Following last week’s ‘so near yet so far’ performance against Elche CF, Mallorca face play off rivals Real Oviedo in a make or break promotion six pointer. If the Vermillion are to stand any chance of making sixth spot then the path to glory starts on Saturday at Son Moix, in what has become a must win game.
Real Oviedo currently sit two points ahead of Mallorca in the race for the play offs and a win would peg back their opponents and Mallorca leap frog them at a crucial stage of the season. Equally, a defeat for the home side at this stage would all but end their ambitions of playing in La Liga in 2019-20.
Unlike in recent weeks, Mallorca has been drawn with a favourable kick off time and, as the opening Segunda fixture of the weekend, has the opportunity to put pressure on their play off rivals with a victory. This is particularly pertinent considering the fact that all of their rivals for 6th place play away from home this weekend.
Mallorca will take some confidence from the fact that they have already beaten Oviedo at home once this season, 1-0 in the Copa del Rey back in September. However, little can be learnt from that fixture with both sides putting out near reserve sides.
Usually at Son Moix, Mallorca supporters would feel confident in being able to name Vicente Moreno’s starting line up, so consistent he and his team have been. However, this week there are a number of factors in play for Moreno to consider.
First on his mind will be the opposition, Real Oviedo. Unbeaten in 5 games, including against play off rivals and with momentum behind them. Will Moreno decide to treat this as a home game like any other and trust his side are stronger on home ground than their opponents, or will he ring the changes to get the better of his opponent?
With one eye on the opposition, Moreno will also need to have the other on his own squad, one which usually picks itself. With Salva Sevilla a shell of his normal self in recent games, and Lago Junior having his quietest game at Son Moix this season a week ago, Moreno will be concerned. However, there is no chance that he will consider leaving these two trusted lieutenants out.
Aridai Cabrera however, should be more concerned for his place. Hugely inconsistent throughout the season, the wide player has not found his best form in recent games, spurning golden opportunities to score against CD Tenerife and being largely anonymous in last weeks’ 45 minute horror show served up at Son Moix.
Not only that but there are players knocking on the door for his place. Leo Suarez continues to impress when given opportunity at Son Moix, much depends on whether Moreno trusts him in such a big game and also whether he sees him as a wide player or second striker. The little magician drew an excellent save after a driving run and shot last week and was lively throughout his cameo.
Alex Lopez has also added his name to the mix, with both he and Ante Budimir looking more dangerous having a player closer to them to link up with. Whether Moreno would consider playing Lopez in the wide position remains to be seen and his inclusion may require a change of formation with Budimir’s contribution not in doubt. Whether Moreno will make such a radical change in such a big game is a doubt.
Real Oviedo are unbeaten in 5 games, including wins against play off rivals Cadiz and Alcoron, and a draw away against Albacete. However, they haven’t been prolific in that time, with only two goals in their last three games. When they do score, Oviedo score a high proportion of their goals in the first 15 minutes, Mallorca’s Achilles heel. Oviedo are adept at keeping a game tight and it will be a challenge for Mallorca to see if they can break down the door of this stubborn defence.
Mallorca come into the game with the equal second best home record in the Segunda División, despite their failure to take all three points last Sunday. Their home form Vs the top sides is mixed, beating two of the top 8, losing to another two and still yet to play three, beginning with tomorrow’s game. Those games will prove critical when looking back at the season come what May.
Mallorca Team News
Pervis Estupiñan returns from suspension after his sending off away in Tenerife. It remains to be seen whether Moreno opts to bring him back into the starting line up after Salva Ruiz’s return. However, attacks were visibly more limited down the left in last week’s draw with Elche CF and Lago Junior had his most anonymous game at Son Moix this season without the loanee with whom he has build such a prolific partnership.
Marc Pedraza will be missing due to an accumulation of yellow cards. He has been booked in 5 of the last 7 games and will be replaced by Baba.
The performances of Aridai have been below par of late and Moreno will be thinking long and hard about including both Leo Suarez and Alex Lopez after their impact in the second half last week. In such a big game I expect him to keep Aridai in for his last chance saloon if he keeps the shape of the side the same.
Real Oviedo Team News
Argentine central defender Juan Forlin is injured and will miss the game. He has raced to 10 yellow cards since returning to the side regularly of late, with 5 bookings coming in his last 7 starts. He will be replaced by Baba in central midfield.
The first goal is important. If Real Oviedo get it then it will be an uphill struggle for the Vermillion and they may fall to a defeat in this crucial game. If Mallorca get it then Oviedo will come at them with gusto.
Final score prediction: Mallorca 1-1 Real Oviedo
CD Tenerife (a)
Predicted – Win
Result- 2-2 Draw
Elche CF (h)
Predicted – 2-1 Win
Result – 1-1 Draw