After a week when Prince Andrew’s new book The Prince, the Paedo and the Pizza is expected to be the Christmas No. 1 best seller(!) – Real Mallorca get back to business after the international break when they play 12th-place Valencia side Levante tonight at 9 o’clock. The game is live on Sky Free Sports Channel 422.
We are the only team with “nil points” away from home in La Liga, and have only won two games on the road in 2019, both in La Segunda against Las Palmas 1-2 and Malaga 0-1.
With all our five internationalists returning to Palma, coach Vicente Moreno will take stock of players’ fitness, especially with regard to Ghanaian midfielder Iddrisu Baba, who flew thousands of miles to play in two games, one of them against a tiny island nation I’d never heard of, Sao Tome and Principe.
Levante have a reasonable home record (three wins, two draws and a defeat), having impressive wins this season over Barcelona, Real Sociedad and bottom club Leganes. The last time we played in the Ciutat de Valencia ground in 2013, we lost 4-0. Tonight’s game will be a bit of a homecoming for our goalkeeper Manolo Reina as he played 85 games for Levante between 2007 and 2011.
It’s expected Salva Sevilla will return from suspension tonight, giving us an overbooking scenario in mid field. It’s highly unlikely that leading goalscorer Lago Junior will play as he’s missed training all week with a hamstring problem.
The good news for Mallorca is the arrival of 19-year-old Colombian striker “Cucho” Hernandez after being out for three months with a serious Achilles tendon injury that required surgery. “Cucho” has been recuperating in Madrid and at his parent club Watford.
There’s no question he’s physically fit and raring to go but he’ll be held back until the New Year to get him up to match intensity. In training this week he did plenty of “ball work” but didn’t take part in any “contact” situations for fear of aggravating the healing injury.
Last week I wrote about the Copa del Rey and how the preliminary round took place involving lower league teams. I mentioned two sides with unusual names, FC Intercity and El Alamo. Lo and behold, when the draw was made last Sunday, we were drawn away against CD El Alamo! They’re a team from the third division group 7 who play in a small town (10,000 population) that’s situated 40 km south west of Madrid. The Estadio Facundo Rivas has a 4,000 capacity and a plastic playing surface.This one-off tie will take place next month on either December 17, 18 or 19, and is a possible banana skin for Real Mallorca.
It's been a busy few days for our general manager Maheta Molango, as he arrived back from a flying promotional visit to Japan. His prime objective was to seal a deal which allows the Japanese branch of our kit manufacturers Umbro to start selling Real Mallorca replica shirts bearing number 26 and Take Kubo’s name (Take being the name on the shirt, not Kubo).
After the revelation that up to 700,000 Japanese football fans watched Kubo play in the Villareal game, the market for Real Mallorca in the Land of the Rising Sun has become highly lucrative. Besides selling Real Mallorca paraphernalia, Mallorca have thrown open the gates of their Son Bibiloni training ground to any team from the Japanese “J League” to come here and train in their close season.
On the subject of Kubo (who may be kept on for another loan spell next season), it’s easy to think that he lives in a certain bubble of isolation here in Majorca. The truth is the 18 year old (Japanese Messi) is accompanied by his parents on the island. His mother picks him up from training every day and the whole family are regularly seen food shopping in the Olivar market. I saw them recently waiting, with their ticket, to be served at a butcher’s stall. I was told Mrs Kubo likes her meat cut the Japanese way. Her son has no airs and graces at all and is described as being a polite and humble character. One journalist described him as being “one llonguet more” (like any other local youngster).
PS I watched local side At. Baleares play Real Madrid Castilla last Sunday on TV in a Segunda B game which finished 1-1. I was under the impression that the ground on the Via Cintura had been totally renovated. From the TV pictures, half of it resembled a building site. The first goal was deflected off a cement mixer!!