Deportivo de La Coruña

v

FC Barcelona

Estadio Riazor, Coruña, Galicia

January 9th, 2011, 2:30 AM, IST

***

Week 18 promises us something special. After an indifferent start to 2011, FC Barcelona travel to A Coruña, Galicia, to take on Deportivo. The last time these two teams met at this particular ground, FC Barcelona bagged all three points after a hard-fought win. Messi grabbed a brace and Ibrahimovic got the other one for the visitors. Adrian scored the only goal for the hosts. The preceding portrayal however, doesn’t do justice to the resistance put up by SuperDepor. The match entered the final quarter with both teams in a deadlock. It was then that mercurial Messi and towering Ibrahimovic grabbed a couple of goals to ensure all three points.

Deportivo has had their problems with scoring this season. They have scored 15 goals in 17 games and have conceded 20. However, Miguel Ángel Lotina can be a little relieved at FC Barcelona’s apparent loss of incisiveness. The defending champions have managed to find the back of the net only on three occasions in 2011 and that too after conceding a couple of goals. What makes things better for Lotina is that they just had victories against Cordoba and Athletic Bilbao in Copa del Rey and La Liga respectively. The hosts can take courage from the fact that they conceded just 5 times in 8 matches at home.

Team News and Tactical Brief

FC Barcelona: Whenever FC Barcelona has travelled to Riazor, Deportivo has always been in a decent position to welcome them. 2010-11 season doesn’t allow them to enjoy that luxury. A full strength Barcelona will be available to Guardiola and the manager is willing to take all 21 players, including B team player, Thiago. “All players travel because I don’t want anyone to disconnect. I prefer some to watch the game from the stands than at home,” said Guardiola. Maxwell has recovered from the thigh strain that ruled him out of the midweek Cup game in Bilbao and is back in the squad for this Saturday’s trip to La Coruña. Mascherano too has recovered from flu. The defensive duo of Pique and Puyol too are back from suspension and injury respectively. The icing on the cake is the return of the little genius – Lionel Messi.

With the entire squad at his disposal, Guadiola is spoilt for choices. He now has Ibrahim Afellay too. However, in important matches like the one at Riazor, the manager is unlikely to tweak his regular eleven. Eric Abidal, the hero of Bilbao, will be prowling the left side and Alves on the right. Pique and Puyol will be the concierges at the heart of the Blaugrana fortress. The Ballon d’Or trio of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta will assume their respective positions on the pitch. While Xavi and Iniesta will be operating from the midfield, Messi will be pulling the strings in the final third. In David Villa and Pedro, the diminutive Argentine will have able support. Villa will move in from the left and the ambidextrous Pedro on the right. Busquets will be assisting the midfield duo of Xavi and Iniesta with his defensive abilities. Ibrahim Afellay and Thiago can expect sometime on the pitch.

Possible starting line-up: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Villa, Messi, Pedro.

Football Fans Know Better

Probable starting line-ups

Deportivo de La Coruña: Lotina’s men have a good home record. With only one loss at home and having conceded only 5 times in 8 games, the hosts have reasons to be hopeful. To ease Lotina off his offensive ineffectiveness, the 22-year old Spanish striker Adrian has come good against a stern Cordoba at the Riazor and parried Deportivo into the last eight of the Copa del Rey. Midfielder Juan Rodriguez too has been in good form and has the ability to trouble the Barcelona defence. The Galician side has had some good form of late after a rather abject start to their 2010-11 season. Veteran Spanish footballer, Juan Carlos Valeron still has what it takes to trouble the opposition. “Barca are one of the best teams there has ever been and it will be difficult to beat them, but we are fired up and that’s exactly what we’ll be trying to do,” said the former Spanish International.

Valeron: Class is ageless

Spanish striker Riki, midfielder Míchel and Mexican winger Guardado will miss the vital clash against FC Barcelona. Apart from the ones mentioned, Uruguayan winger Urreta and Norwegian defender Knut Olav Rindarøy too are doubtful. However, the good news for the manager is that Lopo, Nouioui and Pablo will all be available for the weekend clash. The defensive records suggest that Lotina’s team will ‘park the bus’ at Riazor and with the home crowd behind them, they will just have an extra personnel on the pitch. Adrian’s pace and Valeron’s guile might just try to unlock the Barcelona defence on the counter. Nevertheless, the Barcelona defence is competent enough to handle the threat posed by the Spanish duo.

Possible starting line-up: Aranzubia, Morel, Lopo, Colotto, Pablo, Tomas, Rodriguez, Alvarez, Valeron, Adrian, Lassad

Key Facts

1. The Ballon d’Or will be arriving at the Camp Nou on Monday.

2. As of now, the Catalan giants have 80 goals in their kitty in all competitions.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Eric Abidal  (FC Barcelona)

The lion-hearted Abidal

It is surprising that a team which has three Ballon d’Or nominees, David Villa, Pedro and others, has Eric Abidal as the player to watch out for. However, it’s not without a reason. Eric Abidal was absolutely fabulous against Athletic Bilbao. Not only did he defend well but also got his first goal for FC Barcelona. The importance of the goal can be judged from the fact although his team did not win, yet they qualified for the next round in Copa del Rey.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Deportivo de La Coruña 0-3 FC Barcelona

Despite the fact that SuperDepor have improved as the season has progressed, it seems difficult for them to break open the Catalan defence. Already consolidated by Puyol and Pique, Abidal now provides able defensive cover which was missing sometime back.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST