along these lines: Viviano; Mantovani, Muñoz, Pisano; Donati, Ilicic, Barreto, Bertolo; Budan, Miccoli.

Nocerino's goal inspired a win last time, can he do it again?

Meanwhile, Milan are still picking through the battlefield amongst the dead and wounded for their starting 11.  Abbiati should be in goal, Abate on the right, and Silva in the center. But with Mexes starting his 3 match ban, it will depend on if Nesta is recovered, otherwise the other center back will be either Yepes or Bonera, both having recovered from recent injuries. On the left, Allegri will have to look in the mirror and choose the man or the muppet, Mesbah or Antonini.
There is a slight chance of the inclusion of Flamini in the midfield, who has been out for 6 months, although if he sees playing time on Saturday, I would expect him to be a sub. Otherwise, it will likely look the same as last week, with Nocerino, Van Bommel, Muntari, and Emanuelson behind the strikers. Boateng is hopeful for the Arsenal match and Aquilani still has 10-14 days before he is expected to return.

Up front, we have a few options. I would expect Ibra, returning from his ban, to start with Robinho, who has singlehandedly made up for injuries lately. But other options include El Shaarawy and Pippo. Pippo scored back in 05-06 when Milan last won at the Stadio Renzo Barbera, that’s all I’m saying. Pato is out again with a recurring injury that he sustained while playing in the first half last week.

Life is like a Barrel of Monkeys, but you've got to get the ones off your back.

Milan will need to watch the height impaired Miccoli very closely, as his 11 goals in Serie A have punished many a team this year. But their midfield is packed with talent, not the least of which is Ilicic, who’s got a total of 5 goals and 4 assists in all competitions this year. But missing Balzaretti will be painful, like when you’re one monkey short of enough monkeys in your Barrel of Monkeys.

Milan can do this. The team have shown a renewed desire to win despite the injury plague. This is one monkey that would be nice to get off of our backs, especially as we head to London on Tuesday to play Arsenal. But first, the pink shirted monkeys on our backs in that cursed stadium in Sicily. I officially declare Saturday “Freedom from Monkeys Day” for everyone in red and black. If you’ve got a pink shirt, give it to your Inter neighbors, we are taking back the Barbera.


Palermo vs. Milan
Saturday, March 3 • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)
This match will be shown on FSC & RAI International (TV)
and on ESPN3 (online) in the U.S.)


This post inspired by the music of Elaine’s girl mix, including Annie Lennox,
Cocteau Twins, Jane Siberry, Sneaker Pimps, Sia, etc.