The Citizen (KZN)

Real face balancing act ahead of trip to Mallorca

- AFP

Barcelona – Real Madrid visit Real Mallorca today looking to keep their La Liga plate spinning amid their enthrallin­g Champions League battle with Premier League champions Manchester City.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side, eight points clear at the top of the table, have a difficult balancing act to pull off ahead of the second leg at the Etihad next Wednesday, after a thrilling 3-3 draw earlier this week.

Taking their eye off the ball domestical­ly could be a grave error with the Clasico approachin­g.

Resurgent rivals Barcelona, second, visit the Santiago Bernabeu on 21 April, desperate for a way back into the title race so they can defend their crown.

Copa del Rey runners-up Mallorca are enjoying a strong season and despite not being able to claim the club’s first trophy since 2003, will get a heroes’ welcome at their Son Moix Stadium.

Javier Aguirre’s team, 15th, will need to turn their focus back to La Liga quickly too, sitting only six points clear of the relegation zone with eight matches remaining.

If Ancelotti decides to rotate his squad to keep players sharp for the Champions League, Mallorca could profit, although the Italian has plenty of strong options in reserve.

Brahim Diaz, Joselu and veteran Luka Modric (above) could all potentiall­y play, while defender Eder Militao could be given his first start after his long-term knee injury.

Ancelotti indicated his forwards – leading goalscorer Jude Bellingham and Brazilian duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo – ended the City clash having given their all.

“The work they did up front was very good...maybe they didn’t have their usual freshness, they did fantastic defensive work that let us have control of the game,” said the coach.

In the past there has been some bad blood between Mallorca defenders and Madrid winger Vinicius.

The Brazilian was mocked by full-back Pablo Maffeo in a match last season, with the Argentine making a crying gesture at the 23-year-old after he complained about being fouled.

Maffeo ended the cup final penalty defeat by Athletic in tears and Real Madrid fans quickly took to social media to remind him of his tiff with Vinicius.

The defender deleted his account on X, as a result of receiving abuse from Los Blancos supporters.

“It’s not that we’re all mad at him for no reason, it’s that perhaps there is one,” Maffeo said last year, further stoking the fire.

If Ancelotti decides not to rest Vinicius then their individual duel will make for compelling viewing.

Aguirre said Mallorca’s Copa del Rey final defeat would spur his players on in La Liga. –

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