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PREVIEW | FC Barcelona v Mallorca

FC Barcelona don’t usually play games on a Friday, but with a crunch Champions League return leg against Napoli to come on Tuesday, they’re getting their Liga fixture out of the way early, with the action starting at 9pm CET. If you need to know what time that will be where you are in the world and who might be broadcasting the game, you need look no further than out special guide.

But Xavi has made it patently clear that there is no way he or his players are going to side-tracked by the showdown against the Italians, with everything still up in the air after the 1-1 draw in Naples. The Liga game is the perfect opportunity to collect three points and heap the pressure onto Real Madrid and Girona, for as the coach insists, Barça have every reason to believe they can still get their hands on the domestic trophy.

Sadly, a golden opportunity to narrow the gap at the top of the table went begging last weekend. After both of the two frontrunners had dropped points, Barça did likewise in a 0-0 draw in Bilbao.

Barça are now just one point behind Girona, who are at home to Osasuna on Saturday. Real Madrid, however, remain eight points ahead, and now host Celta on Sunday.

Girona were the most penalised in the latest set of matches, for they lost 1-0 at Mallorca, the very team that Barça now entertain at the Estadi Olimpic. Javier Aguirre‘s side hadn’t been having the best of seasons. They had done enough to ensure that relegation is not an immediate threat, by not much else until their morale sky-rocketed in a wonderful week for them.

Not only did they beat the team in second place but they also qualified for the Copa del Rey Final for just the third time in their history.

Team news

All of a sudden, the islanders are playing their best football of the campaign so far, and that could be a problem for a Barça team that is once again struck by injury.

The returns to fitness of Frenkie de Jong and Pedri had been a major boost to blaugrana fortunes in recent games, but tragically, the pair of them had to withdraw before the first half was up at San Mamés and they¡re going to have sit out more games.

And to make matters worse, key defender Ronald Araujo misses this one due to a yellow card suspension.

Gavi and Alejandro Balde are both out for the rest of the season, and although Marcos Alonso has been training with the team this week, he has yet to be declared fully fit, with Xavi set to announce his official squad on the morning of the match.

Xavi says

“We certainly missed out on an opportunity at San Mamés but now we have another chance to move closer to the top, albeit provisionally. We can’t afford to take our minds off it and only focus on the Champions League” said the Barça coach on Friday.

He may well rotate his squad, but not because of the Napoli game on Tuesday. “I’d do just the same if we had a league game to come” he said. “We need to consider fatigue and the number of games the players are facing.”

The coach views Mallorca as “a solid team that plays well together and is physically strong. They’re having a good season and I imagine we’ll be facing a team that will play defensively but whose morale in high. Javier Aguirre works very hard on getting the best out of his teams, I’m an admirer of his.”


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