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Barcelona vs Mallorca, La Liga: Team News, Preview, Lineups, Score Prediction


FC Barcelona (3rd, 58pts) vs RCD Mallorca (15th, 27pts)


Competition/Round: 2023-24 La Liga, Matchday 28

Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Ronald Araujo, Gavi, Ferran Torres, Alejandro Balde (out), Lamine Yamal, Marcos Alonso (doubt)

Mallorca Outs & Doubts: Omar Mascarell (out), Pablo Maffeo (doubt)

Date/Time: Friday, March 8, 2024, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Saturday)

Venue: Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, Montjuïc, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Referee: Javier Iglesias Villanueva

VAR: Valentín Pizarro Gómez

How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Viaplay Sports 1 (UK), others

How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), DAZN (Spain), others


Following a disappointing and costly goalless draw away to Athletic Bilbao last weekend, Barcelona return to action for a rare Friday night La Liga game as the defending champions welcome Mallorca to the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium in the first match of Round 28 in the Spanish top flight.

Barça come into this one having squandered a golden opportunity to cut their deficit to leaders Real Madrid to just six points, which would have reignited the title race and made every game a must-win for Los Blancos to avoid a collapse. But the Catalans remain eight points adrift after an apathetic and uncreative performance at San Mamés last Sunday, and now the Blaugrana’s goal should be to solidify their Top 4 position and wrap up second place, which is up for grabs as Girona begin to stumble.

The champs get to play before every other Top 4 contender this weekend, which allows them to set the pace and temporarily cut Madrid’s lead to five points before a tricky home game against Celta Vigo on Sunday for the leaders. Barça must do their homework before everyone else plays this weekend, and then who knows what the football gods have in store.

But this is a really tough game for Barça for a number of reasons. First, the opponent: Mallorca may be 15th and not completely out of the relegation fight just yet, but they play the exact style that causes Barça trouble. They are physical, aggressive in their press and play with a back five and a low block, which is usually even lower away from home and presents the kind of tactical challenge Barça always seem to struggle with under Xavi Hernández.

Second, the absences: Barça come into this one without their best defender in the suspended Ronald Araujo, their starting left-back and three starting midfielders (Alejandro Balde, Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Gavi) due to injury, and on top of it all Lamine Yamal is reportedly struggling with a knee issue that might keep him out as well.

And third, what lies ahead: Tuesday’s Champions League Round of 16 second leg against Napoli is the biggest and most important game of the season for Barça, which might impact Xavi’s team selection as well as the squad’s attitude towards this game. It’s only human to look ahead to such a pivotal match just days away, and Mallorca will be ready to pounce if there’s any complacency from the home team.

This is a bad time to be playing a match with so many players missing and so many questions to be answered just days before a monster game, but the schedule is unforgiving and three points are a must for Barça’s aspirations in the league. It’s time for those without much playing time to take advantage of the opportunity and step up, and the team must take this one seriously and get a big win to boost their confidence for next Tuesday.

Let’s dance.


POSSIBLE LINEUPS

Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Cubarsí, Iñigo, Cancelo; Fermín, Romeu, Roberto; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Félix

Mallorca (5-4-1): Rajkovic; González, Valjent, Raíllo, Nastasic, Costa; Sánchez, Samu, Darder, Rodríguez; Muriqi


PREDICTION

Mallorca are defensive, annoying, physical and aggressive. Barça struggle against teams like that and don’t have a lot of their best players available for this one. I’ll still have faith on the home team to find a way to win, but it will not be pretty: 1-0 Barça.



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