Atlético welcome Mallorca to the Vicente Calderón in what is to be los Rojiblancos’ last Monday game of the season and the final game of the first half of the 2010-11 campaign.
After Enrique Cerezo’s unsuccessful bid to have the game moved to Sunday following three consecutive fixtures scheduled on the first day of the work week, the RFEF assured the club president that we wouldn’t have to play on Monday again for the rest of the year.
The last two league matches have been major disappointments for Atleti. We were only able to take one point from the six available against middle-of-the-pack sides Racing Santander and Hércules. Last week’s road tie in Alicante was particularly embarrassing, as it ended in a humiliating 4-1 thrashing courtesy of our newly-promoted opponents.
Needless to say, after another derby loss this past Thursday, these are trying times for the Colchonero faithful. To add insult to injury, Atlético fans learned on Saturday that Sergio Aguero had suffered a hamstring strain that will keep the striker sidelined for at least two weeks.
An entire day elapsed following the Copa del Rey away leg at Real Madrid before it was announced that we would have to now cope without Kun. Even manager Quique Sanchez Flores was caught off-guard with the revelation of the Argentine’s injury.
“It’s never a good moment for a player to get injured, but this is perhaps the worst, because he’s in a moment of extraordinary form,” Quique told AS.
“Plus, it was unexpected because he didn’t have those sensations when the game was over.”
Quique will also be without Mario Suarez for this encounter, as the midfielder sustained a muscle injury against Real Madrid as well.
Atleti may find consolation in Tiago’s return to the selection after missing out from our last three games. The Portuguese international participated fully in the squad’s final training sessions ahead of the match, and could feature in the starting XI.
On Thursday we saw Juanfran’s successful debut in red and white, but we still await ‘Antimadridista’ extraordinaire Elias’ first act with Atlético. Hopefully we finally get a chance to catch a glimpse of what the 25-year-old has to offer.
Mallorca manager Michael Laudrup told AS that “evidently, Aguero is Atlético’s best player and if he’s not there it’s noticeable, like if Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo aren’t available to Barcelona or (Real) Madrid.”
The former Real Madrid and Barcelona midfielder remained cautious however. “(Atlético) are a wounded team and that’s why they’re more dangerous,” he said. “Before their crowd they will want to change that negative dynamic, and they have the quality players to do so like Forlán or Reyes.”
Following two straight league wins over Hércules and Almería, los Bermellones have caught up to us in points (27) and the victor of this bout will close out the first half of la Liga in sixth place.
We haven’t beaten the Islanders in our last three tries against them, and suffered one of our worst defeats of our 2009-10 campaign at the hands of the Balearic side at their Son Moix stadium (now Iberostar stadium), a 4-1 pounding.
Mallorca will be without Ramis and Martí due to injury, and without Tuni and Corrales because of technical decision.
Japanese new signing Akihiro Ienaga made it into Laudrup’s match selection, but his transfer hasn’t come in from the J League yet.
Regardless of the result, we will find ourselves well short of the objectives we set at the beginning of the season. Eliminated from the Europa League and on the verge of elimination from the Copa del Rey barring a miracle comeback without Kun, we currently sit in seventh place in the domestic league table and 10 points behind Valencia, who currently occupy the fourth position.
This match is must-win for Quique, who will certainly be in the hot seat if we can’t take all three points at home.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defenders: Valera, Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Godín, Ujfalusi, Álvaro Domínguez, Perea
Midfielders: Tiago, Raúl García, Elías, Fran Mérida, Paulo Assunção, Reyes, Juanfran, Koke
Forwards: Forlán and Diego Costa
Mallorca match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aouate, Lux
Defenders: Edson R., Rubén, Nunes, Ayoze, Cendrós, Crespi, Kevin
Midfielders: Joao Victor, Pereira, Castro, Aki, Nsue, De Guzman, Tejera
Forwards: Webó, Víctor and Cavenaghi
Referee: Miguel Ángel Ayza Gámez
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