Stung by city rivals Real Madrid on Thursday night, los Colchoneros attempt to bounce back against els Barralets...
In a madcap derby encounter on Thursday evening, Atletico Madrid once again fell short of fierce city-rivals Real, who benefitted from los Colchoneros’ inability to defend to claim a 3-1 advantage heading into next week’s second leg encounter. Atleti won’t have long to ponder the loss, as they are immediately faced with a difficult Monday night encounter against Mallorca.
Coach Quique Sanchez Flores was angry about his club being forced to play at the same time last week, labelling it an insult to Atletico Madrid to make them play at such an unconventional hour. And against Hercules, his players played like they were in a strop, leaking three first half goals en route to an embarrassing 4-1 loss against the newly promoted side.
An improvement was certainly evident in midweek against los Blancos, but after going 1-0 up thanks to a Diego Forlan tap-in before 10 minutes had been played, the home side were allowed to dictate what was a franticly exciting match to watch.
While Flores pondered the ability of his side to bounce back from their Copa del Rey deficit, which was made problematic by the concession of a 90th minute Mesut Oezil goal, he was also keen to stress that the Primera Division cannot be allowed to go forgotten.
Champions League hopes for los Colchoneros are fading after a run of two wins in six matches and seven points back of fourth placed Valencia, no silly slips can be afforded.
Mallorca are locked with Atletico Madrid on 27 points, but their goal at the start of the season was far more modest. Taking over an outfit bereft of finances and stripped of their best players, Michael Laudrup was simply instructed to guide the Balearic club away from relegation, but on the verge of the season’s halfway point, els Barralets can again hope to finish in the European spots.
Europa League football was denied to the Islanders last term on behalf of their poor financial state, and if they were to achieve a finish as lofty as last season’s fifth, it would be an utterly remarkable achievement.
Laudrup’s men remain a strong force at the Estadio Iberostar – though they are no longer the all conquering side they were at the venue last season – but the Dane wants to oversee an improvement in the club’s fortunes away from home. A draw in Barcelona and wins over Sevilla and Valencia have shown that they are capable, but against the so-called lesser sides they have been impotent.
There is certainly confidence in the camp. Emilio Nsue remarked to the media: “We can do damage [at the Vicente Calderon]. They are a strong team, and difficult to play against, and they are a rival that can often be a mystery, but we must trust ourselves because we know we can beat them.”
Bristling with confidence, Mallorca could strike a big blow in the race for a top five finish on Monday.
Sergio Aguero and Mario Suarez fail to make the cut due to injuries, but Tiago returns after a three game absence because of hamstring complaints.
Akihiro Ienaga is called into the squad, but Ivan Ramis is left out as a precautionary measure. Marti is sidelined with an injury.