Real Mallorca

v

FC Barcelona

Iberostar Estadi — Palma de Mallorca

February 27th, 2011; 12:30 am, IST

***

Mallorca are eagerly waiting for Barca this weekend at the island. With the business end of the season beginning to unfold, there is absolutely no time to relax. As usual, like the previous seasons, Barca seems to be stuttering their way through February. Mallorca on the other hand finds themselves in the mid-table, little far away from the relegation fight. Mallorca are one amongst the three teams, who have managed to take points away from Barcelona this season. With a number of first team players out for this week’s game, Barca has a tough task at hand. With only three defeats at home, Michael Laudrup’s men are not pushovers, by any stretch of imagination.

The Barca Connection

Having himself been a part of the Dream Team, Laudrup recently commented that “this is the best Barca ever”. He may have showered praises on this team but he certainly knows a thing or two about Barcelona and this makes for an interesting contest.

With former teammates leading their teams on to the field, an interesting game is at hand. From FC Barcelona’s point of view, a lot is at stake. They simply cannot afford to lose any ground. With Real Madrid scheduled to play after this game, Pep knows that losing isn’t an option here. With a little resource crunch in his hands, Pep will face a stern test of his management skills in keeping this team going even in the absence of key players.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Real Mallorca

Michael Laudrup’s men have proved that they cannot be counted out by their current standings. They were expected to  be in the relegation zone after losing  some of their influential players last season. Mallorca managed to steal a point from the Camp Nou and they are confident of doing it again. With seven wins at home this season, its difficult to argue that they cannot pull off an upset. Mallorca has some very powerful weapons up their sleeves in the form of Webo and Nsue. Both have devastating pace and energy which can come handy against Barca’s high line.

They have an organized back line, a steady midfield and an attack with blistering pace. Nenes and Ruben should be at their best against Messi for Mallorca to stand a chance. They are also very dangerous in set pieces, and Barcelona’s apparent discomfort against them isn’t something new. Aouate has to be at the top of his game to keep Mallorca in the game. Ivan Ramis and Victor Casedesus are expected to miss this game.

Expected Strategy:

  • A tight defensive game plan with no space through the middle.
  • When in possession, long diagonal balls to Nsue on the wings to use his pace to get behind the defense.
  • Trying to upset the midfield balance which will not have Xavi in it.

Probable Starting XI: Dudo Aouate, Kevin, Ruben, Nunes, Cendros, Pereira, Marti, De Guzman, Bruno, Nsue, Webo

Football Fans Know Better

Probable starting line-ups


FC Barcelona

Pep will have an interesting choice to make in this game. He is without his midfield general Xavi, who will miss this game due to a muscle injury. Alves will be missing due to suspension. Valdes and Puyol are also sidelined for sometime. This takes out 4 regulars from the side. Solving the midfield conundrum will be the key, as it is Barca’s heartbeat. There is no one, who can control midfield like Xavi. Keita would be drafted in to give more solidity. Adriano will take Alves’ place on the right and Pinto will continue between the posts.

Messi, Villa and Pedro in the attacking zone with Iniesta spraying passes to them, they will always be creating chances. However, their main vulnerability is defending the breakaways, which are a direct bi-product of their attacking game. Barca will be looking to boss the midfield and also to plug the gaps appearing behind them. Adriano will not be as adventurous as Alves, which gives a little more defensive solidarity. Nonetheless, it should be a good game for both the teams. Afellay and Thiago can expect some game time in this match. Miño and Montoya have been included in the squad from the B-Team.

Expected Strategy:

  • An usual high defensive line and a total midfield control. Controlled possession like they did against Bilbao, where they had more than 80% of the ball.
  • A lot of movement needed in the final third to drag defenders out of positions.
  • Messi is expected to play more in midfield to give more options in Xavi’s absence.
  • To watch out for sudden breaks through Nsue and defend set pieces.

Probable Starting XI: Pinto, Adriano, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Keita, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Villa


Key Facts

  1. In the last five head to head matches, Barcelona has won only twice, losing one and drawing the remainder.
  2. Michael Laudrup and Pep Guardiola played together under Johan Cruyff, in his Dream Team.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Sergio Busquets (FC Barcelona)

Xavi's replacement?


He has come a long way in his professional career since he was promoted by Pep. He may be an invisible man in the midfield, but his influence on the game is immaculate. He is very skillful, unlike some critics, who continue to think he is a liability in the team. However, he has managed to keep Mascherano out with his technique and skill. He is a player in the mould of Guardiola and according to him is the replacement for Xavi. He provides the much needed cover in front of his roaming defense. He is the first one on the field to see and start an attack. The perfect anchor in the midfield for FC Barcelona.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Real Mallorca 1-2 FC Barcelona

As with the start of the season, Barcelona has struggled to finish off their opponents. Major reason being their lack of sharpness in front of goal. Some sloppy play in midfield has seen them giving away possession in dangerous positions and has haunted them.  Iniesta and Messi seem to have woken up in the second half of the season and if they can maintain that form, it will be difficult to see an upset. TheHardTackle predicts a close game with Barcelona snapping all three points in the end.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST