Saturday night sees Barcelona face off against RCD Mallorca of the party isle, but a huge improvement on recent performances is going to be needed if we are going to see a festival of football from the Blaugrana.
All the recent news emanating from the Barcelona camp revolves around either the latest scandalous actions from Arsenal, Pep renewing his contract or the imminent return leg with the aforementioned Gunners.
However, despite the unwillingness of the Blaugrana to publicise too many details about them, we know that there is something of an injury crisis at the Camp Nou. Xavi is out for 7-10 days with a small tear in the soleus of his left leg, Valdes is out for anywhere between 3-8 weeks with a knee ligament strain depending of course on who you read it from, and last but not least, King Carles is still sidelined because of the tendonitis he has in his knee.
On top of that, influential full-back Dani Alves is suspended for this game, and with a trip to the Mestalla in midweek, Pep’s men could do with an easy game against Mallorca. Unfortunately, they’re not going to get one.
Mallorca’s home form is formidable. They have won 7 of their 12 home games, and only lost 3. This is worse than last season when they won 15 of their 19 games and only lost 3, notably one of those was to Barcelona, but great form nonetheless.
The Iberostar Stadium is a hard place to go at the best of times, but considering the blip Barca have been in, the injuries and the tough games ahead it couldn’t have been at a worse time.
Without Puyol, Alves and Valdes, Guardiola is going to name Pinto in goal with a likely back four of Adriano-Pique-Abidal-Maxwell, though he may well shift Busquets back to centre-half as he did against Bilbao, and use Mascherano as a holding midfielder. Either way, it isn’t the strongest defence, and Mallorca will no doubt get chances with Webo and, in my opinion, one of the best young Spanish attackers Emilo Nsue upfront.
As I mentioned in my preview for the Bilbao game, Messi has not been in the best of form recently, but it’s safe to say he will be key on Saturday alongside Villa, who is really settling in well now, and an out-of-sorts Pedro who could do with a goal.
Iniesta was really good second half versus Bilbao, and with Xavi unable to play, it will be interesting to see whether he is used as Xavi’s replacement, or if someone like Afellay or Thiago could see a rare start to allow Iniesta to play his usual game.
Also there is the matter of who the captain will be with Puyol out, and his vice-captains Xavi and Valdes out too, my sources indicate that Iniesta will lead out the team, hopefully to a victory.
Recent head to head results include the draw Mallorca got from the Camp Nou in Jornada 6 and the 1-0 win that Barca recorded in the corresponding fixture last season, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the winner.
And hey, if Zlatan could score there, then why should we be worried?