Liga Preview: RCD Mallorca – FC Barcelona, Saturday 2pm, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com
Last time we played Mallorca, Xavi and Puyol were missing. And we drew 1-1 at the Camp Nou. This time, Xavi and Puyol are missing. But we will beat them. Or at least I hope we will because giving thems who art evil a chance to really get back in this league would be Bad with a capital burra. They’re no pushover, of course, so it’s not like we’ll stroll into what their official site is calling the club’s match of the year and walk out manita style winners. That’s simply not going to happen, no matter whether you all feel we’re “due” or not. It’s still February (and a drab day in that month at that, at least where I’m sitting).
For starters, we’ve got a light squad. We’re traveling without Valdés, Xavi, Puyol, Jeffren (all injured), and Alves (yellow card suspension). And also: they’re pretty good. Laudrup’s teams like to attack and while they’re down 6 in goal difference on the year, at home they’re at +8. They’ve only allowed 8 goals at Son Moix (yes, dammit, I know it’s not called that) this year, which is pretty spectacular. And, (not so) incidentally, that’s exactly the number of home goals Barça has allowed this season. Which is why it’s spectacular (and not so incidental). They’ve only lost to 3 teams at home: Espanyol (0-1), Racing (0-1), and most recently Sporting Gijon (0-4) while they’ve won 7 including a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao and also drawn at nils with Real Madrid.
Back in early October, we put out a squad including Milito, Mascherano, Keita, and Bojan, some of which is possible tomorrow, but pretty unlikely. Alves will also be missing tomorrow, obviously, so it’s fairly certain that Adriano will start on the right. Because of that, I want Abidal to start on the left, meaning Pique partnering with either Milito or Fontas in the middle. Busi is also a possibility given his probably start against Arsenal in a couple of weeks and the need to keep our CBs healthy for the Valencia match on Wednesday (yeah, we have a midweek match: no rest for the weary). This could mean we see Afellay from the start in either the midfield or up front, but Guardiola appears to want his teams to work their way out of ruts with as many match minutes as possible. I can’t really argue with his results…
Mallorca: Lux (GK), Aouate (GK), Pau Cendrós, Nunes, Rubén, Martí Crespí, Corrales, Kevin, Ayoze, Aki, Pereira, Joao Victor, De Guzman, Martí, Castro, Tejera, Webó, Nsue.
Barça: Pinto, Adriano, Abidal, Maxwell, Piqué, Milito, Mascherano, Keita, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro, Afellay, Bojan, Miño (31), Thiago (30) and Montoya (40).
They’re missing Iván Ramis and Víctor through injury while Pina, Sergi Enrich, and Tomeu Nadal are simply left out. They’ve also only got 2 strikers (Webo and Nsue), though you can argue that De Guzman, et al are forwards at heart in midfield positions. Whatever, it doesn’t much matter because they’ll probably line up Nsue in midfield with Webo over the top in a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-2-3-1. If this is the case, there’s an argument to be made for having Abidal at CB for his pace (Webo and Nsue aren’t slow, despite the latter’s hair), but I much prefer him on the wings against in-swingers that will be more dangerous than through-the-middle stuff and thus in need of more getting shut the F down by That’s-Monsieur-Abidal-to-You. And the F, kiddied, stands for Flatulence, of course.
There will be a lot of changes from the first “leg” of this matchup, as you can tell by the red Xs through missing players, so we’ll see how that affects the players and tactical approaches. I don’t think it will open up the game, but Villa’s presence could have a huge impact on how things go. Or he’ll simply also get kicked. Whichever.
Predicted lineup: Pinto, Adriano, Pique, Busi, Abidal, Mascherano, Thiago, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.
Official Prediction: 1-2. A nasty, hard fought game in which we are made to pay for every inch of ground we cover. Goals by Pedro and Messi. And you know RM are going to win against woeful Depor, so to keep our lead going strong we must win. And win we will ::flexes muscles:: ::eats spinach:: ::collapses on floor out of breath::.