Mallorca v Barcelona Preview
Iberostar Estadi, Palma de Mallorca
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Barcelona’s defeat at Celtic was their first loss in all competitions since the Spanish Super Cup, but on Saturday they’ll have a chance to rebound from the disappointment when they face struggling Mallorca at the Iberostar Stadium.
BREAKDOWN: Barcelona are alone atop the league for the first time this season coming into a weekend’s fixture schedule, and with a win at Mallorca they could rise six points above second-place Atletico Madrid by the time the capital side kicks off their local derby against Getafe.
The Blaugrana have yet to taste defeat in La Liga this season and have only dropped points one occasion—the draw with Real Madrid in September—and with more than a quarter of the season in the books sit an impressive eight points above their archrivals in the standings.
In Mallorca they’ll face a side that has, in a way, already played two seasons of football.
In the first, Los Bermellones burst out of the gate and went unbeaten in their first five matches to start the season, but since that streak ended in the third week of September they’ve lost five on the bounce and currently sit 13th in the division—just a single point above the relegation places.
Goalkeeper Dudu Aouate knows his side will have to be at its best if it’s to so much as compete on Sunday.
In a pre-match press conference Aouate remarked, “We have to be 100 per cent in order to compete against Barcelona. We want to take something positive from the game and we’ll go for it. We know our opponents are Barca but these three points are very important for us.”
ESSENTIALS: Mallorca’s injury list is lengthy, and foremost among the absentees is Mexico international Giovani Dos Santos. Defenders Antonio Lopez and Nunes are also injured, as are midfielders Uche and Javi Marquez and striker Alvaro.
Mallorca haven’t been on this bad a losing skid since the 1991-92 season.
Barcelona may be able to welcome Gerard Pique back into the starting XI, although captain Carlos Puyol remains sidelined, as do midfielder Isaac Cuenca and left-back Adriano.
KEY BATTLE: Mallorca can forget about winning matchups against the likes of Xavi and Lionel Messi; they’ll likely spend much of the 90 minutes absorbing pressure, anyway. But they would do well to stick close to Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba. Aside from being a good defensive player, the Spain international is also one of his side’s most important weapons going forward.
FORMATIONS: Mallorca manager Joaquin Caparros will deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation fronted by Tomer Hemed with Michael Pereira, Victor and Emilio Nsue in support. Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola will use his usual, flexible 4-3-3 with Pedro, Messi and David Villa across the top.
BETLINE: Mallorca 12/1; Draw 5/1; Barcelona 2/9. A 1-1 draw on this ground in 2010 was the last time Mallorca got anything from a match against Barcelona.