Estadi Iberostar, Mallorca
November 11, 2012; 17:50 hrs CET
Finally a defeat. And after a stunning defensive display against the Catalans, even the most partisan Barcelona fan will admit that Celtic deserved the glory. Not that Barcelona have to win every match in a season, but this just opened the Pandora’s box for Vilanova. Celtic bettered the Chelsea way to park the vehicle (bus, aircraft, whatever) and later into the season, we will see the bigger guns of Europe employ a similar strategy with more competent personnel. Vilanova must devise a way to get out of this conundrum, and fast.
Mallorca on the other hand are lying at the 13th spot, which isn’t exactly something which will relieve any manager and more so when in their next match, they stand a chance to lose 3 more points, which will take them closer to the R-Zone. More importantly, they haven’t won in quite some time and might just the lack the confidence which is imperative going into matches such as this.
Team News & Tactical Brief
In their last 6 matches, in all competition, Mallorca has scored just 4 times and conceded 11. They didn’t win any. A host of injuries to some of their key players isn’t helping their cause either. And ahead of such a monumental clash against Vilanova’s team, Joaquín Caparrós will surely not be a happy man. The recent injury to former Barcelona youth player – Giovani dos Santos has alarmed the Mallorca camp, so much so that the manager has even asked his players to avoid physical tussles during training. “It is a plague of injuries that greatly changes planning for the season and the development during it, and in our case even more so because we are a small squad,” said a pensive Tomas Pina.
Giovani had to recuperate from a thigh injury, picked up during the Olympics, and that put him out of action for as long as 8 weeks. After his delayed debut for Mallorca, the former La Masia man was expected to be Caparrós’ trump card against Barcelona. However a strain in his left thigh has put him out for about 3 weeks. 24-year old Brazilian midfielder, Joao Victor, has been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in the club’s 2-1 defeat at home to Granada. Barcelona Barcelona Barcelona
Recently the midfielder had to go under the blade yet again due to an intestinal disease and this could further delay his recovery. In the absence of Javi Marquez, Jose Nunez and Antonio Lopez, who are all out due to long-term injuries, the only fit players available for the midfield position are Toman Pina and Pep Marti. Such is the scarcity, that the recently signed defender from Barcelona, Fontas, had to be accommodated in the midfield. In his quest to promote the youth team players, Caparrós lost Uche Derima and Ximo Navarro to injuries yet again, with the only player available being the inexperience Nico Baleani.
Barcelona has not put the clause which would enable them to have rescinded Fontas’ chances of playing against his former employers and that has gone down very well with Mallorca and also the youngster. Meanwhile goalkeeping coach, Luis Llopis has been keeping the 35-year-old Israeli custodian Dudu Aouate under check and in a strict regime to enable him to be at the top of his game so as to prevent the leaky defence to concede more goals.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Aouate(GK); Nsue, Garomel, Conceicao, Bigas; Marti, Pina; Pereira, Victor, Arizmendi; Hemed
Vilanova’s machine stumbled to its first defeat of the season against Celtic midweek. Too much is being made of Barcelona’s defeat instead of Celtic’s stunning win. The Scottish champions perhaps deserve more than what is actually meted out to them. The relentless attacks from the Catalan club were ably dealt by the Scots but it seems a little unlikely against Mallorca, if not for anything else, then for their recent plague of injuries. Interestingly, the hosts are perhaps one of the very few clubs that can match Barcelona in terms of injuries. The former have 7 of their regular players injured, while Barcelona have 6. Nonetheless, the quality of the squad available at Barcelona’s disposal is exceptionally good to deal with the absence of 6 key players in the match against Mallorca.
Vilanova is expected to start a regular 4-3-3 with Alves and Alba manning either side of the defence. After a hiatus, Gerard Pique is expected to be back in the starting line-up alongside Mascherano. Bartra did not quite impress in the game against Celtic and might just get his chance in the dying moments of the match. Midfield is expected to comprise of Xavi, Busquets and Cesc Fabregas. Vilanova, unlike his predecessor, has been open to resting Busquets and this might just turn out to be good for the young midfielder.
Cesc Fabregas has perhaps made peace with the demons within and has been the player that Cules around the globe wanted to see. David Villa too is just as good as a new signing and upfront, with Lionel Messi, is expected to share the goal-scoring load with Lionel Messi and Pedro. Alexis Sanchez, might just be overlooked for this match, although he may get his chance later into the game. For now, the Chilean has to be satisfied with this role and prove himself at every opportunity. Iniesta too is expected to be rested along with Alex Song. With the exception of the defence, Vilanova has a healthy headache when it comes to his midfield and offense.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Valdes(GK); Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Cesc; Villa, Messi, Pedro
- With 23 goals and 7 assists, Messi is so far this season directly involved in 30 goals in 21 games for club and country.
- Barcelona have conceded 21 goals in first 17 games of the season. Last season they conceded 10 in first 17 games.
- Barcelona have scored at least 2 goals in their last 14 away matches in La Liga.
Player To Watch Out For
David Villa (FC Barcelona)
He may have been away from the game for quite some time, but his hunger to score goals and win matches is as much as anybody else’s. David Villa might just choose this match to announce his return to full fitness. Barcelona fans can expect a great outing.
Real Mallorca 0 – 3 FC Barcelona
In all honesty, even Joaquín Caparrós might not fancy any returns tomorrow. Barcelona are likely to dominate the match and make their way past Aouate to find the back of the net with their sleek passing and fast movement. Barcelona Barcelona