LA LIGA continues on Saturday night and Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) is here to set the scene ahead of Barcelona's trip to Mallorca.
Mallorca v Barcelona | Saturday 13th June 2020, 21:00 | La Liga TV
Barcelona fly over to Mallorca two points clear of rivals Real Madrid in the race for the La Liga title which will likely go down to the wire.
Despite sitting top of the pile, Barca’s season has been far from straight forward. Ernesto Valverde was sacked in January despite the club leading the way in the standings but in truth, the damage had been done after successive Champions League second-leg collapses against Roma and then Liverpool.
Whilst the Catalans continue to be dominant at the Camp Nou, it’s on their travels where the trouble has brewed. Just five wins on the road and 18 goals scored (2.5 times less than they’ve found the net at home) is a worrying trend and there have been concern from the supporters that the football is too predictable to play against, something which new coach Quique Setién has had to contend with too.
Whilst the away record in all competitions was ultimately Valverde’s downfall, being without striker Luis Suarez through injury did not help the team’s cause.
The loss of the Uruguayan’s combination play, aggressive pressing and natural goalscoring knack was evident for much of the time he was absent with the burden to create and find the net placed on Lionel Messi – often crowded out in away fixtures – and an out of form Antoine Greizmann.
Suarez should lead the line on Saturday but in his first appearance since returning from his knee injury, he is unlikely to last the full 90 minutes which puts me off backing anything on the 33 year-old.
Greizmann instead is someone I want to focus in on, with the Messi lines available giving next to no value against this standard of opposition.
Griezmann can shine
It’s fair to say that, since his €120m move from Atletico Madrid in 2019, Greizmann hasn’t hit the heights he would have wanted to. The Frenchman has mainly be playing on the left of a forward three however which has taken time to adjust to but, given the break – his first real rest period for many a year following successive international tournaments for his country.
Speaking to the Spanish media, Greizmann has stated that he is in the best physical condition for years and is raring to go for the final eleven games of the domestic season, as well as the Champions League knockout stages. The forward is 6/5 (Bet365) to repeat his feat from the reverse game and score anytime here, a price I want to get behind.
Barca registered 23 shots in the 5-2 reverse success with a massive 17 of those efforts hitting the target. Although the Catalonians are unlikely to hit that marker again, if they can convert their chances like they did in the home game then Mallorca, who have conceded the second-highest league tally of 44 goals this season, could be in trouble.
The Islanders, despite sitting in the final relegation spot, are enjoying their time in the Spanish top-flight following back-to-back promotions. With seven wins across the campaign, they have given themselves a fighting chance of staying in the division but will perhaps be targeting games against the likes of Celta and Leganes to realistically pick up points.
The club with the lowest budget in La Liga will be gutted that no fans can attend this game, losing one of if not their biggest home attendance of the season and the gate receipts that would have come with it.
This will be likely be a ‘backs to the wall’ job for Mallorca who will know that if they play too open, they’ll simply get picked apart by the superior quality of Barca. Vicente Moreno will likely persist with the 4-4-2 formation which has been getting the best out of striker Ante Budimir and try and stifle the away side’s talent by dropping into a 4-5-1 without the ball.
Rakitic to take aim
One man that appeals on the shots front is one of Budimir’s countrymen – Ivan Rakitic.
The experienced midfielder’s future at the club is in doubt but for the time being, he’s an important part of the supporting cast in Setién’s set-up. In his last three starts alongside the defensive minded Sergio Busquets and Frenkie De Jong, Setien’s preferred midfield trio, Rakitic has registered a shot on target in each contest and five shots in total across the three matches.
With Busquests and De Jong dictating the tempo, Rakitic can make runs into the penalty area to support the front three or even have a shot from outside the box if there’s little space to play in between the lines, which could be the case in this match.
The Croat is 7/4 to have 1 or more shots on target in this game with Paddy Power and that will be my second selection which, like my first pick, will be a one point play and also landed in the reverse tie.
Barcelona will be wary of the threat that Mallorca, who have already beaten Real Madrid on home turf this season, could pose but I think the mainland team will have just too much for Los Bermellones on the night in search of their 27th title crowning.
Mallorca v Barcelona – Antoine Greizmann to score at Anytime (6/5 Bet365)
Mallorca v Barcelona – Ivan Rakitic 1+ Shot On Target (7/4 Paddy Power)