After a week when Real Madrid fans were not happy with their player Isco who, when told to come on as a substitute on Tuesday night, took 1 minute 20 seconds to tie up his pony tail – and that was before he did his warm-up exercises ! – Real Mallorca (top of La Liga SmartBank) play second-placed Espanyol (five points behind us on 46) in the Son Moix this Sunday at 14:00 hrs. This game is one of those fixtures marked in red on the calendar and the “agotado” (sold out) signs would have gone up for various parts of the ground days ago, if the public had been allowed in. A win for us (as we reach the business part of the season) could define the outcome of the 2020/21 campaign. Going eight points ahead of our nearest rival would give us a considerable advantage. Sunday’s clash has been described in the local media as a “final in the middle of February.”
Mallorca coach Luis Garcia Plaza had injury doubts in the right back position but after a late fitness test Fran Gamez is available to start. The Palma side have been showing a great image, are strong in defence and effective in attack. Our coach has used 30 players so far, giving everybody game time. Espanyol boss Vicente Moreno takes a more conservative approach and only changes his regular line-up if players are injured or suspended. If Espanyol lose today it could cause an earthquake in the offices of the RCDE stadium in Barcelona. Their Chinese owners will not be happy about being eight points off the lead after the money they’ve spent. One player with some playing knowledge at Espanyol is Salva Sevilla who spent two years at the Catalan club between 2014/16. On local TV last Monday, Salva said he’d been offered a mega deal from the Chinese Super League and his wages would be 10 or 12 times more than at Real Mallorca. 36-year-old Salva turned the deal down saying he and his family were happy here, and he wanted to help Mallorca get back into La Liga saying “There’s more to life than money.” How refreshing to hear these words in modern football.
Espanyol come here with a point to prove and are not happy with some of the refereeing decisions given for us and against them. Back in December their coach, and our ex manager, Vicente Moreno said referees seemed to be favouring Real Mallorca with VAR outcomes and penalty decisions. At the start of the season, Espanyol’s authority looked insurmountable and the fact that their 45 million budget compared to our 19 (a notable difference of 26 million euros) made their chances of winning the league look likely. However nothing could be further from reality, in just three games the wheels of the Espanyol table-topping roller-coaster wagon have become decidedly wobbly.
One player we have to look out for today is Espanyol’s lethal protagonist, striker Raul de Tomas (RDT on his shirt). Recruited in the Winter market in 2020, he’s the most expensive signing in the history of the Catalan club which paid more than 20 million euros to Benfica for his services, and he’s scored 14 goals so far this season.
Vicente Moreno would probably get a mixed reception from fans today had there been any. He did the nigh on impossible getting Mallorca back to back promotions and there’s no doubt he was a good coach. It was the way he departed Real Mallorca that has divided opinion from the fans. He negotiated his move to Espanyol when still coaching Real Mallorca, the news being leaked to the media. The way he went was neither what he, the fans, nor the club wanted. He went to the team with the most powerful sporting and economic potential in the division. He was betting on a winning horse.
Sunday’s game is one that us fans would want to be at, in a heartbeat. In two weeks’ time one year will have passed since the last match with the public in Son Moix – March 1st – with a 0-1 defeat against Getafe. The evolution of the pandemic and the measures established by La Liga leave it pretty clear that stadiums won’t open up this season except for a radical turn of events. The worst bit is not being able to witness first hand Mallorca being top of the league and playing really well. I know my thoughts are shared by many fans who long to meet up with friends for a few “libations” before and after the game – especially a big match like today. As one Mallorquinista said on social media “I have been a fan of Real Mallorca for over 30 years and watching them play on the pitch has gone. Sitting in front of the telly just isn’t the same, I miss living the game with the people. We’d celebrate a Son Moix goal for Mallorca by throwing ourselves on top of each other laughing and shouting. Going to watch a game in the stadium is the very essence of football.”
Mallorca fans also long for that moment to be able to connect with friends in the stands of the Son Moix. I also couldn’t imagine us getting promoted and not being able to celebrate in the fountain of Las Tortugas.
AND FINALLY, after 35 years of marriage a husband and wife went to see a therapist. When asked about the problem, the wife went into meltdown listing every problem they ever had in the years they had been married. On and on she went, neglect, lack of intimacy, emptiness, loneliness, feeling unloved, an entire laundry list of unmet needs she had endured. Finally, after allowing a sufficient length of time for things to die down, the therapist got up, walked around the desk and after asking the wife to stand, he embraced her, kissing her passionately as her husband watched – with a raised eyebrow (like Roger Moore !). The woman sat down in a daze as the therapist turned to the husband saying “That is what your wife needs at least three times a week. Can you do this ?” The husband replied “Well, I can drop her off on Mondays and Wednesdays but on Fridays I go fishing in the canal !”