Real Mallorca play their second game in three days when they face the mighty Atletico Madrid in the Son Moix tonight at 7pm. We await late fitness tests on Salva Sevilla and Antonio Raillo, both of whom are vital to the cause. Sevilla looked to be training normally yesterday after coming off early against Getafe with a groin strain.
Raillo stayed behind in Palma on Saturday after a training ground accident and his chances of playing look doubtful. That could mean a home debut start in La Liga for 37-year-old Binissalemer Xisco Campos, the second oldest player since 1935 to have done so.
Two weeks ago Atletico had the perfect beginning to the season.
A fortnight later, after a defeat against Real Sociedad and a 0-0 draw against Celta Vigo, things have been turned around, although they did battle back and show their true mettle in the Champions League against Juventus after being two goals down. Mallorca didn’t play well in Sunday’s defeat at Getafe but there were several mitigating circumstances and the fact that we’re at home means it’s likely we’ll be much more focused.
Sunday’s result was the first time under the present coach Vicente Moreno that we’d conceded more than three goals since Tenerife beat us 1-4 in 2017.
Tonight's game is the biggest home match we’ve played in six years against an “Atleti” side who, for the first time in a year and a half, have failed to score a goal in consecutive league games.
One grain of comfort for us is the fact that Atletico’s flamboyant boss Diego (Cholo) Simeone has never won here as a coach in three visits (two draws and a defeat).
He will, however, have for the first time this season a full squad to pick from.
And that in itself is a formidable advantage.
With Mallorca playing away at Alaves next Sunday, it’s likely Moreno may make some initial changes. Japanese wonder-kid Kubo could well start as he’s been heavily involved in laying on chances in our last two games. That would mean several veritable scrums of Japanese paparazzi taking in the game. It’s a real treat for local fans to see some of the world’s best players here on the island after six lean years out of La Primera. This is what local fans pay to buy a season ticket for – to be able to watch quality players they have only seen on TV perform on their own doorstep.
This season “Atleti” have addressed key areas by adding youth and energy to what was an ageing squad. Left back Renan Lodi was the best in that position in last year’s Brazilian Serie A. On the other side of defence is the player who’ll be the centre of attention for ex pat fans tonight. Kieran Trippier (the Ramsbottom Wrecker) was a surprise acquisition from Spurs in the Summer and has proved an instant success.
At the weekend nobody was able to profit from his pinpoint crosses during the 0-0 draw against Celta Vigo in the Wanda Metropolitano stadium. Diego Costa is misfiring up-front and hasn’t had a shot on target in two games. His striking partnership with 126 million euro, Portuguese-born 19 year old Joao Felix has failed to strike up a meaningful combination.
Los Rojiblancos are bearing all the signs right now of what they really are – a team in transition. But they have a strong spirit and unity as they look to overtake Real Madrid (who they play in the Madrid derby on Saturday) and Barcelona who’ve had their worst league start for 25 years.
It’s going to be a very demanding week for Real Mallorca with three defeats in the last four games and an away game at Alaves on Sunday. We need to get back to winning ways or, at least as far as tonight’s tough opponents are concerned, get a share of the points – that would be a good result against a world class side.
I’ve no doubt that VAR will be used some time tomorrow night for whatever reason. On-field referees don’t get blamed for a dodgy decision now. It’s all done by technology, overseen by some anonymous geezer in a room in Las Rozas, Madrid. There has to be a time limit on their decision making and any decision must be replayed to the paying fans in the stadium, they’ve been kept in the dark too long.
Tonight's referee is Señor Hernandez Hernandez from Lanzarote. He’s so good they named him twice!