Competition news


25 Nov 2011
Once again Depor targets the promotion zone, and it does it carrying big doubts at defense and facing a rival that has only lost twice on the Segunda season. Ze Castro returns into the starting eleven, Valerón too.

Two teams that were at Primera División on last season collide at the Riazor, both are also among the candidates to clinch the promotion back to the elite of Spanish football, and both are, somehow, fulfilling the expectations with their results. First to have in mind that Deportivo is the second best local team in the league, with sixteen points added after seven matches played at the Riazor, mark only below the one of Hércules CF (18). Besides, Depor is the second best scorer at home with fourteen goals in favour, just one less than 18th place Villarreal B.

But Almeria is also strong playing in the condition of visiting team; the Andalusians have added thirteen points after seven visits, which is the fourth best mark in the league, only below Hércules CF (16), Real Murcia (14) and Barcelona B (14).The main characteristic of this team is its defense, because after fourteen matches they have only leaked eleven goals, which is the third best mark at Segunda, only below Hércules CF (6) and Córdoba CF (10).

The history between Almeria and Deportivo is short as the Andalusians represent a recently-founded club (1989), but there are already some interesting facts. Last year was negative for Depor as the Galicians were only able to pick up a draw after four meeting with Los Almeriensistas (two in liga and two in Copa); to mention that Depor’s current coach, Jose Luis Oltra, was the coach of Almeria in three of those four meetings. The only joy for Depor’s fans in the series came with the 1-1 draw at Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos with a last-minute header of Aranzubia.  The true is that Almeria has always been a hostile guest at the Riazor, just to remember that former coach Miguel Ángel Lotina debuted at Depor with a surprising 0-3 loss in a match that also marked the debut of Almeria at Primera División. (25 August, 2007).

The poor defensive numbers of Depor are the main concern among the fans and journalists, players like Aythami and Ayoze Diaz are currently under a big pressure as their individual errors already cost some goals, and coach José Luis Oltra is adding firewood to the fire with his weird decisions. For the past visit to Elche CF the Valencian trainer only traveled with five defenders, while he picked the four centre midfielders a the team; now he is doing the same for the home clash with UD Almeria.

And there’s more, during the week Oltra was making some tests with former Fabril players David Rochela and Diego Seoane, which invited to think that both could be starters, but in the end both Galician players weren’t picked for the match, which has just extended the doubts and the confusion among the general public. One of the concerns is that with Aythami suspended Ze Castro is giving a step forward in order to claim a spot at the centre of the defense. The Portuguese man has had solid performance so far, but the point is that he has been a starter in three games during the season (two in liga and one in Copa), and in two opportunities he had to leave the pitch after picking a muscular problem.

In the home liga match with CD Guadalajara the ex-Atletico Madrid had to be replaced by Morel at minute 61, and in the Copa clash with CD Alcoyano he was replaced by Colotto at minute 65, and now, with no replacements on the bench, the concern is what could happen if he suffers a new problem throughout the match.

Another question is if Oltra will keep playing with Ayoze, on Wednesday the coach defended the Canarian left-back, but also admitted that his errors have been expensive; now it’s speculated that Manuel Pablo might be switched to the left side, though the Canarian is just coming back from a hamstring problem; on this season he has only played twice, the full game with Recreativo and then the first forty-five minutes before Hércules CF.

What’s clear is that Depor’s defense needs to complete a flawless presentation, not only to calm down the critics, but mainly to defeat a rival that’s the third best defense at Segunda, which means that Deportivo will probably need to clinch a clean sheet, or in the worst case to only allow one goal, if they want to defeat a direct rival for the promotion spots. On this season Almeria has only allowed two goals in one single game during the clashes with Girona(2-2) and Villarreal B (1-2).

The defense is not the only sector with changes, because Oltra could also be planning the return of Juan Carlos Valerón, who was a substitute against Elche CF. El Flaco will probably claim his spot as the playmaker in the formation, which will lead Saul Fernandez to the bench.

In the end the starting formation should be a 4-2-3-1 figure; with Daniel Aranzubia at the goal, the ex-Athletic man is facing Almeria for the first time after his historic header that meant a goal; Laure will surely perform at the right-back position, while the doubt is if Ayoze will stay on the left or if instead Manuel Pablo will be playing there. The central positions at defense will be for Diego Colotto and Zé Castro.

At midfield, all appoints that Juan Dominguez will keep playing alongside Álex Bergantiños; Mexican Guardado will be attacking from the right wing, Diogo Salomão will do it from the left, Valerón returns to the playmaker’s role, while Lassad Nouioui will be the central attacker.

Seven players are out of the meeting, firstly Aythami is suspended, then the three players at the injury room are Riki, Morel and Xisco, while the discards due to tactical reasons are Pablo Álvarez, David Rochela and Diego Seoane.

Laure talked before the match and he was emphasizing the importance of this meeting, ”The adaptation period has already passed; we need to bring more stuff and achieve the results. From now own our goal is to convert all the remaining matches into finals.”

Finally, Juan Dominguez didn’t know if he will be a starter, but hopes to have a new opportunity, “My hope and my goal are to stay at the starting team, but it doesn’t depend on me. What we must think is to go out plugged into the game and do the things that we already know. We need to be focused, because we all are the defense.”

List of picked players (18): Aranzubia, Lux (goalkeepers); Manuel Pablo, Laure, Ze Castro, Colotto, Ayoze (defenders); Saúl, Bruno, Juan Domínguez, Alex Bergantiños, Borja Fernández, Jesús Vázquez, Valerón, Guardado, Salomão (midfielders); Lassad and Bodipo (strikers).

Deportivo has always been considered as the favourite to clinch the promotion to Primera División; at the start of the season the betting companies in England were holding odds of 9/2 in favour of Depor, and Almeria was just below the Galicians with odds of 11/2.  And Los Rojiblancos have confirmed their candidacy with a constant performance in the league and a smart administration on the office.

And it’s that Almeria has been at the top position for almost the entire season, only suffering two losses (0-1 at Numancia and 1-2 at Villarreal B), and mainly for been the third best defense in the league with only eleven goals allowed. President Alfonso Garcia has also been wise as he didn’t spend too much money in the transfer market, while his club was the best collector in the league.

Firstly Garcia received €5 million as part of the assurance after the relegation from Primera, and later he collected €17.2 million in five transfers: Pablo Piatti (€7.5 million, FC Valencia), Kalu Uche (€4 million, Neuchâtel Xamax) Diego Alves (€3 million, FC Valencia), Albert Crusat (€2.25 million Wigan) and Juanma Ortiz (€450,000 Glasgow Rangers).

There were some concerns as it seemed the team was losing potential, but the players that stayed have been able to close the gaps; in this sense Argentine attacker Leonardo Ulloa, who didn’t have continuity at Primera, is now the Pichichi at the team with nine goals scored, while Hernán Bernardello and Carlos García are references in the defensive tasks, also goalie Esteban Suárez has had a convinced performance; actually the Asturian is second in the race for the Zamora trophy at Segunda.

However, and despite the results, Almeria has been hammered by part of the media and the public due to its “ugly” football, which has been labeled as “too defensive”; to mention that in the last scoreless draw at home before FC Cartagena the players were whistled after the game ended. Besides, the media in Andalusia has always been worried as the squad is only composed by nineteen men –the shortest squad at Segunda-

This means that, with two injury cases or suspensions, coach Lucas Alcaraz is forced to pick someone from the B squad in order to fill up the gaps, and that factor could be deadly in a league as long as threatening, especially since Almeria B is a recently founded team (2002), without too many promises and so far it has only contributed with six players to the first team.

Fortunately for Alcaraz only once he has needed to use a player from Almeria B during this season; it was midfielder García Márquez, who just played one minute against Recreativo de Huelva. He was picked for that match as centre midfielders Verza (suspended) and Omar Ramos (injured) were unavailable.

And luckily for the Andalusians there are no casualties for the meeting with Depor, and Alcaraz will only make one change to the squad that drew with FC Cartagena, with ex-Celta Esteban Suárez at the goal; Brazilian Michel Macedo will cover the right-back position, Daniel Bautista will cover the left side, while the central positions at defense will be for Danish Michael Jakobsen and Catalan Carlos Garcia. Jakobsen is a left-back, but Alcaraz prefers to use him before veteran Acasiete.

At midfield, José Antonio García ´Verza’, who was linked with Depor during the summer, will be the partner of Argentine Hernán Bernardello, this last man is the only novelty in the lineup as he is returning from suspension. Aarón Ñíguez, another player linked with Depor during the summer, will attack from the right wing, Aleix Vidal, the only promoted player from Almeria B at the first team, will do it from the left, Fernando Soriano, will be the playmaker in the formation, while Ulloa will be the central attacker.

Striker Leonardo Ulloa talked before the game; he was referring to the criticism coming from the fans after the latest performance of the team, ”I understand that the fans are demanding things from us, and I respect their right to whistle the team at the stadium, although it’s something I don’t share. We all are united, because we are searching for the same goals. This is a complicate league, and we will win, draw and lose games, and the important thing is to keep a regular run, and I believe we are doing it.”

The Argentine also talked of Deportivo, ”It is going to be tough and complicated: they play at home and will go out for the game; we can surprise them in the counterattack. I believe this is a complicate match and they will feel the support of a full stadium, but we’ve our options of clinching a positive result.”

List of picked players: The list will be released on Friday’s morning as Almeria travels to La Coruña on the same day of the match.

Deportivo: (4-2-3-1) Aranzubia – Laure, Colotto, Ze Castro, Ayoze or Manuel Pablo – Álex Bergantiños, Juan Domínguez – Guardado, Valerón, Salomão – Lassad.
UD Almeria: (4-2-3-1) Esteban - Míchel, Carlos García, Jakobsen, Dani Bautista - Bernardello, Verza – Aarón, Soriano, Aleix Vidal - Ulloa.
Referee; Jorge Valdes Aller (30, second year at Segunda División)
Kick-off: 21h00 CET (Riazor)
Head-to-head Vs. Almeria 2 win2 for Depor, 3 draw, 3 wins for Almeria (Primera)
Record at the Riazor: 1 win for Depor, 1 draw, 2 wins for Almeria (Primera)



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