Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid
March 16, 2013; 19:00 GMT
Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho would probably be content with their performances in the last ten days even though the coach has warned that the real challenge would actually start now. Keeping his team fit for the future clashes with a two-week international break before the season enters its climax would be a good start.
Mallorca, on the other hand, have had a terrible season so far. Their start looked ominous. Having won three and drawing two of their first five La Liga games, nobody predicted would be languishing in the relegation zone and would have their coach, Joaquin Caparros, sacked. Though any coach being sacked in La Liga is not big news any more.
Gregorio Manzano returned for the third time to Mallorca to salvage their season and even though he started off pretty poorly, the last couple of games have seen Mallorca move a place up in the table to 18th.
The last time both these sides, Real Madrid ran away comfortable winners with a 5-0 scorelines. For Mallorca, this match would be less significant than the upcoming must-win clash against struggling Deportivo to ensure their survival in the first division.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Jose Mourinho has a few injury worries but with no big matches coming up, he will be pretty happy with the squad at his disposal. The other factor which could decide the starting XI could be the upcoming international break in which majority of his squad would be involved in crucial matches.
Iker Casillas has finally started training but it will be atleast a fortnight until he is considered for selection. Until then, Diego Lopez will be the undisputed choice between the sticks.
After resting his first choice defense against Celta, Mourinho is likely to recall Arbeloa, Varane and Ramos before they all head to their respective international teams. Marcelo had a decent outing against Celta and could be retained to give him an extended run and a much deserved rest for Fabio Coentrao.
Xabi Alonso was suffering from a groin injury which impacted his involvement in all matches except the Clasicos and the Champions League clash against Manchester United. With Modric looking in ominous form, Mourinho may be tempted to rest the Basque star in favor of the Croatian with Khedira as his partner.
Mesut Ozil could also be rested with Kaka taking his place as the primary play maker. Angel Di Maria is still recovering and would not be part of the squad. Ronaldo and Callejon are expected to occupy the flanks.
The form of Higuain and Benzema has been a cause of concern at the Bernabeu. Considering the rotation policy Mourinho follows in case of these two players, Higuain is expected to start against Mallorca.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-2-1): Lopez; Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Khedira; Callejon, Kaka, Ronaldo; Higuain
Mallorca have been clearly hampered with injury issues and they don’t seem to be leaving the club anytime soon with five players still recuperating.
Aouate would start in goal with former Tottenham player Alan Hutton as right back. Nunes, Geromel and Luna would complete the defense. The real problem for Manzano could be in the midfield. His two better players Marti and Javier Marquez are suspended for this clash. Gregorio Manzano has preferred a 4-3-3 formation for Mallorca which could mean the midfield could comprise of Pina, Tissone and Fontas.
The forward line looks fairly sorted out for the club. Giovani Dos Santos, another former Tottenham player, and their highest assist scorer is fit and would start alongside Víctor Casadesús and Alfaro. Michael Pereira returns from a one-match ban and is likely to be on the bench.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Aouate; Hutton, Nunes, Geromel, Luna; Pina, Tissone, Fontas; Alfaro, Victor, Dos Santos
Player to Watch Out For
Marcelo (Real Madrid)
The Brazilian international played full 90 minutes against Celta Vigo and looked finally fit. It would be interesting to see if Mourinho would prefer him starting again to give a decent run before the business end of the season kicks in. If he does, the onus would be on Marcelo to push himself for a place in the starting XI in place of Coentrao who has been magnificent so far this season.
Real Madrid 3 – 0 Mallorca
Real Madrid would be playing at home, after leap frogging into second place at the expense of Atletico Madrid. They would try to maintain status quo as much avoiding any more slip-ups in the league to maintain momentum for the remaining part of the season.
Mallorca are fighting for relegation and could be forgiven for fielding a weak team with one eye on the match against Deportivo. It is just better sense to win three points at their home to a weaker opponent than risk it at the home of one of the best clubs in Europe. The motivation could be lacking. Expect a comfortable Real Madrid victory.