Los Sportinguistas languish towards the foot of the table and will find the going tough against Atleti...
Mallorca were the first Primera Division opponents faced by Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid, and they were also to prove the first opponents to frustrate the Castilian side, earning a scoreless draw back in August. A repeat of that result would be hugely damaging for los Blancos, who are aiming to get back to winning ways in the Primera Division after last weekend’s surprising slip against Almeria.
There were no problems for los Blancos in their midweek Copa del Rey quarter-final encounter against city-rivals Atletico Madrid. Leading 3-1 from the first leg, there was never any danger of a slip in the Vicente Calderon after Cristiano Ronaldo shot the title challengers ahead midway through the first half for what proved the only goal of a sometimes tetchy affair.
“The team played a good game. We did what we had to do to reach the next round and we earned a good result.” Mourinho affirmed after the match before discussing a change in his side’s tactical make-up.
“We reached the next round without exerting ourselves too much. I wanted to play differently tonight because we won the first leg 3-1. I knew we would go through if we kept a clean sheet. Two leg knockout stages are different to league games.”
There has been speculation that the Portuguese coach could take his leave from the Bernabeu sooner rather than later, though ‘Mou’ has already quashed rumours that he could depart before the end of the season. On the field, his side are discovering that even the slightest slip will be punished by Barcelona, so once again winning is imperative this weekend.
Paid The Penalty Last Week
In a season that was meant to be a real slog for Mallorca, the Balearic club are passing the exam impressively. With half of the campaign already played, els Barralets lie in the top half of the standings and are 11 points clear of the relegation zone, earning praise from celebrity shareholder Rafael Nadal in the process.
Of course, not everything’s gone smoothly for the Iberostar Estadi club. Last weekend they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 away to Atletico Madrid, and on their return to the capital less than a week later coach Michael Laudrup will be hoping for a more successful performance from his players.
The Islanders certainly had their chances against Atleti last weekend, but the best of those was squandered by Pierre Webo, who accepted responsibility for the defeat. “The key play was the penalty miss,” he lamented, considering his moment of infamy to the Diario de Mallorca. “If we score, I think that we could have won the game. I had no luck and the goalkeeper has done well.
“Mallorca had played a pretty nice game and didn’t deserve this beating. We had chances, and Atletico Madrid have received too much of a reward for their performance.”
Already this season Mallorca have proven to be stubborn opponents for Spain’s best. After holding los Blancos 0-0 on the opening day of the campaign they went to Camp Nou and came away with a 1-1 draw against Barcelona. Laudrup’s side will be no pushovers.
Pepe, Jerzy Dudek and Gonzalo Higuain will continue to miss out but no new problems have been reported in los Blancos' ranks.
Michael Laudrup’s squad is depleted by suspensions to Jonathan De Guzman and Pau Cendros.
Injury problems in the Islanders’ team are not rife, but in-form striker Victor Casadesus sits out. Jose Luis Marti is their other absentee. Ratinho, Sergio Tejera and Gonzalo Castro will be checked before the game.