DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA
Estadio Riazor, Galicia
Sunday 18th Jan, 2015, 18:00 GMT
Barcelona turn their attention back to La Liga after completing a resounding 9-0 aggregate victory over Elche in the Copa del Rey in midweek. The Catalan giants sit one point off the league summit and are looking to build on their 3-1 triumph over Atletico Madrid last weekend. Despite their mouth-watering front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, Barca’s greatest asset this season has been their defence. They’ve leaked just nine goals, six fewer than any other team, and should have little problem keeping it tight again against this Deportivo side. The Messi speculation has subsided slightly this week and boss Luis Enrique will just have to hope that the diminutive Argentinean is ready to fire them to victory. They can ill-afford to drop any more points.
While Barcelona continue to challenge at the summit, Deportivo’s target this season is to secure their top-flight status after being promoted as Segunda Division runners-up last term. Victor Fernandez’s men currently lie 16th, just a point above the bottom three, but a third successive home league win would prove a major boost for their survival hopes and leave a dent in Barca’s title ambitions.
Team news and tactical brief
Deportivo La Coruña
Deportivo’s Laure could make a return from injury for this game but their two key players, Luis Farina and Helder Postiga remain injured. Despite being thrashed 3-0 at at the end of 2014 by Villarreal, Deportivo have started the New Year well. The home side grabbed three points against Athletic Bilbao and then defended impressively to see out a 0-0 draw at Levante. However, this impressive form does not hide the fact that Víctor Fernández’s side have only won four league games this season and an in-form Barcelona side could put an end to Depor’s decent run. Deportivo are strong at home where they have done most of their scoring. They had the entire week to prepare for this game and a home match against a side like Barcelona is always a huge occasion so they are expected to put in a great shift.
Deportivo head into the match having recorded back-to-back clean sheets against Athletic Bilbao and Levante respectively. Those two fixtures have seen them earn four points to strengthen their bid to avoid relegation back down to the second tier of Spanish football. The trio of Helder Postiga, Luis Farina and Lucas Perez all remain sidelined through injury. New signing Oriol Riera, arriving from Wigan Athletic, is likely to lead the line with Helder Postiga sidelined through injury. The experienced Portuguese striker should return to training within a fortnight. Ivan Cavaleiro and Isaac Cuenca should provide service from wide areas, with Luis Farina probable to take a seat on the bench after recovering from injury. Alberto Lopo continues in defence, having returned to first-team action without incident last time out. There are unlikely to be too many changes from Victor Fernandez, given that Deportivo’s form hasn’t been too bad of late. The days when games between Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruña were virtual title deciders are long gone, and Sunday’s game at the Riazor will see the home team attempt to defeat their illustrious rivals for the first time since 2008. These days Deportivo have become something of a yo-yo club; they were promoted to the top flight last season after finishing second in the Segunda Division. Currently in 16th place after picking up seven points from their last four games – their best run of the season – last week they drew 0-0 with fellow strugglers Levante, and look set for a long hard fight over the second half of the season if they are to stay up. Deportivo have won just three of their nine home games, scoring ten goals and conceding 14.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Fabricio(GK); Luisinho, Juanfran, Lopo, Sidnei; Cavaleiro, Cuenca, Bergantinos, Dominguez, Rodriguez; Riera
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique will likely recall his star names against Deportivo La Coruna after resting several key players in midweek. Boasting a 5-0 first-leg advantage over Elche in their last-16 tie, Barca gave the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez the night off on Thursday in a bid to keep players fresh for this weekend’s game. The Catalan giants coped comfortably without their high-profile absentees, running out 4-0 winners to seal their progress to a quarter-final tie with Atletico Madrid by a 9-0 aggregate scoreline. With Real Madrid leading the way in La Liga by one point and having played a game less, Barca will be desperate not to lose any further ground on their fierce rivals, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side set to travel to Getafe earlier on Sunday. The likes of Sergi Roberto, Adama Traore and Rafinha all impressed during the Copa win over Elche, and Luis Enrique knows the importance of having strength in depth as Barca continue to fight on three fronts.
Luis Enrique will be thrilled that after a week of controversy at Barcelona his side were able to overcome champions Atletico Madrid 3-1 in what was a thrilling night at the Nou Camp. The away side lost 1-0 to Real Sociedad two weeks ago but this inspired performance proves Barca are still major title contenders. Luis Enrique has two major doubts, Xavi and Neymar. They both trained with their team-mates, although Xavi has not been discharged by Barcelona’s medics. Neymar, meanwhile, is free from injury after the battering he took against Atletico but Luis Enrique is thinking that he might not use him against Deportivo anyway, to ensure he’s back to full fitness ahead of the Atletico Copa del Rey clash on Wednesday. Ivan Rakitic should continue to get a run in the side, with the lethal trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar ahead of the former Sevilla midfielder. Thomas Vermaelen is a consistent absentee, with Jeremy Mathieu likely to take a seat on the bench despite chipping in with a rather sumptuous free kick against Elche on Thursday night.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Bravo(GK); Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Iniesta, Rakitic, Busquetes; Suarez, Messi, Neymar
If they avoid defeat, Deportivo will have gone three unbeaten for the first time since returning to La Liga
If Barcelona fail to win, they will have gone three without a win on the road for the first time in La Liga since May 2011
Barcelona failed to score at both Getafe and Real Sociedad; the first time they had drawn two consecutive blanks on the road since September 2007
Players to Watch Out For
Isaac Cuenca (Deportivo)
One man eagerly awaiting Sunday’s clash is former Barca man Isaac Cuenca.The Spain Under-21 international departed Camp Nou for Deportivo in the close-season and will be relishing the opportunity to test himself against some familiar faces.
Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
With Luis Suarez finally starting to find the back of the net more often, the Messi-Neymar-Suarez trident is finally looking like the lethal strike force it should be. And with the rest of the team finally starting to enjoy their football again, it looks like one-way traffic for Barcelona and another three points in the bag.
Deportivo La Coruña 1–4 FC Barcelona
Depor have been strong at home of late, with their performance in front of their own fans helping to edge the newly promoted side away from the threat of relegation. Consecutive 1-0 wins against Elche and Athletic Club Bilbao show that Depor are able to remain disciplined and organised enough to scrape important points, but a lack of goals scored could prove to be their demise against Barcelona. Three goals in their last five home games doesn’t suggest that Claudio Bravo will have a lot to do in the visitors’ net, but the addition of Oriol Riera could prove important. Luis Enrique’s men have been in uncompromising form of late, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar managing to get on the scoresheet to present a united front across the away side’s forward line. Netting at least three goals in all but one of their last five competitive games will fill Barca with confidence – but a 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad on the road will no doubt stick in Blaugrana minds.
Blast From the Past
The last time Barca visited the Riazor, back in October 2012, Messi netted a hat-trick in a thrilling 5-4 success for the men from Camp Nou.