After a week when Liverpool lost their 68 game unbeaten home record after losing 0-1 to Burnley – one headline read “KLOPP COPS KOP CHOP SHOCK !” (easy for you to say) – Real Mallorca kick off the second half of their season (after a 15 day mini break) with a difficult challenge away in Madrid against one of our direct promotion rivals, Rayo Vallecano, today at 4 pm. Rayo, nicknamed Los Franjirrojos (the red sashes), are on a six-in-a-row winning run and in their Vallecas stadium have won 8, lost 1 and drawn 1 since September.
Mallorca supporters had a shock reaction after we lost two home games against Fuenlabrada and Las Palmas just before the break and lost our opener 0-1 at home to today’s opponents back in September. After the Rayo defeat we went 17 games undefeated then closed 2020 with a shock reversal against Fuenlabrada. In that game refereeing errors (a poorly disallowed goal for Abdon after the ball allegedly hit Raillo’s arm) and two dubious red cards for Raillo and Cufre, plus a couple of errors from Reina in goal, led Mallorca into only their third league defeat of the season. Losing at home to Las Palmas was a shock but we didn’t play well and in the end the visitors hung on for their first away win of the season.
With that in mind Mallorca must get back to winning ways as quickly as possible against an opponent who are old adversaries. We had four home and away play off games against them in 1996 (lost) and 1997 (won promotion) and have always found playing in their three-sided stadium a problem. One of the ends of the ground is simply a wall covered in advertising hoardings with a couple of high rise apartment blocks behind. Rayo lie five points behind us in fourth place with 37 points. In their squad are two ex Mallorca players, Mario Suarez and Oscar Trejo, and ex Manchester United winger Bebe.
Mallorca finally managed to loan out their fourth choice striker Alex Alegria who’s gone to Zaragoza. That’s the good news, the bad news is that Alegria’s loan deal doesn’t contain an option to buy and his contract with us lasts until 2025. Our last sporting director Javier Recio and CEO Maheta Molango gave him a mega five-year deal with high wages which means he’s difficult to get rid of on a permanent basis.
This afternoon’s game should see most of the squad available for selection with coach Luis Garcia Plaza again betting on his system of rotation that gives some minutes to all the members of the squad.
As we reach the second part of the season we’ve scored 28 goal in 21 games. There was a problem with our strikers not banging in enough goals with mid-fielders Dani Rodriguez and Salva Sevilla leading our goalscoring statistics. Then from almost oblivion came the hero of our promotion play-off game in June 2019, Abdon Prats, now playing the best football of his career. Last season he was in the shadow of Budimir and Cucho and there was talk of Abdon’s possible departure due to lack of game time. Now LGP has found in “Dimoni d’Arta” (the Arta demon) the scorer he was looking for elsewhere. Five goals in the league including a spectacular scissor kick that went viral on social media and two in the cup has elevated Abdon to No. 1 striker.
It’s worth highlighting Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta in mid-field who’s been sensational and his partnership with Salva Sevilla, who at 36 is experiencing his best moments in a chequered career where he’s played at the highest level with Espanyol and Real Betis. Sporting director Pablo Ortells, who is frantically trying to bring in another striker, is to be congratulated for bringing in Cufre, Olivan, Amath and box of tricks Jordi Mboula.
Despite losing these games against Fuenlabrada and Las Palmas and conceding a two-goal lead at Oviedo, we can consider the first half of the season to be very good. The primary objective is of course promotion back to the promised land when we can go toe to toe with the greats of Spanish football and who knows if we’ll see Real Mallorca again in European competition. Older fans like me can still remember those heady days of the “mechanical ensaimada” beating the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal in European competitions.
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AND FINALLY, the strange tale of the attempted sale of troubled Newcastle United continues to entertain football fans everywhere (except, of course, members of the Toon Army). Two more groups from the Middle East have expressed an interest in buying the “Magpies.” One is a crisp manufacturer, the other a dance academy. The consortium owning both is headed by Sultan Vinega and Sheik-it Al Aboot !