RCD Mallorca face their ultimate and biggest challenge of the season tomorrow evening in the do or die play off final second leg against Deportivo La Coruña. The Vermillion face an uphill battle having lost the first leg by 2 goals to 0 after playing more than 45 minutes of the game with 10 men. Marc Pedraza saw red after a tackle that resulted in Alex Bergantinos sustaining a horrific facial injury that saw him hospitalised overnight. A sold out Son Moix will drive the team onward and with their record at Son Moix this season, this tie is far from over.
Spain’s promotion play off rules are slightly different to those familiar with UK football. Notably, there are no penalty kicks if the game is still level at the end of 120 minutes. If the game is tied then away goals will be considered first. If after that the sides are still tied then the team that finished higher in the league, in this case RCD Mallorca, will be promoted. This is significant because it means that with a 2-0 victory at Son Moix (after 120 minutes), RCD Mallorca would be promoted.
However, as ever, there is a kicker to this rule we must consider. Deportivo La Coruña know that if they score, then RCD Mallorca will need 4 goals on Sunday to go through. Any goal from Deportivo would all but end Mallorca’s hope of reaching the promised land this season. Mallorca have only scored 4 goals once this season, against lowly Tenerife. Deportivo in a play off are a different beast, so it is clear that a clean sheet will be needed. Last time out at Son Moix against Deportivo, a clean sheet and a 1-0 victory was achieved. With a little urgency and a big attacking push, maybe just maybe that 2-0 is possible.
Many RCD Mallorca fans will be hoping that the team goes out and attacks from the off. They showed in the first 15 minutes at Deportivo La Coruña that they are able to take the game to a high quality side, even away from home. However, they must be wary of the away goal and I am sure that Vicente Moreno will be urging positivity but patience. If the game is still 0-0 at half time then that is no bad result. Being a goal up without conceding around the 60 minute mark would be ideal, with the aim of throwing the kitchen sink at it in the final half an hour.
Vicente Moreno also has other key decisions to make. With Pedraza suspended, will he decide a straight like for like with Baba, or will he look to change the make up of the midfield with Leo Suarez in there and Aridai coming into his normal wide position? Again, in light of the away goal which would kill the tie, I am certain Moreno will opt for the tried and tested shape. On numerous occasions this season at Son Moix, Moreno has made changes with 30 minutes to go which have won the game for Mallorca. That will be his joker in the pack. Ante Budimir, Alex Lopez, Suarez or Aridai will all be waiting in the wings.
There are two other key positions which he may decide to change. Primarily at centre forward, where Ante Budimir is returning to fitness. However, what he has not returned to is form which is why I am tipping Abdon Prats to maintain his role as the front man. The other tough decision is whether to bring Aridai back in for Leo Suarez. Suarez scored the crucial opening goal at Son Moix in the semi final against Albacete in his best performance of the season. Since then though he has not had the same impact and it will be difficult to leave out Aridai when two goals are needed in a season where he has contributed so much in the way of goals and assists.
It is not yet known for sure whether or not hospitalised midfielder Alex Bergantinos will be available for the game tomorrow. Interviewed on leaving the hospital he expressed his desire to play, but acknowledged that the severe swelling around his mouth would restrict his ability.
On Thursday night Federico Cartabia was the star of the show, threatening regularly down the flank and getting himself on the score sheet with a deadly accurate free kick into the top corner. If RCD Mallorca are to prosper on Sunday then they must nullify his threat, particularly on the counter attack, with Deportivo likely to sit deep and protect what they have.
Win, lose or draw on Sunday night, RCD Mallorca fans must remember that this has been an incredible season. The team, only promoted from Segunda B last year, has achieved more already than anyone could have dreamed of. This group of players have played close to the top of their ability all season and it has taken them to the door step of La Liga. Sunday night they will be knocking hard on the door, whether Deportivo let them in or not remains to be seen.