Liga Preview: Mallorca – Barça, Saturday 3pmEST, ESPN Deportes/360
What do you get when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? The Blob vs The Juggernaut? Well, we’ll see soon. Only once has someone gone into San Mames ONO Estadi in Mallorca and come out anything but losers: Sevilla on February 20. That day they won 1-3 after going down 1-0 to the Barralets, as they’re known. Will we be able to replicate this achievement? Well, there’s fantastic news for our side that can’t hurt our chances:
That’s right, our metronome, Xavi, is back. He’s been given the medical all clear and I think he’ll get the start against Mallorca, though I imagine he won’t play the full 90 to keep him fresh for the Arsenal match in midweek. Gerard Pique is also back in the squad list, which is more fantastic news. We’ve now only got Abidal currently in the dry dock, though we’ll also be without Sergio Busquets, who felt the need to pick up another yellow card and get his butt suspended for this one. Great job, tweedle-dee.
We’re in for an intense match, regardless of who starts. Mallorca comes in with the third best home record in the league and they can claim to have the best home goals-allowed rate (0.54 a match — 7 in total). We’re next at 8, of course, but they’re an impressive outfit. Gregorio Manzano has them gunning for a Champions League spot (they’re currently in 4th, 2 points ahead of Sevilla), which is fantastic for a club with such financial troubles. Still, we’re going to knock them stupid. It’s a couple of days before a big European encounter and while this may sound ridiculous, we almost always play better leading up to an enormous game. Ask Valencia.
Away from home, Mallorca is pretty craptacular, with a 2W-5D-8L (12GF, 25GA) record. That’s 11 points from 15 matches. Ewww. But at home they’re 12W-0D-1L (43GF, 7GA). That’s actually more goals than we have scored either home or away (39 and 31, respectively). Pretty amazing stuff coming from a squad whose leading scorer is Aritz Aduriz. No offense to the guy, but he’s never really been all that good. Still, 9 goals in the league is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you consider that it means the team bangs in goals from all over the place. Mosquera has 6, Valero has 5, and Webó, Suárez, and Gonzalo Castro all have 4. That’s a fairly well-rounded deal.
Their last match was a 0-0 away draw at Racing Santander that, while an away match that could have nothing to do with their home form, puts them on their heels just a little bit as we come in. They’ll try to jam our middle and beat us to every ball, but they’re not very dirty, so they won’t be hacking us down at every opportunity like, say, Malaga (boooo Weligton). They’re 4th in the fair play standings, which says something about their class and style.
Moving on to us, here’s our squad list: Valdés, Pinto, Márquez, Milito, Pedro, Puyol, Jonathan, Bojan, Touré, Chygrynskiy, Maxwell, Xavi, Jeffren, Alves, Piqué, Iniesta, Keita, Ibrahimovic, Henry, Messi.
Note the inclusion of Jonathan Dos Santos instead of Busi. Otherwise it’s a fairly straightforward squad, which brings me to the predicted lineup:
Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Maxwell, Yaya, Xavi, Iniesta, Henry, Ibra, Messi.
I think we’ll see Keita starting on the bench again and coming on early in the second for Xavi. We’ll also see Henry in the front so as to avoid his inclusion in the Arsenal match on Wednesday since he totally doesn’t play two games in a row. Messi gets the start again since he’s red hot, even with his lack of a goal against Osasuna and Ibra needs to get more scoring chances under his belt before Wednesday as well, so that he’ll be fully ready to gnash some Gunner gobs to giblets.
We’ll be serious about this one and Guardiola isn’t going to mess around with some silly lineup while we’re visiting a major threat to our title hopes. Not that Mallorca will pip us to the title or anything, but rather that despite our having a whopping 71 points after 28 matches, every point counts immensely with 10 matches to go. 30 points left on the table folks. It’s on.
Official Prediction: 1-3. Yup. The Sevilla score, except that we’ll score 3 and then they’ll get their consolation to ruin our totally perfect day. Ah well.
Time: This match will kick off at 8pm local/Mallorca time, 3pm EST/NY time, check your local time here.
TV: In the US, this match will be on ESPN Deportes and ESPN 360.
Weather: ~63F (~17C), 0% chance of rain. Awesome conditions.