Municipal de Riazor,
Feb 27, 2011, 21:00 GMT


This week’s headlines belong to Benzema.

“Mamá, papá, no vengáis que no juego de titular”: Meaning – “Mom, Dad Do not come as I am not going to start (play)“. Thus goes the statement when a shattered Benzema conveyed to his parents that he was not starting against Lyon. A super excited Benzema had bought 50 tickets for his friends and family so that they could watch him, only for the sky to fall on him hours before the match.

For a deflated player, he certainly showed a lot of fire in his belly. Eerily reminiscent of a certain Brazilian legend Ronaldo, Benzema ran with ball across the face of the goal with one only thing in mind – i.e. to score a goal; and score he did.

Los Blancos are going to need this and a lot more if they are to banish the memories of their bogey team, once and for all. Historically, a visit to El Riazor has always been a very tough for Real Madrid, who once went 18 years without winning at this venue.

As far as rewriting history is concerned, Real took a baby step in Stade Gerland where they scored a goal for the first time and managed to return with something other than a defeat. However, they need to be more clinical with their chances, if they want to succeed against Deportivo. Of the 457 shots that Real have taken, only 55 have gone in. This sort of profligacy is sure to be punished by Riazor where the chances are going to be at a premium.

Deportivo, on the other hand, have been only been defeated twice at home this season. However, they have also won only four times out of eleven, which is consistent with a mid-table strugglers’ position.

However there 2 very interesting facts:

1)     Deportivo are miserly both in conceding (1.09 Goals per game) and scoring (1.27 Goals per game), which suggests that they tend to shut the shop after scoring and try to get something out of the match

2)     Out of the 35 goals scored against them, 14 (i.e 40%) have come in the last 30 minutes of a game and around 25% in the last 15 minutes.

Team News and Tactical brief

Real Madrid

The match against Lyon took its toll as Sami Khedira was ruled out for 2 weeks with a hamstring injury. The return of ‘San’ Iker, who was suspended for a match after collecting a red card against Espanyol will certainly boost the morale of Madridistas. The Spanish captain will have to play a pivotal role, if the Merengues hope to come out of this match unscathed and keep the already-dim flicker of La Liga alive.

In a team known for its attacking superstars, it is the defensive players who will be playing the decisive role.

Sergio Ramos needs to pull up his socks, as it was his error that allowed Lyon to capitalize and equalize. Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho will be required to marshal the defense with utmost concentration and provide adequate cover for Marcelo, if he earns a starting place.

Mourinho will be facing several tactical dilemmas.

Mourinho: Time to think hard..

Real have never scored many goals at the Riazor. Even the 3-1 victory last year needed a “Heel of god” by Guti to bail Real out. Marcelo’s overlapping runs form a very important part of Cristiano Ronaldo’s game play. Without Marcelo’s bombarding runs, Ronaldo’s effectiveness is significantly reduced. On the other hand, Marcelo is defensively much less capable than Alvaro Arbeloa. However, Alvaro Arbeloa cannot act as a sidekick to the Portuguese due to his limited offensive capabilities.

Real are expected to run into a wall of defenders. Ozil’s runs might not be that effective as his passing is not as good as that of a fully functional Kaka Also, since Benzema is good with the ball at his feet, he can run into spaces and draw out defenders enabling others to exploit. For this to work, though, Benzema has to overcome his questionable work ethic.

A possible strategy…

One of the options for Mourinho is to start with both Ozil and Kaka and bench Di Maria once more, while starting Marcelo and leaving Arbeloa on the bench. He could also leave Benzema on the bench and start the on-loan Adebayor. Later on, around the hour mark and with a lead to protect, Marcelo could be taken off in favor of Arbeloa and Benzema and Di Maria could replace Adebayor and Kaka, respectively, to inject pace in the last quarter of the game to exploit Deportivo’s season-long vulnerability in the dying stages of the match.

Probable starting line up: Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo, Lass, Xabi, Ozil, Ronaldo, Kaka, Adebayor

Deportivo La Coruna

Deportivo’s usualt set-up is to soak up pressure and hit the opposition on the counter using Riki and Adrian. Real Madrid will provide ample practice for these set of tactics.

Mexican left-back Andres Guardado will be back from injury and will add an important dimension to the Depor attack. Adrian has been the mainstay of this struggling Depor and has topped both the scoring and assist charts for them. Last time these sides met, an unrelenting Real Madrid hammered Deportivo 6-1 at the Bernabeu. Revenge for this ignominy would certainly be on their minds.

Deportivo play with a five-man defence and use a defensive midfielder to provide more solidity.

Probable Starting Line-up: Aranzubia, Lopo, Colloto, Pablo, Guardado, Oliva, Perez, Tomas, Rodriguez, Adrian, Riki


Ricardo Carvalho (Real Madrid)

The old war-horse will have to be at his canny best if Real are to take anything from this match. He will be responsible for the backline co-ordination and making sure Adrian stays quiet.

Adrian (Deportivo La Coruna)

The man to watch out for

The pacy striker would look to cause all sorts of problems for the Madrid back four. He will look to exploit the spaces behind the traditional high backline of Los Blancos and is the main player to watch out for from the home team.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Deportivo 1-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid seem likely to return from Riazor with 3 points. A cagey encounter with plenty of fouls seems to be on the cards. Although even a draw cannot be entirely ruled out, Jose’s iron will should prevail to see Real Madrid scrape through this tough test and continue to put pressure on the league leaders.


Real Madrid 6-1 Deportivo La Coruna