A bittersweet weekend was had by all sporting the colours of Mallorca after they suffered their joint-heaviest defeat of the season when going down 3-0 to Almería, extending their poor run of form with only one win in five La Liga (LL) matches (D1, L3). It’s not all doom and gloom though, as an even more fruitless run by relegation-threatened Valladolid ensured Mallorca have finally earned mathematical safety!
The Pirates will return home with a skip in their step, as it’s arguably been their record of losing only once in their last 12 home outings (W7, D4) that’s renewed their top-flight status. Perhaps the absence of a relegation threat will allow manager Javier Aguirre to let his hair down, considering a starving Iberostar Stadium has seen a league-low 30 goals rattle the nets all season.
A team who doesn’t quite yet enjoy the perks of safety is opponents Valencia, although they seem well on their way having avoided defeat in five of their last six matches (W4, D1). The last of which was a massive statement of intent when they beat juggernauts Real Madrid 1-0, which saw them reach the much-heralded 40-point mark in a game unfortunately marred by racist abuse.
Ruben Baraja’s men might consider it job all-but done then since that points tally would’ve been enough for safety in each of the last ten seasons, but it’s only enough for a five-point buffer to the drop zone ahead of this round. Maybe hitting the road is just what Los Che need to seal the deal after winning two of their last three away matches (L1), a record in stark contrast to going without victory in their ten league matches on the road prior (D2, L8).
Players to watch: Mallorca’s Lee Kang-in haunted his former club Valencia when he scored the winner in a 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture, and therefore will look forward to welcoming his past employers with his four goals since then all coming at home. Valencia’s Justin Kluivert might be looking to land the first blow at the other end, having scored the match opener in seven of his last ten goalscoring outings.
Hot stat: Only five of Mallorca’s last 31 home games against Valencia have ended level (W12, L14).
The weight of expectation has been lifted off the shoulders of the Elche playing squad, and it appears to be translating into some more positive results. A 1-1 La Liga (LL) draw away to Getafe last round was enough to seal their long-anticipated relegation, but it also continued their most profitable period of the season following back-to-back home wins against Vallecano (4-0) and Atlético Madrid (1-0).
The home faithful will be grappling between whether to enjoy these rare victorious moments or lament that they’ve come far too late when heading to the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero for Elche’s penultimate LL home game. Current Elche boss Sebastián Beccacece, who has previously described his stewardship of this team as a long-term “investment”, insists the team are approaching every game “as a final” rather than taking a nothing to lose approach.
It’ll be fascinating to see how Sevilla, one of three clubs (alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid) to have beaten Elche by a 3+ goal margin this calendar year, treat the remainder of their LL season with a UEFA Europa League final sure to take some priority. Already enjoying the best start of any manager in Sevilla’s history, the opportunity for caretaker boss José Luis Mendilibar to etch himself into club folklore deserves some of his attention.
The reactions of bitter disappointment from the playing squad to Sunday evening’s 0-0 draw with Real Betis suggests they haven’t turned any focus away from LL just yet, particularly with seventh place (UEFA Europa Conference League qualification) just two points away heading into the round. Following four consecutive LL away wins ‘to nil’, another trip could be what they need to quickly put a derby disappointment behind them.
Players to watch: Elche will be hoping Lucas Boyé is rediscovering his best form, particularly as he has scored in three of their last five LL games that were won or drawn. For the visitors, Youssef En-Nesyri has scored Sevilla’s first goal 11 times across all competitions this season, including in the reverse H2H.
Hot streak: Elche have completed 54 consecutive LL games without a 0-0 draw, whilst Sevilla’s 0-0 against Betis was their first of this LL season.