DEPORTIVO DE LA CORUNA
Camp Nou, Barcelona
15 May, 2011; 1900 hours GMT
Thirty six games, ninety two points; twenty-first La Liga. From defending champions to reigning champions. Barcelona have finally managed to continue their hegemony in Spain. Last year, their closest rivals – Real Madrid – pressed them till the very end and resulted in a scintillating finish, when Barca had to procure as many as ninety-nine points to stamp their authority in Spain. This year, however, the men in white from the capital lost the plot on a number of occasions and failed to capitalize on the sixteen points dropped by the Champions.
With two more games to go in the league, Guardiola is unlikely to risk his main players, in order to keep them free from injury and fatigue for the epic clash against English champions – Manchester United. The Spanish and the English champions, fighting it out to become the European champion – a cracker of a contest on the cards with everything to play for. However, as for Guardiola, the man has never things lightly even the most inconsequential ones. “Guardiola’s success isn’t a surprise for me. He has always been a leader and already followed courses when playing,” said Italian legend – Roberto Baggio, to further substantiate Guardiola’s obsession (a pleasant one of course) with football.
Last time these two teams met, Barca secured a comfortable victory at the Riazor. The victory is significant because the visitors did not have Xavi, Alves and Busquets in the starting line up. Goals from David Villa, Pedro, Messi and Iniesta sealed it for the Catalans. Deportivo now find themselves in the wrong half of the league table and this might not be the right time to visit the intimidating Camp Nou. However, now that Barca have won the league, they might just take it a bit easy.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Fullback Maxwell is out for the rest of the season! Adriano is yet to get the green signal from the medical team but participated with the team for the last training session. Milito too was nursing a muscle injury and he trained separately. Captain Carles is still undergoing specific training regime to get him up and running for the 28th of May 2011 and isn’t expected to participate against Deportivo. Pinto, who is suspended for the Champions League finals against Manchester United might just get the nod ahead of Valdes. In the absence of Pinto, an injury to Victor Valdes will be the last thing that Guardiola would want.
The defense might just be a combination of Alves, Pique, Fontas and Abidal. Milito might just make it to the bench. The Xaviesta combo might just be missing as this would be the perfect launch pad for the likes of Thiago to go on and play a full game while creating an impact. Keita and Busi are expected to be present to provide solidarity, strength and retention. For some reason or the other, it is difficult to leave out Lionel Messi. Purists presume that Guardiola is actually scared of the little Argentine and usually gives in to his demand of playing every match. Now why does the Argentine want to do that is not known! The three-pronged attack of Barcelona should be Messi and two others. Bojan and Afellay are tipped to be the forerunners in the race to partner Leo.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Pinto, Alves, Pique, Fontas, Abidal, Alcantara, Kieta, Busquets, Messi, Afellay, Bojan
Deportivo de La Coruña
There couldn’t have been a worse time for Super Depor (well, not so super now) to visit Camp Nou. Despite the fact that they defeated a strong Athletic Bilbao, thanks to the ageless Valeron, who once again showed that age is just a number, only a win will help them stay in the top flight next season. With Getafe and Zaragoza, ready to pounce on any mistake by Miguel Ángel Lotina’s men, the additional pressure to survive might also be a deterrent. One of Depor’s key lieutenants – Riki, is once again fit and has it in him to give the (relatively) inexperienced Barca defense a run for their money. The company of Adrian and Valeron, should only make it more difficult for the hosts. Mexian winger – Andrés Guardado too can be a handful for the Barca defense. With his pace, on and off the ball, the winger can stretch the relatively slow Barca defense to the limit.
Defense should not be much of a surprise and Lotina is expected to field Laure, Colotto, Lopo and Pablo to guard the Depor fortress at the Camp Nou. In the midweek matches, Juan Rodriguez succumbed to an injury and is unlikely to feature in the upcoming fixture. Rubén Pérez, the central midfielder on a loan from Atletico Madrid, is certain to resume his role as the pivot in the Deportivo midfield. In the absence of Rodriguez, defender Aythami Artiles might just act as a replacement to support Pérez in nullifying the Barca attack. Goal keeper Daniel Aranzubia is a bizarre man. Apart from his heroics underneath the 3 posts, the custodian is the first goalkeeper in the history of La Liga to have scored a goal from open play. And he did it this season against Almeria, thereby earning his team a precious away point, which in the long run might just prove to be their saviour.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Aranzubia, Laure, Colotto, Lopo, Pablo, Aythami, Ruben Perez Adrian, Valeron, Guardado, Riki
1. Villa so far scored 18 Liga goals. No Spanish player did that for Barcelona since Luis Enrique, 13 years ago.
2. Guardiola won 9 trophies in 3 years as Barcelona coach. Only Cruyff won more at Barcelona: 11 in 6.5 years
3. With 76 assists in 383 games, Xavi is together with Munitis the active Liga player with the most assists
Key Facts courtesy @barcastuff
TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Juan Carlos Valeron (Deportivo de La Coruña)
This is probably one of the very few instances when Leo Messi is expected to play, yet he’s not featuring in this column. The thirty-five-year old Deportivo vice captain has everything that can be asked of a world class midfielder. His decade old tenure with Deportivo is something special and his technical ability, passing and ball-retention capability is second to none. Valeron can surely make an impression against Barca thereby exemplifying – class is ageless.
FC Barcelona 1-1 Deportivo de La Coruña
The hosts will not push the pedal to the metal. With an all important Champions League final coming up, Guardiola is expected to give the big guns some rest. This match is of paramount importance to Deportivo and they are expected to go all guns blazing. A draw is expected and should serve both parties well.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST