Barcelona will be forced to shake off their disappointing late-minute draw against PSG when they play host to Mallorca on Saturday afternoon. The Catalans may be in a comfortable position, but things will not be easy.
In their previous match against Mallorca, La Blaugrana was able to pull off a thrilling 4-2 victory (via Goal).
However, Barcelona was shaky in the previous encounter to say the least. The defense was rather brittle and the attack seemed slowed by a determined Mallorca back line.
Despite what happened in the last meeting, Barcelona sits atop the La Liga table with a 13-point advantage over second-place Real Madrid. Mallorca is currently fighting relegation, however, and looks sure to finish the season near the bottom of the table.
Barcelona has had to fight furiously to keep their commanding lead in the league as of late. But Mallorca has actually struck decent form recently, which will give fans hope entering the clash at the Camp Nou.
With so much on the line on Saturday, let’s take a look at all the pregame information that you need to know.
For Barcelona, everyone should be aware by this point that the club will have to make due with a much depleted lineup.
Lionel Messi picked up an injury while in Paris and has already been ruled out of the Saturday encounter. It is hard to be certain of who will replace the Argentine, but Tito Vilanova does have plenty of options.
Barcelona defense, however, will be the most important area of the team that needs attention.
Javier Mascherano also suffered a grueling knee injury against PSG and has been ruled out of action for roughly six weeks. Carles Puyol, the man that he was replacing, is still recovering from surgery, meaning a tough decision awaits Vilanova.
Either Marc Bartra or Alex Song could make the start in the center of defense and the outcome will likely determine who plays against PSG midweek.
On Mallorca’s side of things, two former La Masica talents will be returning to face their old club.
Andreu Fontas and Giovani dos Santos will be looking to steal points from their old club, and Mallorca will certainly need the help.
After beginning the season is a very dismal way, Mallorca is finally starting to show signs of life. Los Bermellones have won two of their last four matches in an impressive way.
Giovani dos Santos has been a true leader in the lineup, and it is very likely that he will continue that role against Barcelona.
The Catalans have definitely been shaky in recent performances.
Barcelona has drawn their last two games, albeit their 2-2 tie against Celta last weekend was very much due to resting players ahead of the clash with PSG. But La Blaugrana will be forced yet again to play with a weaker lineup when they host Mallorca.
The last time that Mallorca was able to take points off the Catalans was back in October of 2010, showing that this game will not be simple for the visitors.
At this point, it is very difficult to predict a lineup for Barcelona. The club will need to make up for injured players while also resting some stars ahead of their second leg with PSG.
Jose Pinto will start the game in goal. But from there it is hard say with certainty. Gerard Pique clearly deserves a break, but will probably be forced to start.
However, Dani Alves could be given the night off as well while Martin Montoya takes over. But Jordi Alba may be more deserving of a break after just returning from injury.
Marc Bartra is a lock to start alongside Pique, which will cause a headache for Barca fans. But with Adriano still unhealthy, Jordi Alba will be forced to keep his role on the left side of the defense.
Sergio Busquets and Xavi could be rested as well with Alex Song and Thiago stepping into the lineup.
Not everyone can rest, which should force Andres Iniesta to begin this game despite needing some time off. David Villa and Alexis Sanchez will likely start the game as well, but the position of center forward is definitely up for grabs.
Cesc Fabregas may feature as a false nine, but more likely David Villa will revert back to his old role with Cristian Tello playing on the left. Tello had a stellar performance the last time these clubs met and could play an important role on Saturday.
Unlike Barcelona, Mallorca will have the luxury of starting one of their strongest lineups.
The visitors have a very good chance of stealing points against a weakened Blaugrana side, and they will look to make things very difficult.
Barcelona: Pinto; Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra, Montoya; Thiago, Song, Cesc Fabregas; Sanchez, David Villa, Tello
Mallorca: Aouate; Hutton, Nunes, Bigas, Kevin; Tissone, Marti, Pina; Alfaro, Santos, Victor
Despite playing with a makeshift squad, Barcelona should still take all three points at the Camp Nou. Mallorca will be a tough team to defend and should find the back of the net, but the Blaugrana overall strength will just be too much.
Final Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Mallorca
How do you see this match playing out? Who should Barcelona start? Can Mallorca steal points? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.
Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Barcelona, Mallorca and La Liga.