La Liga Preview: Valencia – Mallorca
What: La Liga, Matchday 30
Who: Valencia (11th, 39pts) vs RCD Mallorca (12th, 37pts)
When: Sunday, 30th January 2008, 1700 CET
Where: Estadio Mestalla, Valencia
Referee: Alvarez Izquierdo
After two successive stunning wins, Valencia are riding on a wave of a high inarguably for the first time this season. Trying to bring them back down to earth this weekend will be a Mallorca side who, although are having an uneventful campaign, are more than capable of pulling off a surprise.
The Turning Point
Valencia are having, without exaggeration, a nightmare of a season. But everything and anything over the past six months have been momentarily forgotten after a memorable few days last week.
The 2008 Copa del Rey finalists recorded identical 3-2 wins over behemoths Barcelona in Real Madrid in the space of four days. And those four days could very well prove to be the turning point in their tumultuous campaign. But such is the congestion in mid table that even with the spectacular upset at the Bernabéu last week, Los Ché have made up virtually no ground in the league table, as they remain stuck in 11th place for a second week.
They have, however, bridged a seven point gap to the relegation zone after entering last weekend’s encounter against the reigning league champions just a frightening four points clear of the demotion places.
Ronald Koeman’s side still have to win back the support and confidence of the Mestalla faithful after an atrocious run of just one win in their last eight home matches in La Liga, a miserable sequence that stretches all the way back to early December. In fact, as things stand right now, they have the worse record at home in the league, equal with rock-bottom and city neighbours Levante’s four wins and three draws.
But Valencia have the ignominy of scoring one goal less and conceding one more than their sister club. Los Ché now have the momentum firmly on their side. And not to mention the immense morale boost from last week’s turn of events. Whether or not Koeman and his charges can go on to make full use of it and salvage whatever is left of the season remains to be seen.
But rest assured, the white handkerchiefs will not hesitate to come straight back out if the team fail to perform at home again on Sunday against Mallorca.
Unlike Valencia, Mallorca are keeping a low profile this term, as they do almost every other season. They currently sit just one place behind their opponents on Sunday in 12th but they have made nowhere near as many rippling headlines. The side from the Balearic Islands appear to have steadied their ship to settle in comfortably around mid-table, after making an early splash in the campaign looking to challenge for a top six finish.
Amazingly enough, Mallorca have only lost once in their last eleven league games, although seven of them have ended all square, making them the draw specialists this season. Gregorio Manzano’s men have little to play for for the remainder of the campaign, with a UEFA Cup berth looking well out of their reach.
They do, however, still have to be careful not to be sucked down into the relegation zone as they lie just five points clear of the bottom three. Even though at no stage of this season have they looked at risk of going down, the closely fought battle from 8th place all the way down to 18th (separated by only seven points) means that the ever-present threat is there for the Barralets until they mathematically ensure their place in the top flight for next term.
That threat could be made very immediate if they lose at the Mestalla. It is a ground where Mallorca have never won at before and if the curse continues, they could be staring at just a two point gap separating them from the dreaded drop zone by the time the new week begins.
Mar 23 Real Madrid vs Valencia 2-3 (LA LIGA)
Mar 20 Valencia vs Barcelona 3-2 (COPA DEL REY)
Mar 15 Valencia vs Sevilla 1-2 (LA LIGA)
Mar 09 Valencia vs Deportivo La Coruña 2-2 (LA LIGA)
Mar 01 Espanyol vs Valencia 2-0 (LA LIGA)
Mar 22 Mallorca vs Deportivo La Coruña 1-0 (LA LIGA)
Mar 16 Espanyol vs Mallorca 2-1 (LA LIGA)
Mar 09 Mallorca vs Recreativo Huelva 7-1 (LA LIGA)
Mar 02 Getafe vs Mallorca 3-3 (LA LIGA)
Feb 24 Mallorca vs Real Betis 1-1 (LA LIGA)
Koeman will have a few defensive headaches ahead of the clash. Carlos Marchena suspended for yellow card accumulation while Raúl Albiol is a huge doubt after failing to train on Friday due to fever. Alexis Ruano, however, is back in action after a long lay-off and he could make his long awaited comeback this Sunday. Vicente is a certain absentee as he nurses a toe injury but fellow midfielder Edu has resumed training with the rest of the squad, although he has yet to regain full match fitness.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Hildebrand – Miguel, Alexis/Albiol, Helguera, Caneira – Maduro, Baraja – Joaquín, Silva, Mata – Villa
Manzano also has a few dilemmas of his own at the back. Centreback Ballesteros is serving out the second of his two-game ban, while David Navarro is ineligible to play against his former club due to a contractual clause. Lionel Scaloni is also out of contention as he struggles to overcome a niggle in his right thigh, but midfielders Angelos Basinas and Ariel Ibagaza has recovered from their respective injuries and will be available for selection.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Moyá – Héctor, Ramis, Nunes, Fernando Navarro – Varela, Basinas, Ibagaza, Jonás – Güiza, Arango
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Valencia – David Villa
The Asturian-born hotshot made a slow comeback in January after a month long lay off but he is back in full flight again, netting twice against el Real last weekend and scoring that humdinger of a volley in midweek for Spain. Just like the rest of his teammates, confidence is running high and he will be the major threat to the visiting defence.
RCD Mallorca – Daniel Güiza
Mallorca’s answer to Villa is Güiza. The 27 year old is looking to confirm his place in Luís Aragonés’ Euro 2008 plans and having netted 15 times already so far, five more than the Ché hitman, a few more goals from now until the end of the season won’t hurt his cause at all.
Valencia continue to look uncomfortable when playing in front of their home fans. Furthermore, they won’t be able to sit back and play on the counter, an approach that worked so effectively against Barça and Madrid. Mallorca themselves are a team who are quite handy when it comes to that particular style of play and it could very well be a case of who blinks first. Valencia 1-1 Mallorca
Damn, what do we have to do to get a positive prediction from Goal.com
Anyway, continiung our ridiculous superstitious inclinations in this forum, I believe whenever Goal says we're gonna lose, we usually win. It happened in the last two matches