Real Mallorca v Real Madrid, kick-off: 19.00

With Mallorca suffering a defensive injury crisis it is probably not the best time to be welcoming the World and European champions Real Madrid, arguably the most talented group of footballers ever gathered into one squad in the history of the sport. Real Madrid's visit to Son Moix tonight coincides with a weekend that defenders Javier Olaizola, Vicente Fernando, Fernando Niño, Federico Lussenhoff and David Cortes are all absent through one injury or another. Not an exciting prospect for Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano, who knows today's makeshift defence has to contend with the probing passes of the world's best player Zinedine Zidane, the excellent wide play of Former World Player of the Year Luis Figo, the intelligent runs of Raul, the vicious swerving free-kicks of Roberto Carlos and last, but by no means least, the incredible acceleration and striking power of Ronaldo. But it's certainly not all doom and gloom for Mallorca and although Madrid's impressive 2–0 defeat of Paraguayans Olimpia midweek to lift the World Club Cup was rather ominous, the Islanders know they have been beaten at home by the men in white just once in the last ten years. Manzano's side are also on a very impressive nine match unbeaten streak, a run that includes seven victories and has catapulted them from bottom of the table to second place, while Vicente del Bosque's side have been held to goalless draws in their last two league games and lie in seventh position. Most of the week's local media coverage has come from speculation over whom Manzano will pick at the back. Veteran left-back Miquel Soler, who has not started a match all season, looks like he will get the nod on the left with Poli pushing into central defence next to Miguel Angel Nadal. Alejandro Campano, a bit-part player so far this season, should start on the right. Defensive worries aside, Manzano can pick from the same group of players that drew 2–2 at Deportivo last weekend. Ariel Ibagaza, whose red card from that match was overturned by the Spanish FA, will orchestrate Mallorca's attack by sitting just behind the front men of Samuel Eto'o and Walter Pandiani. Last weekend Pandiani's goal against Depor sent a message out to the Galicians that they should not have loaned him to the Islanders. Today Eto'o will try to do the same by showing Madrid the reasons they should not have sold him two seasons ago. Although jetlag may cause a few problems after the week's arduous trip to Japan and back, Madrid have no major injury worries. In fact their Famous Five of Raul, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Zidane and Figo could all play together for just the third time ever. The postponement of last weekend's game against Sevilla means Madrid have a game in hand over everyone else at the top of the table, but defeat today could see them slip an intimidating 11 points behind league leaders Real Sociedad. With three games to go before Christmas, Madrid captain Fernando Hierro believes it is time they narrowed the gap. “I think that we have to use the games before the break to put ourselves in the top positions in the table and to win the remaining Champions League game we have,” he said.

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