Real Mallorca, who now find themselves just a single point above the Segunda Liga’s relegation trap door to the third division, play second top Alaves at the Son Moix tomorrow at 8:15 pm. The game has been labelled in the local press as “importantísimo.” The harsh reality of relegation means the Palma side must not slip up tomorrow evening.
As I said on Tuesday, we’re now in a mini four-team relegation league, with one of the participants joining the bottom three sides who look down and out. The margin for error in football is tiny and after Sunday’s stinging sucker punch goal in stoppage time in Lugo, which left Mallorca reeling, we’ve got to get in amongst Alaves straight from kick-off and keep in their faces for 90 minutes.
Coach Fernando Vazquez took pelters in this week’s sports pages about his team selection and substitutions last Sunday. It is a thankless task being a football coach (although well paid) especially if results are not going your way. If we’d won last Sunday, we’d be praising the depth of the squad and Vazquez would get plaudits for his willingness to make changes – instead he gets slated. All seven games left between now and the end of the season are massive because of the position we are in. A draw is better than nothing but three points could be life-saving, whereas Alaves need a win to stay in the automatic promotion place.
Vazquez will, as usual, keep his selection close to his chest but Yuste, who’s the glue that holds the back four together, will definitely start after serving a two-match suspension. Centre back David Costas has been out for two months with a broken toe and is likely to join Aveldaño at the heart of the defence. Colunga is doubtful with a muscle strain and Oscar Diaz is a possibility to replace him.
Alaves are a rufty-tufty side from the unofficial Basque capital city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. So far this season they have accumulated 128 yellow cards and nine reds, so won’t be taking any prisoners. They also have the most away wins in La Segunda, eight. Their claim to fame was playing in the 2001 UEFA cup final against Liverpool, which the Anfield side finally won 5-4 after extra time. Since then they spent two years battling relegation (where have I heard that before?) to the third level, eventually succumbing in 2008-09. Their black period lasted four years until they were promoted back to La Segunda in 2013, but they are still deep in debt – promotion would be their financial saviour. In their ranks is the veteran ex Athletic Bilbao striker, follically-challenged Gaizka Toquero, who’s already banged in ten goals this season.
In an effort to get the Son Moix as full as possible tomorrow (10,000 plus would be a major achievement after recent results), the club have been giving away free tickets for socios and five euro tickets for everybody else. Atmosphere is paramount; we need to get behind the team from the first whistle. Let’s come out to our old rousing anthem not this awful dirge that has been written especially for the centennial birthday. The so-called tune wouldn’t stimulate The Walking Dead. Legendary coach Hector Cuper used to ask for AC/DC’s Highway to Hell to gee up the players before the game (although the song title is a wee bit inappropriate at the moment).
I was asked this week where Samuel Eto’o is these days. The former Real Mallorca striker, who’s now 35, played here between 2000/04 scoring 48 goals. As he was leaving for Barcelona in 2004, he said one day he’ll come back to see out his playing days here after what Real Mallorca had done for his career. Since then Samuel’s had more clubs than I’ve had hot dinners and is now in the twilight of his illustrious career playing for Turkish side Antalyspor where he’s already netted 16 goals. The chances now, with us in La Segunda, of Mallorca’s greatest ever player coming back are diddly squat. Samuel loved it here in Mallorca and I always remember him driving his Hummer Jeep (there weren’t many about here in 2003) around Palma. He showed his appreciation to the 15,000 Son Moix fans who had made the journey over to Elche/Alicante for the 2003 cup final by donating 30,000 euros for several giant paellas in the fans’ zone.
We won that final 3-0 when he scored two late goals in a memorable victory. Those were the days.