A trip to UD Las Palmas this weekend for Mallorca who seek another perfect weekend and an elusive away victory. Last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Real Oviedo at Son Moix was the opening game of the Segunda weekend. What followed will have left Mallorca fans open mouthed and blew the race for the top six wide open. Like a domino rally, each team in the hunt for the play offs lost, with only Osasuna and Granada, the top two sides, winning.
Fixtures had fallen kindly for Mallorca, with each of their rivals away from home or facing tough opposition. However, they took full advantage with their victory at Son Moix and will be looking to build upon that. This weekend though, the fixtures are reversed with Mallorca away and all their rivals, Malaga aside, at home.
Standing in their way of all 3 points this week is UD Las Palmas, with Mallorca facing them at possibly the worst possible time. Following their relegation from La Liga last season, the side from Gran Canaria had big ambitions of challenging for automatic promotion and returning to the top flight. However, an underwhelming season so far saw the board dispose of manager Paco Herrera almost two weeks ago, replacing him with former West Bromich Albion manager Pepe Mel.
In Mel’s first game in charge they went away to Deportivo La Coruna, sat firmly at that stage in the play off positions, and won 1-0. In a league where victories away from the comfort of home are so rare, this was a notable result. That result, combined with the bizarre run of results for the promotion chasing sides last week, has meant that UD Las Palmas sit only 6 points away from the play offs and are chasing 6th position with gusto and the wind in their sails.
Speaking of coaches, Vermillion supporters will have had a week worrying about the future of their own coach, Vicente Moreno. The Valencian has been linked this week with Villereal and his response has not been one that gives much hope to supporters. He fell well short of dismissing the link out of hand, only going as far as to say he would not discuss it. Having seen how this type of uncertainty can cause issues with the performance of the team with my English club, Derby County, the sooner Moreno confirms or denies the better it will be for all concerned.
Regular readers of this blog will know that whilst a huge fan of the job Moreno is doing, I have made my feelings clear on Mallorca’s strategy away from home. In summary that if you keep doing the same things then you should expect the same results. Up until now in the season Vicente Moreno has not changed tact away from the island and as a result there has been no positive change in results. However, this weekend anyone successfully predicting the starting 11 will have done well.
If Mallorca can take something, even just a point, away from UD Las Palmas then that would be an excellent result. The Canarian’s strong home form, coupled with the dismal away form of Mallorca make this a tough game. If the reds can do something to take the momentum out of UD Las Palmas’ push for the top six and ensure they don’t hand them victory in this ‘six pointer’ that would be an achievement in itself.
With all of Mallorca’s rivals for the top six playing at home this weekend other than Malaga, even just a point would be treasure indeed. If Mallorca can avoid letting all those sides who they clawed three points back on last weekend doing the same to them, then the result will be potentially season defining. Those who dare to dream may even dare to dream of the perfect weekend and a Mallorca victory.
Mallorca Team News
Moreno has a series of difficult decisions to make in selection this week, much depending on whether he decides to change tactics. After such a strong performance last week, does Baba keep his place ahead of Marc Pedraza who returns from suspension? Baba did enough for me last week to keep his place and whilst Pedraza is a better passer of the ball, Baba brings much more defensively. In a game where we are likely to surrender a large amount of possession, Baba gets the nod for me. Could Moreno consider playing them both in a 4-2-3-1?
There are doubts over Junior Lago after he limped off towards the end of last week’s victory holding his hamstring. Mallorca fans will be praying that he is fit, although a short spell of rest may help him to be ready for the final push for the top six. He has looked jaded and not his usual self in recent games.
Moreno has the dilemma of who to select on the right of midfield. After Alex Lopez’s lacklustre performance and petulant walk from the field it seems unlikely he will make the cut. Stoichkov performed strongly after coming on and is pushing for a start, although this would require a change in shape, and Leo Suarez will feel he deserves a chance from the start, despite not setting the world alight last week.
Las Palmas Team News
Veteran forward Ruben Castro has 11 goals this season, 1 ahead of Junior Lago in the race for the golden boot, and his inclusion is critical to the Las Palmas side. Central defender Juan Cala and forward Rafa Mir return and are available for selection. Both have been regulars in the starting line up this season for Las Palmas. However, regular forward selection Sergio Araujo will be missing for the Gran Canarians through injury.
UD Las Palmas are unbeaten at home this season, only conceding 8 goals in 14 games. They find themselves so far down the table due to their wretched away form coupled with the fact that, despite being unbeaten at home, they have drawn 8 games, far too many.
It doesn’t take an expert to appreciate that Mallorca’s strength at home also shows their weakness away. Mallorca have drawn two and lost one of their previous three away games. However, these two draws were capitulations from positions of strength, giving up a one goal lead against 9 man Cadiz and a 2 goal lead against lowly Tenerife. They have had a tough run of away games, with four of their last five away games being against top half sides.
Unfortunately, I see no signs of anything to stop the rot on our travels. Mallorca have consistently performed poorly away from home, particularly against their top half rivals, even at times when they are down to ten or even nine men. UD Las Palmas have the benefit of the new manager bounce and won last time out away from home. They have one of only three unbeaten home records in the Segunda division. Everything points to a home victory.
UD Las Palmas 2 – 0 Mallorca
CD Tenerife (a)
Predicted – Win
Result- 2-2 Draw
Elche CF (h)
Predicted – 2-1 Win
Result – 1-1 Draw
Real Oviedo (h)
Predicted – 1-1 Draw
Result – 1-0