A sold-out Iberostar Stadium will play host to Atlético when they face off against relegation-threatened local side Mallorca on Saturday evening in la Liga’s final match day.
The clash, which will mark the end of the Quique Sanchez Flores era at Atleti, will have implications for both clubs, but los Mallorquinos should feel the greater amount of pressure.
The Islanders, currently 13th in the league standings and two points above the relegation zone, are tussling with five other squads to avoid the drop to la Segunda. Laudrup’s men can stave off demotion with a draw against los Colchoneros or with a Zaragoza defeat in Levante.
Even if we beat Mallorca, they can remain in the top-flight if Deportivo and Getafe both lose, but the Balearic outfit will want to take matters into their own hands and secure at least a point against us.
Los Rojiblancos meanwhile, currently sit in seventh place and can extend their summer vacation with a victory and if either Sevilla or Athletic Bilbao, level with us in points at 55, stumble against their respective opponents.
A fifth or sixth place finish for Quique’s men will allow them to bypass a preliminary Europa League playoff round in late July.
“If we finish fifth, great, and if it’s sixth, that’s better than seventh,” Sanchez Flores was quoted as saying by ESPN Soccernet. “It’s important for the prestige of the club not to be in the Europa League qualifying round.
“As such, we will do everything possible against an opponent who are going to make things very difficult for us,” Quique added. “Mallorca are going to fill their ground because they are playing for survival and we are obliged to be at our best.”
The Rojiblanco boss took a final jab at Diego Forlán by leaving the star striker off the match selection for a second consecutive week, effectively ending the Uruguayan’s season and quite possibly his career at Atlético.
Defender Alvaro Dominguez suffered vertigo Friday morning and will be unable to travel to Palma. Fellow centre-backs Diego Godin and Luis Perea remain sidelined with injuries, leaving Quique with only one possible central defensive pairing for the match: Jorge Pulido and Tomas Ujfalusi.
Juan Valera will take Ujfa’s place on the right flank, and either Filipe Luis or Antonio Lopez will man the left wing.
In mid-January, a ten-man Atleti side defeated Mallorca by a comfortable 3-0 margin at the Vicente Calderón, with goals coming from Valera, Forlán and Jose Antonio Reyes. Antonio Lopez was sent off in the 69th minute after conceding a penalty, but David de Gea heroically saved Webo’s spot kick to salvage the shut out.
Given the amount of local support and the stakes of the encounter for the home team, it will be an even tougher challenge than usual for Atleti at a ground where they haven’t won since 2004.
Mallorca’s stadium, usually largely empty for our visits (or anyone else’s for that matter), will be jam-packed on Saturday.
Let’s hope Kun can silence the home supporters early and lead us to an uplifting end-of-the-season triumph, breaking our streak of four straight losses on the island!
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defenders: Valera, Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Ujfalusi, Pulido
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Raúl García, Elías, Paulo Assunção, Reyes, Juanfran, Koke, Noguera
Forwards: Kun Agüero, Diego Costa
Mallorca match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aouate, Lux, T. Nadal
Defenders: Ramis, Rubén, Nunes, Ayoze, Crespí, Cendrós, Corrales, Kevin
Midfielders: Joao Victor, Pereira, Nsue, Castro, Aki, Martí, De Guzman, Tejera, Pina
Forwards: Webó, Víctor, S.Enrich
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
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