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La Liga: COVID-plagued Barca face a tough task against Mallorca

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Madrid, Jan 1 (IANS) Struggling to get into contention after a poor start to the season, former champions FC Barcelona will hope that things improve in the New Year when they restart their campaign against Mallorca after the winter break.

Barcelona are currently placed seventh in the La Liga standings while are placed 15th. Barca coach Xavi will be looking forward to his team winning three points considering Barcelona’s total domination of their rivals in head-to-head stats.

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Back in the 1999-2000 season, Mallorca beat Barca both home and away, but in 27 league meetings since then, Barca have only lost to the islanders three times (and twice at home), although all of those were late-season encounters without too much left to play for.

Barca’s last four games against Mallorca have all seen them win by scoring four or more goals.

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The most famous meeting between the teams was the 1998 Copa del Rey Final, which Barça won on penalties, the fatal Mallorca kick being missed by a former Barça player,

However, Barcelona’s recent form has been up and down and inferior to their rivals. In their last five matches, Barcelona have only against Eiche, losing to Boca Juniors in a club friendly and Bayern Munich in Champions League. The remaining two matches against Sevilla and Osasuna have ended in draws.

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Mallorca on the other hand have won three of their last five matches, losing one and drawing another.

After a promising start, Mallorca then hit on a rough patch, and in general, they’ve had a weirdly erratic campaign, capable of winning 2-1 at Atlético Madrid on December 4, for instance, and then getting trounced 4-1 at Granada in the last game before Christmas.

They have only won one of their last ten games, but six of those have been draws, which have been enough to keep them mid-table. Their home form has been especially positive, with Osasuna being the only team to take three points on their visit to Mallorca stadium.

Apart from their recent form, the other major concern for Xavi is the impact of COVID-19 on his squad.

Xavi can count on just nine first-team players for the clash against Mallorca. This includes two goalkeepers, Ronald Araujo, Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia, Oscar Mingueza, Frenkie de Jong, Riqui Puig, and Luuk de Jong. Other regulars like Nico and Ferran Jutgla continue to be available too.

Barcelona were to miss the services of Sergio Busquets and Gavi owing to an accumulation of yellow cards. But their problems compounded due to a COVID-19 outbreak upon the players’ return from the break.

First, Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet, Dani Alves, and Alejandro Balde tested positive and on Wednesday, the Catalans were dealt yet another blow when Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, and Gavi contracted the virus too.

The most recent addition to the growing list of infected players was on Friday, when Sergino Dest, Ez Abde, and Philippe Coutinho were ruled out too.

That has left Xavi and the remaining members of the squad with a Herculean task against an opponent is in good recent form.

Can Barca survive this visit to Palma de Mallorca?

–IANS

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