The battle for the Champions League heats up as Mallorca host Valencia in La Liga

Mallorca v Valencia, La Liga, April 11, 2010

Mallorca 2.23; Draw 3.25; Valencia 3.03

The weekend in Spain closes with a hugely important meeting between Los Barralets and Los Che, both of whom are still in the realistic hunt for Champions League football next season.

Occupying fourth spot at the start of the weekend, Mallorca has exceeded most people’s expectations this season having hung around the business end of the table throughout the season. Gregorio Manzano has guided his side brilliantly this season, though their successes have been heavily reliant on their home performances.

In front of their own fans at the ONO Estadi, Mallorca have a formidable record of 12 wins and only two losses. Yet the reason why Mallorca are far from assured from a top six, let alone a top four finish, is due to their poor away form which has seen them claim a pathetic 12 points on their travels this campaign.

Picking apart the Isalanders’ record further, Mallorca’s home form is also somewhat misleading. Only twice have they faced other members of the top five on home soil this term and on those occasions Mallorca have slipped to defeats against Sevilla (3-1) and Barcelona (1-0).

While Mallorca has a fierce battle until the end of the season to claim a European berth in the league, Valencia are almost able to put their feet up after cementing their position in third. Three wins in their last four league matches means that, while Los Che sit a massive 21 points behind leaders Barcelona and Real Madrid, they have also opened up a healthy eight point gap on Sevilla and Mallorca just below them.

Although Valencia are looking good on paper, there is a fear the events on Thursday night in the Europa League could blur the focus of the club this weekend. They were seething at fulltime of their match at Atletico Madrid due to a shocking non-decision by referee Florian Meyer, who didn’t spot a tug on Nikola Zigic in the closing stages of the match. Despite Zigic’s shirt being significantly torn in the incident, coach Unai Emery was left to fume “I imagine that when they (the officials) see it on television they will hang their heads in shame. They will realise the damage they have caused so many people. We are very hurt.”

Valencia’s problems also extend to their treatment room. Carlos Marchena, Bruno, David Albelda, Luis Miguel, Jeremy Mathieu and Angel Dealbert are likely to be sidelined, while doubts remain over he fitness of Alexis and David Navarro to return to the starting eleven this weekend.

In brighter news, Ever Banega returns from European suspension, while Valencia have a star-studded line-up ready and able. Up-top Los Che have goal-scoring machine David Villa leading the line, flanked by his busy-bee sidekick Juan Mata. And the strike-force has plenty of back up from midfield with David Silva and Vicente willing runners while Ruben Baraja will patrol the centre of the pitch.

In a match that could go either way, Valencia’s exertions in losing to Atleti in the Europa League could prove the deciding factor in a very tight contest. Accordingly, we’re backing a narrow home win as Mallorca’s dream season continues.

101gg predicts: Mallorca 2 – Valencia 1 (8.13)

Mallorca 2.23; Draw 3.25; Valencia 3.03