Mallorca v Real Madrid, La Liga, May 5, 2010
After receiving a frightful scare on Sunday night before edging past Osasuna in a match they were expected to coast, whispers that Wednesday night may see the final nail hammered into Real Madrid’s title coffin are getting ever louder.
Mallorca have enjoyed a quite simply stunning campaign this term. Tipped by many to be battling relegation at this stage of the season, Los Barralets have upset the form book all season as they remain in contention for a Champions League spot holding down fourth spot with just three rounds of fixtures remaining.
Mallorca’s success has been largely built on a solid home foundation, which has seen them win 14 of their 17 previous fixtures at the ONO Estadi. Only Villarreal, Sevilla and Barcelona have left the Islanders empty handed this season, and Real Madrid will not be taking anything for granted as they prepare for their toughest remaining fixture of their season.
Making Mallorca’s case even stronger that they can upset Los Merengues is the fact that Gregorio Manzano’s charges have begun not only performing well at home, but also on the road. Now unbeaten in six away trips, Mallorca have hit a purple patch of form at the business end of the season, which is more disheartening news for all Real fans to swallow.
Yet, after Cristiano Ronaldo dragged the Madridstas to victory last weekend, there is the feeling in the capital that nothing can stop Manuel Pellegrini’s outfit from keeping the pressure firmly on league leaders Barcelona until the season is finally over. Mallorca may be on the top of their game, but Madrid are a cut above.
That said, Real Madrid will not be over-confident heading down south, particularly due to their lengthy missing-in-action list. Left-back Marcelo misses the trip having picked up too many bookings this season, while Pepe, Raul Gonzalez, Rafael van der Vaart, Guti and Lassana Diarra are all unavailable with varying degrees of injuries.
On the more positive side, Royston Drenthe has returned to the Real Madrid squad after being out since February 13 with a muscle injury. However, even with Marcelo’s absence, it is unlikely that the Dutchman will walk back into the team. Instead, former Liverpool man Alvaro Arbeloa could be deployed in the left-back slot.
Real’s attacking threat will be carried by Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuian and Kaka in a front-three, while Xabi Alonso and Esteban Granero could be used as a tandem of midfield enforcers in the middle of the pitch for Real.
Mallorca have very few injury concerns, and will therefore be able to roll out virtually there best eleven for the visit of Madrid.
One player of note is centre-back Ruben Gonalez who has enjoyed a rich-goalscoring patch in recent weeks, The 28-year-old former Real Madrid player scored three times in the last month for Los Barralets, and should Real’s defence play as badly as they performed against Osasuna last weekend, then the big defender could be a noticeable threat from set-plays.
Pulling the strings in the Mallorca midfield will be 35-year-old playmaker Marti, although question marks remain over which attackers will start on Wednesday night. Against Malaga a couple of weeks ago strikers Aritz Aduriz and Alhassane Keita came to blows at the end of the match and since, the warring twosome have yet to start a match together. While Aduriz, the club’s top scorer with 11, is assured to start, the likelihood is that Cameroonian striker Pierre Achille Webo will be called upon to fill the other attacking role.
According to common opinion, if Real Madrid are set to slip up before the season ends then this is the match that it will happen in. However Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won their last eight away matches in the league, and while claiming a ninth may not be pretty, Real should have enough in their locker to claim victory.
101gg predicts: Mallorca 1 – Real Madrid 3 (8.89)