Squad news

PREVIEW: DEPORTIVO – BARCELONA (LIGA)

05 Dec 2009
Depor searches to break its best mark of points after thirteen matches, but it faces a Barcelona that precisely is arriving to the Riazor after breaking its best historic record. Riki is out of the game, while Messi and Ibrahimovic will be starters.

STATISTICS: THE ONLY UNDEFEATED TEAM IN LA LIGA
Barcelona FC is the only club between Primera and Segunda División that hasn’t been defeated until this point of the season; their only setback came in Champions League as Russian champions FC Rubin Kazan surprised them at the Camp Nou (0-1). Currently, the Catalans led all the stats at Primera, including more victories (9), more goals scored (30) and less goals allowed (8). Actually and thanks to their latest win at CD Xérez, the Catalans already broke their mark of points added after the first thirteen matches.

But Deportivo is also living a great moment, with eight wins on the liga campaign and targeting the Champions League zone after the two straight triumphs over Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander. Actually, if Depor achieves a new win on this match, it will break its all-time record of points after thirteen liga matchdays (27 points).

Besides, in recent times Barcelona has suffered a lot at the Riazor; after Depor’s last promotion to Primera, the Catalans have only conquered four wins in La Coruña, and only one of them with a difference of more than two goals (4-0 on the season 91/92). Also, Barca doesn’t add the three points at the Riazor since the season 2004-05, after it three of the four games ended in a draw, while the other encounter was won by the Galicians (2-0, season 2007-08).

To have in mind that seven of the eight liga victories of Deportivo were achieved together with a clean sheet, which demonstrates the importance of the defence in this Depor. But that formula will be tough to apply against Barca, because the Catalans have only ended scoreless in one opportunity (0-0 at Valencia). Actually, since the arrival of Guardiola, Barcelona has only ended goalless in two liga matches: 0-1 at Numancia (matchday 01, 08/09) and 0-1 Vs Osasuna (matchday 37, 08/09).

DEPORTIVO: RIKI OUT, JUCA IN
The plans of coach Miguel Angel Lotina suffered an important setback as striker Riki sustained a groin injury during Friday’s training session; therefore he wasn’t picked for the encounter. But the good news is that midfielder Juca is back after surpassing the thigh injury that kept him out for two months. Rodolfo Bodipo is also coming back into the list of picked players, but the Equatoguinean attacker will start the match sited on the bench.

Lotina said on Friday that he will decide the starting lineup until Saturday, despite the absences of Riki and Lassad in attack the coach assured that he will keep using the 4-3-2-1 system (4-3-3) that has gave good results in recent weeks. The only sure thing is that the defensive line will be the same one used since matchday 04, with Daniel Aranzubia at the goal, Manuel Pablo performing at the right-back position, Filipe Luis on the left sector and the combination Albert Lopo-Diego Colotto at the centre.

The doubts start at midfield, Juca is fit to play, but all appoints that the Brazilian will not take part of the starting eleven, which means that Andrés Guardado will join Sergio and Antonio Tomás in the sector, the Mexican will perform towards the left side, and will have freedom to join the attacks by the centre, while Cantabrian Tomás will perform towards the right and Catalan Sergio will direct the traffic at the centre.

In attack, Juan Rodriguez and Mista will be the playmakers on the formation, while striker Adrián López will have the responsibility of taking the spot of Riki. The Asturian forward has only been a starter in four opportunities during this season, the last one at Valladolid (0-4) and has only scored one goal (against RCD Espanyol)

Lassad Nouioui, the other striker with a big number of minutes on the season, is also out with a stress fracture, he will return until January of 2010. The third player at the injury room is Brayan Angulo, who is out for while with a knee ligaments problem.

Before the game, Aranzubia was saying that Depor’s players are optimistic ahead of the encounter, “Right now we believe in ourselves and no matter where we play the mentality is to achieve the victory. I don’t think they are assuming this as an easy match, which make us feel important and must try to continue with our recent good streak.”

An unusual thing was to see president Lendoiro talking before the game, he was in Madrid attending to a meeting of the LFP and said that, “It’s difficult to stop Barca, we already know that, and we must break almost all the records in order to do it. But I believe that, at this particular moment, Depor can do it, because it’s demonstrating that’s a real team.”

List of picked players (20): Aranzubia, Manu (goalkeepers); Manuel Pablo, Colotto, Lopo, Filipe, Laure, Adrián López ‘Piscu’, Zé Castro (defenders); Antonio Tomás, Sergio, Juca, Juan Rodríguez, Pablo Álvarez, Iván Pérez, Guardado, Valerón (midfielders); Mista, Adrián López and Bodipo (strikers).

BARCELONA: TWENTY-ONE AND COUNTING
Among the top leagues in Europe (Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France), Barcelona FC is the sixth club with more official matches played on this season: twenty-one (thirteen in liga, five in the UEFA Champions League, two in Copa Del Rey, plus the UEFA Super Cup game). To mention that the five clubs with more official games are British, and have been involved in European action and in the Carling Cup: Fulham (24), Everton (23) Manchester United (23), Chelsea (23) and Arsenal (23).

And the Catalans will not rest in December, because as the major part of Spanish teams are only disputing three liga encounters in the month, the Catalans are also playing a decisive UEFA Champions League encounter at FC Dynamo Kyiv, plus the FIFA Club World Cup 2009, which involves two more games in the road to the title and a long trip to the United Arab Emirates.

This early saturation of matches explains why coach Josep Guardiola has been very careful with the rotations. And it’s that nobody at the Catalan squad has played in all the twenty-one matches played so far. But there’s a quarter that has been very active during the period: Midfielders Xavi Hernández and Seydou Keita have performed in twenty games and both only missed a clash in Copa, while keeper Victor Valdés has only missed both legs in Copa against Cultural Leonesa. The fourth player with a big participation on the campaign has been central defender Gerard Pique, he has performed in eighteen matches and only missed the two Copa encounters plus last liga visit to CD Xérez, this last one due to a muscular injury.

The rest of the players have been coming in and out of the lineups, including Lionel Messi, the recently proclaimed Ballon d’Or award winner, the counter of the Argentine is only marking fifteen games on the season.  To appoint that of this list of twenty-one games, Guardiola’s team has only lost one (1-2 Vs FC Rubin Kazan) with an impressive mark of forty-five goals in favour and only ten goals allowed. Also to mention that so far only Russian club Rubin Kazan and Atletico Madrid have been able to score two goals in one single game against the Catalans.

But this policy of rotations will experience a pause against Deportivo, for the game at the Riazor, and after resting several key men at Xérez, it is expected that Guardiola will present his strongest starting eleven, including the quarter with more games on the season. Valdés will continue at the goal, Daniel Alves stays at the right-back position, while Carles Puyol and Pique return to the centre after resting in midweek, the defensive formation is completed with Eric Abidal occupying the left spot.

At midfield, Guardiola will be able to count with his golden duo: Seydou Keita and Xavi Hernández, they will cover the wings. Mali-born Keita is living a surprising season with six goals scored so far, while Catalan Xavi is considered as the ‘brain’ of the team and also of the Spanish national squad in the quest for glory in South Africa 2010. Meanwhile the doubt is who will play at the centre, the options are Yaya Touré and Sergi Busquets, this last one returning after a suspension.

The line of attackers will be composed by Andrés Iniesta, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi; in resume a luxury team that includes five of the candidates to the Ballon d’Or plus the winner himself. Thierry Henry has been a starter within the last three games and he should start on the bench, the French is the only ‘star’ rested for the clash in Kiev.

The presence of Ibrahimovic will be a real headache for Depor’s defenders, the Swedish international already scored nine goals in liga and is only surpassed by Valencia’s David Villa (10) in the quest for the Pichichi trophy. Besides he has also given four assists, which is the second highest mark at Primera División, only surpassed by the one of his team mate Messi (5).

List of picked players (18): Valdés, Pinto (goalkeepers), Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Chygryskiy, Abidal, Maxwell  (defenders); Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Keita, Touré (midfielders); Henry, Ibrahimovic, Bojan and Messi (strikers)

PROBABLE LINEUPS
Deportivo: (4-3-2-1) Aranzubia - Manuel Pablo, Colotto, Lopo, Filipe Luis - Antonio Tomás, Sergio, Guardado - Juan Rodríguez, Mista - Adrián.
Barcelona: (4-3-3) Valdés - Dani Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Abidal - Xavi, Yaya Toure or Busquests, Keita – Iniesta, Ibrahimovic, Messi.
Referee: David Fernández Borbalán
Kick-off: 22h00 CET (Riazor)
Head-to-head Vs Barcelona: 20 wins for Depor, 15 draws, 43 wins for Barcelona (Primera)
Record at the Riazor: 17 wins for Depor, 10 draws, 12 wins for Barcelona (Primera)

ARCHIVE NEWS DEC/09

ZAPPING

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