There can’t have been many months in the 103-year history of Real Mallorca as pulsating and exuberant as June 2019. The Palma side were in the English equivalent of the Conference League last season (Segunda B) playing most of their away matches in tiny grounds with plastic pitches.
Finally we overcame these adversities to end up overall winners of the four league competition and become champions out of 80 sides. Gaining promotion was the highlight of last season and we still have seven of that championship-winning side making regular appearances in La Segunda. Now we’re in the final play-off decider to see who joins Osasuna and Granada to take a place at the top table of Spanish football – La Liga.
On Thursday night in Galicia at 9 o’clock we’ll face one of Spain’s famous-name teams, Deportivo La Coruña, with the return leg at an almost-sold-out Son Moix on Sunday at 21:00. That game has seen the fastest selling ticket allocation on record as local fans lick their lips in anticipation.
On Tuesday there was talk about removing the “lonas”, the four canvas advertising banners which take up part of the Sol Alta, after 14,507 tickets had been sold. That would free up another 2,000 seats but it’s unclear if the club were willing to adhere to fans’ demands.
Deportivo go into Thursday's game as clear favourites, mainly because they’re at home in front of a full house of 33,000 pumped-up Galicians. Without a doubt that will be the biggest crowd most of the Mallorca players have ever faced. The exception is Salva Sevilla who, in his time at La Liga sides Real Betis and Espanyol, regularly played to full houses. Deportivo are one of Mallorca’s “jinx” teams. We haven’t won at La Riazor since 2005 when our Japanese striker Yoshito Okubo scored in a 3-0 win. They also have the advantage in that they’ve had six days in La Coruña, where we’ve been to Albacete and back. Depor’s coach is ex-Mallorca player and Palma-born legend, 42-year-old Pep Luis Marti. News broke on Tuesday that he’s now embroiled in a new match-fixing allegation when he was coaching at Tenerife in 2016/17.
Mallorca arrived at Santiago de Compostela in a private plane (courtesy of our American owners) yesterday and two commercial planes carrying 300 fans have also made the trip. Both coaches are keeping their line-ups close to their chests but it’s hoped our Serbian striker Ante Budimir is fit after missing the last three games with a muscle strain. Thursday’s feisty encounter is the kind of game “Budi” thrives in.
I still find it incredible as the summer temperatures rise that professional teams in Spain are still playing competitive football. After 42 normal league games (that in itself is too many), the guys on the pitch can’t wait until next week when it’s buckets, spades and flip-flop time!
Whatever happens over the next two games one team will have precious little time to prepare for a La Liga season. By law the players must have one month’s vacation then regroup for pre-season. La Liga begins over the third weekend in August so there’s virtually no time to start a new campaign fresh and raring to go.
If this two-match tie finishes level, extra time will be played on Sunday. If there’s still no outcome, there will be no penalty shoot-out. Mallorca would get promoted as they finished higher in the league on 69 – Depor 68.
The referee is Señor Trujillo Suarez from Tenerife. In a league game against Almeria in January he awarded three penalties to the home side. Manolo Reina saved two of them but we still lost 2-0.
Mallorca must score at least one to simplify the home leg, which could set up a humdinger on Sunday night, but it’s going to be very, very difficult.