Barcelona will resume their 2019-20 La Liga campaign this weekend with an away trip to the Son Moix Stadium where they will take on RCD Mallorca

After a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2019-20 La Liga campaign finally resumed this week with Sevilla beating Real Betis in the first match. On Saturday, reigning champions and current table toppers Barcelona will return to action with an away clash against relegation battlers RCD Mallorca.

Barcelona haven’t been at their best this season. But they have done just about enough to open a two-point lead over arch rivals Real Madrid in the second place. The Catalans had won just one of their last three matches in all competitions (D1 L1) prior to the suspension of football.

Manager Quique Setien, who replaced Ernesto Valverde in January, will be hoping that his side will be able shrug off any cobwebs from the three-month layoff and hit the ground running on Saturday night. A win is necessary for Barcelona, or they might end up losing the top spot to Real Madrid before the week ends.

Mallorca, on the other hand, find themselves embroiled in the battle for survival. Vicente Moreno’s side are currently 18th in the La Liga standings, having picked up just 25 points from 27 games. Much like Barcelona, they too had won, lost and drawn one each of their last three matches before the extended break due to the pandemic.

The reverse fixture played at Camp Nou in December saw Barcelona beat Mallorca 5-2, courtesy a Lionel Messi hat-trick. Ahead of their latest meeting at the Son Moix, which has recently been renamed as the ‘Visit Mallorca’ Estadi, in order to boost tourism, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

RCD Mallorca

Takefusa Kubo will want to impress against his boyhood club (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Takefusa Kubo will be out to impress against his boyhood club (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Moreno doesn’t have a lot of injury concerns heading into Mallorca’s first game after the restart of the season. The hosts will have to make do without the services of Leonardo Koutris and Lumor Agbenyenu. Midfielder Salva Sevilla will be available for selection after missing the last game due to suspension.

In the 2-1 win against Eibar prior to football getting suspended, Moreno had fielded his side with a five-man defence. And there is every likelihood that he continues with a similar formation against a dangerous Barcelona side on Saturday night.

35-year-old Manolo Reina should continue between the posts for the home team, while the three central defenders ought to be Antonio Raillo, Aleksandar Sedlar and Martin Valjent. Alejandro Pozo should get the nod at right-back once again, while Fran Gamez could slot in on the left side in the absence of Lumor.

The returning Sevilla should walk back into the side in the middle of the park, partnering Iddrisu Baba. The duo will be tasked with stifling Barcelona’s buildup in midfield.

Former Barcelona academy man Takefusa Kubo will be in charge of pulling the strings in the final third, slotting in a free role behind the two strikers who ought to be Cucho Hernandez and top scorer Ante Budimir.

Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Reina; Pojo, Raillo, Sedlar, Valjent, Gamez; Sevilla, Baba; Kubo; Hernandez, Budimir

Barcelona

Barcelona manager Quique Setien (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

Barcelona manager Quique Setien (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

Manager Quique Setien will be a happy camper heading into the contest as he has a near-full squad at his disposal for the trip to Mallorca. Only Ousmane Dembele misses out for the reigning champions heading into the weekend clash. That means, star striker Luis Suarez is fit and available once again, handing Barcelona a boost. Clement Lenglet misses out with a suspension, though.

There is no doubt as to who will start in goal for the Catalans, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen being the undisputed choice between the sticks. Gerard Pique will be the leader of the defence, and in Lenglet’s absence, Umtiti is all but certain to partner the seasoned campaigner.

Jordi Alba should get the nod at left-back ahead of last summer arrival Junior Firpo. At right-back, Sergi Roberto is likely to edge out Nelson Semedo, given that the Portuguese was seen training by himself during Thursday’s session after having broken La Liga’s coronavirus protocols.

Sergio Busquets is a certain starter at the base of the three-man midfield unit for Barcelona, while Frenkie de Jong should also feature from the kick-off. Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Arthur Melo will be vying for the final slot, although the Brazilian, fit again, should get the nod on Saturday.

Setien has hinted that Suarez will not play 90 minutes this weekend. But the Uruguayan is expected to partner captain and talisman Lionel Messi in attack against Mallorca, along with marquee summer signing Antoine Griezmann. Ansu Fati and Martin Braithwaite are options from the bench for the Catalans.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Arthur, Busquets, de Jong; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have lost five away games in La Liga this season. This is their worst tally in a single campaign since 2007-08, when they tasted defeat in six games on the road.
  • Mallorca are winless in their last nine La Liga matches against Barcelona (D1 L8). They have lost all the previous six meetings, conceding four goals per game on an average in those defeats.
  • Barcelona have conceded exactly two goals in each of their last five away La Liga games. The last time they conceded two or more goals in six such matches in a row was in May 2008 (seven).
  • Mallorca have lost 10 of their last 11 home matches in La Liga against Barcelona, winning the other 2-1 in May 2009.
  • Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has scored in each of his last six games against Mallorca in La Liga (11). This tally includes two hat-tricks as well – one in October 2011, and the other in the reverse fixture in December 2019.

Player to Watch

Luis Suarez

Set to return after a lengthy injury layoff (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Set to return after a lengthy injury layoff (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

While the obvious pick for this section would have been Lionel Messi, we’ve gone with Luis Suarez, as he gears up for a comeback after a lengthy injury layoff. The 33-year-old may have shown signs of age catching up with him, but after Messi, remains Barcelona’s best attacking player.

Prior to his injury, Suarez had produced a fine tally of 14 goals and 11 assists in just 23 matches in all competitions. However, considering that he hasn’t played in over six months, ring-rust is likely to be a factor when he takes the field on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how the seasoned striker fares on his much-awaited return.

Prediction

Mallorca 0-2 Barcelona

It might not be the most free-flowing of games on Saturday, factoring the three-month layoff because of the pandemic. As a result, players on both teams might take a while before they get going.

Barcelona’s recent record against Mallorca in La Liga has been impeccable. The return of Luis Suarez will boost them further ahead of the game. As a result, we at The Hard Tackle are expecting the Blaugrana to clinch a fairly straightforward 2-0 win this weekend and keep hold of their place at the top of the table.

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