REAL MALLORCA face Osasuna tonight in what the Navarrans' coach Javier Aguirre is calling a game until the death.
Following last Sunday's defeat of Real Betis, 13th placed Mallorca have slightly more breathing space than their 16th placed opponents and it is unlikely the Islanders' coach Gregorio Manzano is putting as morbid an emphasis on the match as Aguirre. He will be taking it extremely seriously though as three points today should see Mallorca climb back into the top half of the league. Defeat, on the other hand, will see them drop closer to the relegation zone. Manzano will be highly disappointed not to have Ariel Ibagaza available to face Osasuna. The pocket-sized Argentine picked up a fifth yellow card in his inspirational display against Betis and is suspended for today's match. Manzano is also without Vicente Fernandez who, alongside fellow central defenders Javier Olaizola, Fernando Niño and Miguel Angel Nadal, is injured. Miquel Soler will be fielded at left-back allowing Poli to cover for Vicente in a more flexible back four. Striker Walter Pandiani passed a late fitness test yesterday morning and travels with the team.
A trip to Osasuna's hostile El Sadar stadium is a tricky prospect for any team, but the statistics make ominous reading for Mallorca. In the ten matches they've played at Osasuna in top flight football Mallorca have returned to the island with nine defeats and just one draw. They have not even scored there since the 1962-63 season. Osasuna, who lost to Mallorca's Copa del Rey final opponents Recreativo Huelva in the semi-final, have picked up just one point from the last three games since beating Real Madrid. Aguirre has no big injury worries, although he is still missing Uruguayan Pablo Garcia. This is a match to the death, said the Mexican coach in typically over-dramatic style. We're at an extremely important part of the season and we must play our last thirteen matches of the season as if each one is a final. Up front for Osasuna will be Australian striker John Aloisi, formerly of Portsmouth and Coventry.
Sanzol; Cruchaga, Josetxo, Mateo, Antonio López; Puñal, Alfredo; Rivero, Iván Rosado, Moha; Aloisi.
Leo Franco; Cortés, Lussenhoff, Poli, Miquel Soler; Novo, Lozano, Marcos, Riera; Pandiani, Eto'o.
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