A midweek Champions League draw against Rubin Kazan was no disaster for Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, and though it was by no means an ideal result they will be aiming to get quickly back into the winning groove when they meet with Mallorca on Sunday evening.
For a long period in Tatarstan it seemed that the Blaugrana could be successfully frustrated by the two-time Russian champions, and until David Villa sneaked home a penalty on the hour mark, levelling an earlier spot-kick from the hosts, Barca created precious little in front of goal. Rarely, even at Camp Nou, do the Spanish kings come up against a so single-mindedly defensive unit, and they struggled to thrive in the difficult conditions.
Back to league duty on Sunday, la Blaugrana will look to take the opportunity to get a first strike in on Real Madrid, who will be their inevitable benchmark throughout the season. A shock home loss against Hercules has given visitors to the Catalan capital hope, but Guardiola’s men still look like dropping precious few points over the course of the campaign.
Since that hiccup against los Herculanos, Barcelona have struck three successive victories in La Primera Division, but they have not hit the offensive heights they’ve managed over the last two campaigns. With Lionel Messi now back after a brief respite due to an ankle problem, look for Barca to try and put down a marker in this clash with els Barralets, who lost 4-2 when visiting the venue last season.
Still suffering travel sickness
Mallorca may have frustrated Real Madrid at home on the opening day of the season, registering a 0-0 draw at the ONO Estadi, but regular followers of the Spanish game will appreciate that such a fine result means little to the Balearic side when they go on their travels.
Last season under the charge of now-Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano, Mallorca was one of the toughest venues to go to in La Liga. On the road, the debt-stricken side were not nearly so powerful, claiming only three away wins all season.
Michael Laudrup has since been appointed head coach of the club and has failed to cause a shift in this momentum. Already els Barralets have travelled to Sporting de Gijon and Athletic Bilbao this season, and on both occasions they have lost by a significant margin to their hosts. It would take a brave punter to back a change of fortune for the Islanders.
Defender Kevin Garcia will not be travelling with a profoundly negative attitude, though. “We hope to surprise,” he smiled. “We have respect for Barcelona. They are one of the best teams, but we have no fear. We should go with the intention of getting a good result.”
Towards the end of season 2008-09, Mallorca did gain a victory over Barca, albeit against an under-strength Catalan side at home. Don’t bank on a repeat come Sunday.
Lionel Messi made his return from an ankle injury on Wednesday evening, taking the field only 10 days after being withdrawn in pain on a stretcher against Atletico Madrid.
Eric Abidal also made the midweek trip after being previously given leave for personal reasons.
David Villa is banned after being sent-off in the 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, while Adriano has a hamstring problem. Xavi is doubtful due to tendonitis.
Nunes will miss out with an ankle sprain that will keep him sidelined for around two to three weeks.
Tuni is still working his way back to fitness but otherwise Michael Laudrup should have a strong squad to select from.
Victor Casadesus and defender Enrique Corrales will need late checks.
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