Previewing Mallorca vs Athletic Club: LaLiga Matchday 4
The international break has finally come to an end and club football is back. After a blistering start to the season Athletic will look to keep their impressive run going as they travel to Mallorca on Friday night for what will be an intense match. Having just earned promotion back to Primera, Mallorca know that every single point is invaluable and will fight with everything to get a positive result at Estadi de Son Moix.
Athletic have gotten the better of Mallorca throughout history. In the 60 meetings between the two clubs the Lions have 29 wins while Mallorca have registered 18 victories of the own. Athletic also boast a +23 goal difference and haven’t lost to Mallorca since February of 2011 in what was a 1-0 defeat on the road. It should also be noted that these two haven’t faced off since 2013 due to Mallorca spending the last few years in the Second Division.
Mallorca have started the season well even if the results don’t reflect it. The Bermellones kicked off the campaign with a thrilling 2-1 win over Eibar and nearly played Real Sociedad to a scoreless draw in the following match but conceded a late winner. Before the international break Mallorca fell 2-0 to Valencia on the road. Vicente Moreno has been coaching the team since 2017 and likes to play attacking football.
Moreno hasn’t changed his starting lineup from the first game of the season but could put Takefuso Kubo into the team. The Japanese attacker made his debut as a substitute in the loss to Valencia and is expected to play an important role while on loan from Real Madrid. Regardless, Mallorca understand their strengths and weaknesses and have had two weeks to prepare for this match against the Basque giants.
Athletic have been one of the best teams in La Liga since Gaizka Garitano took over as manager back in December. The Lions are organized in defense, press with an intense high line, and are able to create chances in many different ways. After beating Barcelona to open the season, Athletic played Getafe to a 1-1 draw on the road before dominating Real Sociedad in the Basque Derby just before the international break. With seven points from a possible nine, the Zurigorri are playing at a very high level.
Garitano will be without Oscar De Marcos for the second straight match. The 30-year-old suffered an ankle injury against Getafe and won’t be able to return until the end of the month. Additionally, Mikel San José missed training on Thursday but the exact reason is unknown at this point. When asked about rotating the lineup Garitano pointed out that there’s really no reason to change things too much after such as a strong performance in the 2-0 win over Real Sociedad.
Most football games are won or lost in the midfield and that will likely be the case on Friday. The midfield pairing of Dani García and Unai López was exceptional in Athletic’s last mast but Mallorca’s Iddrisu Baba and Salva Sevilla have also looked strong this year. Both sides will likely find it hard to build through the center of the field which will make the wings very important.
Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche have arguably been the best fullback duo in La Liga this year and will need to be at their best again to take advantage of an inconsistent Mallorca defense. Iñaki Williams and Raúl García may not have many good looks at goal which means that proper finish will be of utmost importance. As always, Athletic’s organized defense could also be a difference maker. The Lions have yet to trail for a single second through the opening 270 minutes of the campaign.
Friday’s match at Estadi de Son Moix will also be a time of celebration for both clubs. Aritz Aduriz, who played for Mallorca from 2008-2010, will be honored by his former club during the match with the striker recently announcing that he will be retiring at the end of the season.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Iker Muniain, Raúl García, Iñigo Córdoba, Iñaki Williams