Late free kicks from Santi Cazorla and Marcos Senna have seen the gap at the top of La Liga reduced from ten points to six in under a week. With this boost Barça travel to Mallorca knowing that a win would put the difference at just three points before Madrid’s game at home to Real Sociedad.
Pep Guardiola has just 15 first team players available so Tello, Muniesa, Bartra and Montoya have been added to the squad for the trip. With Dani Alves suspended and Adriano out for ten days our options in defence our rather limited. Our main problem is that we have no full backs: Carles Puyol could play at either right-back or left-back with a youngster filling in on the other side. The best option would appear to be to bring in Martin Montoya at right-back, though it would not be at all surprising if Guardiola decided on a back three of Mascherano-Pique-Puyol with Busquets playing a similar role to what we saw in the recent win at Racing.
Mallorca have won their last two games against Atletico and Sporting and are now looking more or less safe in twelfth place on 36 points. This might be thought to play in Barça’s favour but it seems unlikely that a Mallorca team coached by Joaquin Caparros will relax at home to us. Ramis, Pereira and Castro all return from suspension after missing the 2-3 win at Sporting though Alvaro Gimenez who scored the winning goal is doubtful after failing to complete yesterday’s training session. Mallorca’s last home defeat in La Liga was against Madrid in January though Caparros’s boys had Madrid on the ropes at half time that day before capitulating to Higuain’s goals in the second half.
The game tomorrow will no doubt be tough but there is simply no way that we can afford not to win. So often in sport teams get on a good run or a bad run and for some reason it is often very difficult to change the dynamics of this. We have reduced the difference to six points but now it is vital we don’t allow that gap to grow again or we can say adios to La Liga. If we continue to win, however, the pressure will grow and grow on Madrid and it will be a great test of our rivals’ mentality to see how they cope with this. We have been playing very well in recent weeks though we really cannot afford to show any more irregularity in defence. Leo Messi may seem capable of bailing us out however many goals we concede but we cannot expect him to do it always. With the champions League quarter final at Milan next week it is possible that we will see players rested tomorrow. I’ll go for a narrow win for Barça though i think we may have to live through some nervous moments in the process.
Possible Barça XI: Valdes; Mascherano, Pique, Puyol; Busquets, Thiago, Iniesta, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Alexis.
My prediction: Mallorca 1 Barça 2