After a week when an eagle-eyed viewer told me that in the new version of (The Darling Buds of May) The Larkins, Ma Larkins put a gammon joint in the oven and it came out a goose! – Real Mallorca play Valencia in the intimidating Mestalla stadium tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm, in match day 10 of La Liga Santander 2021/22.
The Palma side have had a week to recover from their late 1-0 defeat away at Real Sociedad where they deserved at least a share of the spoils.
Several pundits in the local media have been pointing out our fragility in the final minutes showing a tendency to concede late goals.
Indeed, two points were in the bag in the games against Osasuna and Real Sociedad but bad defending saw us lose with little time to react after going behind.
Even in the 1-0 win against Levante we gave away a penalty in the 85th minute (which they missed) showing that our defence had lost concentration just as the final whistle was about to be blown.
Once again coach Luis Garcia Plaza is keeping tomorrow’s line-up close to his chest although I expect Fer Niño to start up front in place of Angel Rodriguez.
Another major decision will be made by LGP before kick-off – who will start in goal, the under-fire Manolo Reina or the under-achieving Dominik Greif?
Valencia are one point ahead of us on 12 and since the start of this campaign have won three, lost three and drawn three.
Our injury list looks a lot better as pictures of Take Kubo doing light training in the gym were released on Wednesday, although he’s several weeks away from kicking a ball.
That still leaves a huge headache for LGP in the continuing saga regarding Antonio Raillo.
He’s already missed more league games (eight) than any in the five seasons he’s played for Real Mallorca.
He’s the leader of our defence, one of the team captains, and is now about to enter a critical stage of his career when he visits a specialist sports doctor in Barcelona.
Another defender Aleksander Sedlar, who’s missed the last three games, is close to full fitness and is in the travelling squad.
Tomorrow’s game takes on a special significance for our South Korean player Lee Kang-In as he returns to the Mestalla two months after what can only be described as a strange departure.
Many Valencia fans were “gobsmacked” trying to get their heads around how and why such a talented young player (only 20) was let go when in 2018 a buy-out clause of 80 million euros was put on him, when he was considered one of the most important young players in world football.
Kang-In was at Valencia from the age of 10 and we of course have reaped the rewards signing him on a free transfer.
Tomorrow we’ll see just what kind of welcome the Valencia “socios” will give the South Korean.
The sub plot of his return may end up dictating the narrative of this otherwise fascinating showdown.
Valencia’s financial woes have been well documented and the recent wage cap table showed they’ve dropped to bottom place, going down from 100 million euros to 30!
After a Summer fire sale the likes of Ferran Torres and Dani Parejo went cheaply but the loss of Kang-In was incomprehensible to the Mestalla faithful – his departure for nothing may yet sting the most – let’s hope so.
This Valencia side are now managed by ex Getafe boss Jose Bordalas and have been changed this season from being a free-flowing, crisp-passing, delight-to-watch side into a team of potential assassins who don’t play to entertain the fans.
They’ve conceded more free kicks and have been shown more yellow cards than any other La Liga team so Mallorca must be wary of the home side’s skullduggery. What we don’t want is for Valencia to score first because they could easily “park the bus” and pull down the shutters.
Looking round an empty and eerie Son Moix one morning last week, I counted a lot of broken red seats and it seems the fans who sit (or sat) on them have been complaining about their lamentable condition.
The club have taken their grievances on board.
They recognise the fans’ disapproval and are fully aware of the situation. Unfortunately the club have little room for manoeuvre because the make and model of the seats no longer exists.
As the useful life of the seats is reckoned to be between 10 and 15 years, and the stadium is 20 years old, the club feel the landlords (Palma City Council) should replace the obsolete 24,000 seats at an estimated cost of two million euros.
In reply, the owners have said even if they were to replace them, and they don’t have two million euros available at this present time, plus the fact that the bureaucracy involved would delay any change until the end of next year, Mallorca will wait until the expected ground reformation to start after this season.