The hectic calendar for Xavi Hernandez’s men continues to roll out. Less than three days after their emphatic win over Celta Vigo, Barcelona take to the field on Tuesday night against a struggling Mallorca side at the Estadi de Son Moix.
Javier Aguirre’s men currently sit 16th in the league standings with just one win and three losses in their opening six games. Their only win, ironically, came over Barcelona’s most recent opponents Celta Vigo.
The Catalans visited Son Moix twice in 2022 – in January and October. On both occasions, they edged a narrow 1-0 win to take home three points. Close a year later, they head back to Mallorca’s fortress and will look to dish out a better result.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Mallorca vs. Barcelona.
Back in the driver’s seat
When Barcelona went two goals down to Celta Vigo at Estadi Olimpic de Lluis Companys, one knew that a loss would bear hard on the league standings.
After all, the Catalans were second on the table, behind Real Madrid, and could potentially fall five points behind Los Blancos.
As fate had it, however, the three late goals and remontada now see the Azulgranas back on the pinnacle of the league standings.
Having secured three vital points against the Galicians, Barcelona now sit on 16 points from six games in La Liga. Real Madrid’s defeat to Atletico Madrid saw them drop three points and down to third place on the leaderboard.
For the first time this season, Xavi Hernandez’s men are in the driver’s seat heading into a game. It is not unfamiliar territory for the Blaugranas, as they spent the lion’s share of last season pulling away from the competition and watching others try to catch up.
The objective on Tuesday is thus straightforward – to not lose ground on the standings. Barcelona’s aim will be to return home with nothing less than three points so as to maintain the pressure on arch-rivals Real Madrid.
One captain down
The Blaugranas’ 3-2 comeback win over Celta Vigo did not come without demanding a big price in return. Barcelona saw Frenkie de Jong leave the field during the first half, and it was clear that there was a big problem awaiting them.
Tests after the game confirmed an ankle injury for the fourth captain. He will face close to six weeks out of action owing to the same, and the clash against Mallorca will be Barcelona’s first game without him in the squad.
De Jong’s absence comes as a huge blow to Xavi’s plans, for the former Ajax star was in sublime form for the team this season.
In his six games so far, he had scored one goal, averaged over one key pass per game, and was one of the most involved players in the team’s buildup.
With both De Jong and Pedri unavailable tomorrow, Xavi will likely opt for Gavi, Ilkay Gundogan, and Oriol Romeu to take over duties in midfield.
Rotations are a must
It has not been more than 48 hours since Barcelona played their last game at Montjuic. Yet, they stare their next fixture in the eye already with practically no recovery time.
Considering the close to inexistent time between two fixtures and the fact that Barcelona play again on Friday night, rotations are absolutely critical. It is now the ultimate test of Xavi’s man management.
The coach will thus implement rotations on Tuesday right from the defensive unit. Inigo Martinez could make his first start at the club for either Jules Kounde or Andreas Christensen, considering that Ronald Araujo has just returned from injury.
Alejandro Balde is also likely to come in at left-back but Joao Cancelo should continue on the right. Not many changes are expected in midfield, albeit through force.
Xavi will look to keep the rotations flowing in the final third. Robert Lewandowski has played practically all of Barcelona’s games so far and could warrant a rest in the hectic schedule. With no backup number nine, Ferran Torres could take his place.
Joao Felix has done enough to earn another start on the left wing and serve as the protagonist in the attack. The right flank may be occupied by Lamine Yamal or Raphinha, both of whom started on the bench at the weekend.