Mallorca face Real test

Real Madrid lie in wait for Mallorca as struggling Atletico take on Valladolid.

Mallorca’s coach Manzano is not allowing his players to rest on their laurels [AFP]

A buoyant Mallorca, currently lying in fourth place in Spain’s Primera Division, face a tough test when they travel to the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid.

Gregorio Manzano’s side faced financial problems at the beginning of the season which did not bode well for their staying power in the top division, but Manzano has coaxed eight home wins in eight matches out of his players to put his side in Champions League contention.

However, Mallorca’s success this season has been based on a 100-percent record at home and the team has only won once outside stadium Ono Estadi.

Tough match

The former Atletico Madrid coach, who led the Balearic Islanders to a King’s Cup triumph in 2003 in a previous stint at the club, has warned his squad against resting on their laurels.

“The objective (of staying in the first division) is getting nearer and nearer and our aim is to stay in the leading group,” he said.

“We have to forget about records, the best record for us would be to finish among the European places.”

Liga fixtures

Saturday January 9

 Sevilla v Racing Santander
 Valladolid v Atletico Madrid
 Villarreal v Almeria

Sunday January 10

 Deportivo v Osasuna
 Espanyol v Real Zaragoza
 Malaga v Athletic Bilbao
 Real Madrid v Mallorca
 Sporting Gijon v Getafe
 Tenerife v Barcelona
 Xerez v Valencia

Mallorca’s squad will be stretched after their Copa del Rey fifth-round game against Rayo Vallecano on Thursday, a problem Madrid do not have as they have been eliminated from the competition.

Second-placed Real squandered a chance to climb above arch rivals Barcelona into top spot when they were held to a 0-0 draw at mid-table Osasuna last weekend and were clearly missing the creativity of injured playmaker Kaka.

The Brazilian has been sidelined with a nagging groin problem but returned to full training last week and should be available to coach Manuel Pellegrini on Sunday.

Madrid will reshuffle at the back as defender Sergio Ramos and holding midfielder Lassana Diarra are suspended.

Midfielder Jose Maria “Guti” Gutierrez has also returned from injury.

Struggling Atletico

In their most recent league game, Atletico Madrid clinched a 2-1 victory against Sevilla with a late winner, suggesting that the struggling team had put a disastrous first half of the season behind them.

However, in a woeful Copa del Rey performance on Tuesday, Atletico lost 3-0 to second-division Celta Vigo and played most of the game with 10 men after Tomas Ujfalusi was ejected.

On Saturday Atletico, who currently lie 11th in the standings, will look to move away from the bottom half of the league with a win against 14th-place Valladolid.

Coach Quique Sanchez Flores has indicated that he will make changes to the squad.

“There’s an enormous lack of intelligence when it comes to reading each moment of the game and the season. This doesn’t square with the history of Atletico Madrid or its fans,” said Flores, who was appointed in October.

“I have to look for players who don’t let me down any more.”

Atletico has one of the most prized attacks in the league in Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero. However, Forlan has been largely anonymous lately and Aguero has been injured and is doubtful for the Valladolid game.

For Valladolid, defender Cesar Arzo is suspended.

Guardiola made his displeasure at striker Ibrahimovic public knowledge [AFP]

No Ibrahimovic

Undefeated leaders Barcelona, who were held 1-1 at home by Villarreal last weekend and have a two-point advantage over Real, will be without striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they play at promoted Tenerife on Sunday.

Coach Pep Guardiola publicly admonished the Swede after the Villarreal match for failing to control his temper and picking up a yellow card and suspension thanks to a reckless lunge at defender Diego Godin.

Barca suffered a setback when they lost 2-1 at home to Sevilla in their King’s Cup last 16, first leg tie on Tuesday and they play the Andalusians again in La Liga the weekend after the Cup return leg at the Sanchez Pizjuan next Wednesday.

One of the few positives of the cup loss was the return of Gabriel Milito, playing in his first official game since April 2008 when he sustained a knee injury.

“I had dreamed about this, in our stadium, with our people,” he said.

“The truth is I felt good. I’m still lacking when it comes to the football, but that will come with minutes and games.”

Source : News Agencies


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