What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Real Madrid (2nd; 48 points) vs RCD Mallorca (9th; 27 points)
When: Sunday 23rd January, 2011, at 18:00 UK time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

Back on Home Soil

Real Madrid will be praising the heavens that they are back on their own turf as the second half of La Liga prepares to get under way. Having slipped up sourly against relegation contenders Almeria last weekend – and having been behind for most of the game – Los Blancos will be surely motivated at the Bernabeu to try and reduce the now-four-point gap between them and ever-leaders Barcelona.

As Madrid’s search for a new striker intensified over the past few days, so did the rumours linking Jose Mourinho with a sensational exit from the capital club at the end of the current season. While the Portuguese coach’s relationship with sporting director Jorge Valdano was cordial at best, Mourinho is believed to be disillusioned with life at Los Blancos, weighed down by all the worries that come with bossing the world’s biggest club. Asked after the recent Copa del Rey derby with Atletico Madrid about his future, the tactician replied: "The world is full of rumours, but they’re not all true. Regarding my future, we’ll see what happens at the end of the season. Contracts aren’t the most important thing in football.”

Vying for the Higher Spots

As the Primera Division schedule is set to repeat itself, now the real work starts for the other 18 teams, who will settle for whatever crumbs Barcelona and Real Madrid leave as they attempt to wrestle for the league title. For Real Mallorca and others, the target to aim for is the qualifying spots for the Champions League and the Europa League competitions.

While Real Madrid turned out against Atletico Madrid on Thursday in the return bout of their Copa del Rey joust, Mallorca were hammered 3-0 by Los Colchoneros themselves three days earlier, receiving a nasty hit to their continental qualification aspirations for the next campaign. However, the team seems intent on putting this incident behind them as they travel to the Santiago Bernabeu and try to emulate the good results they obtained earlier this season at Barcelona, Valencia, and Sevilla, according to striker Pierre Webo, who declared that the team will go to Madrid full of confidence, having nothing to lose.


Recent form

Real Madrid:
Real Madrid 3-1 Atletico Madrid (13/01; Copa del Rey)
Almeria 1-1 Real Madrid (16/01; La Liga)
Atletico Madrid 0-1 Real Madrid (20/01; Copa del Rey)

RCD Mallorca:
Mallorca 3-4 Almeria (06/01; Copa del Rey)
Mallorca 4-1 Almeria (09/01; La Liga)
Atletico Madrid 3-0 Mallorca (17/01; La Liga)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Pepe; Jerzy Dudek; Gonzalo Higuain; Sami Khedira (doubt)

RCD Mallorca: Ivan Ramis; Marti; Tomas Pina; Sergio Tejera; Sergi Enrich; Tuni

Players to watch

Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo: With no new number 9 yet at the Bernabeu, Mourinho is counting on Cristiano Ronaldo to come up with the goods until he receives a new striker. Having played as pure forward last year under Manuel Pellegrini, Ronaldo is no stranger to the position, and will be eager to lead the team as they hope to catch Barcelona.

RCD Mallorca – Dudu Aouate: Having been hammered against Real’s neighbours Atletico, the Israeli shot-stopper will be hoping the match doesn’t end up being a duel between him and Ronaldo. A fine goalkeeper on his day, Dudu Aouate will need to be on top form in order to prevent the opposition from inflicting a heavy morale-sapping defeat on his side.

Match Prediction

While the match against Atletico was hardly important for Real Madrid, having practically guaranteed progression during the first leg, it nonetheless restored some confidence to Jose Mourinho’s team, who were baffled after their draw with Almeria last weekend. Back at home, and certainly not able to afford to drop any more points as they chase Barcelona, Los Merengues should come out winners in this one. 2-0 to Real Madrid.