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PREVIEW: DEPORTIVO - ELCHE CF (LIGA)

22 Apr 2012
Elche hurries up its promotion options as it visits and almost invincible Deportivo performing at the Riazor; Lassad is fit to play, though Oltra could be playing with Xisco in attack. Los Franjiverdes are the most punished team by the referees.

STATISTICS: THE GIANT KILLER
Elche has had a terrible 2012; Los Ilicitanos have played fifteen liga games in the new year and they lost nine of them; they were the leaders at the end of December, but at this point on the season they are living outside the promotion zone. Still, there’s a factor that must be analyzed: the effectiveness of this team playing outside home, especially visiting the biggest rivals on the league.

On this season Elche already visited five of the other seven rivals fighting for promotion, and they defeated three of them: 2-1 at RC Celta (matchday 04), 2-1 at Hércules CF (matchday 15) and 2-0 at UD Almeria (matchday 27). They only lost at Real Valladolid (1-2, matchday 07) and Córdoba CF (0-2, matchday 22).  And it isn’t a new virtue as last season they clinched seven of the nine points disputed visiting the three promoted clubs to Primera: Real Betis (4-1), Rayo Vallecano (2-1), and Granada CF (3-3).

But this ‘giant killer’ isn’t having an easy visit, because the rival is Deportivo, a team that currently holds the best home record among the six-top Segunda leagues in Europe –England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Portugal- And it’s that Oltra’s Depor has only dropped five points at the Riazor, clinching twelve straight wins playing there, which is close to the historic record at the club: 14 (1974-1976).

Also, Elche has been unable to achieve a victory at the Riazor in 30 years; their last success in La Coruña was on the Segunda season 1981-82 (3-0). Since then they have visited Depor in seven opportunities and only added two draws; actually they ended scoreless in five of those seven meetings.

DEPORTIVO: LASSAD IS FIT TO PLAY
The casualty of Riki after picking a new muscular injury opened a spot at the starting lineup of Deportivo; the Madrilenian is the Pichichi at the team with twelve goals in favour and probably the main reference in attack. But Lassad Nouioui is also having a solid season; the Tunisian is the second best scorer at the team with ten goals in favour plus giving three assists.

That’s why people were concern after the ex-Fabril picked an ankle sprain during Wednesday’s training session; the African attacker was doubtful until the last second and in the end he passed a late test on Saturday, so he was picked for the meeting and searches now for his appearance number 99 with the first team (66 at Primera, 25 at Segunda and 7 in Copa Del Rey).

Still, it isn’t clear if Lassad is going to be a starter, after all he just completed one training session on this week. Meanwhile, Xisco has had a more discrete season due to the injuries, but the Majorcan striker seems to have the same chances of been a starter. He has only made nine appearances in this Segunda tournament, only two of them as a starter and has only scored one goal.

The spot of Riki in the list of picked players is taken by right winger Saul Fernandez, who is returning after a couple of weeks out and will face his former club. The other players at the injury room are central defender Aythami Artiles and Jesús Vázquez. The players ruled out for tactical reasons are striker Rodolfo Bodipo, right winger Pablo Álvarez, right-back Diego Seoane and left-back Ayoze Díaz.

The lineup is almost the same 4-2-3-1 scheme that clinched the victory in the Galician derby; Daniel Aranzubia defends the goal; Laureano Sanabria ‘Laure’ performs at the right-back position, Paraguayan Claudio Morel defends the left sector, the central defenders are Argentine Diego Colotto and Portuguese Ze Castro.

The two pivotes are Álex Bergantiños and Juan Dominguez, the Galician duo that already completed a full round as the starting couple at the centre of the field. Mexican Andrés Guardado is the third best scorer at the team with nine goals and searches for double-digit marks as he has giving ten assists too, he will attack from the left wing, while another player completing a full round as a starter, Portuguese Bruno Gama, is attacking from the right flank. The only doubt is who will be the starter in attack:  Xisco or Lassad.

Ze Castro talked during the week and was remembering that Depor still has to clinch the promotion after defeating RC Celta, ”We are content for winning a match, because you are happier, just as it happens after any victory. The derby was an important game, one with a spectacular background, but the main goal of the team wasn't to win both matches before Celta, but to clinch the promotion, and we haven’t done that yet. We’ve to be focused in Elche, because as we traveled to win in Vigo, we can perfectly return home and lose at home.”

Meanwhile, Laure was warning of the difficulty of the rival, ”They are good in set-pieces and also in counterattacks; in this way the scored against us in the match of the first round, so we must be alert and try to stop them. They base their game in putting a lot of pressure and then going out in counterattacks. These three points are important in order to clear out any doubt. We are conscious that we need to win at least four more games and must start now, because as soon as you do it you are calmer.”

Finally, Valerón was asking for calmness after the victory in the derby, ”We´re living a good moment, but must go game by game; the players at the changing room want to release a message of calmness, of tranquility, that we can’t think beyond the next game, which is on Sunday. We don’t want anything to distract us. Things will arrive and there will be time for everything.”
 
List of picked players (18): Aranzubia, Lux (defenders); Laure, Ze Castro, Colotto, Rochela, Morel, Manuel Pablo (defenders); Álex Bergantiños, Borja Fernández, Valerón, Juan Dominguez, Guardado, Salomão, Bruno Gama, Saul (midfielders); Xisco and Lassad (strikers).

ELCHE: PERSECUTED BY THE REFEREES?
It calls the attention that Elche CF is the most booked team at Segunda: 135 yellow cards plus 5 red cards. It means fifteen more than FC Cartagena and Hércules CF, and almost the double of the ones saw by Deportivo (89). Many people accuse Elche of been a team with dirty tactics, but it’s also true that in some games the decisions of the referees have been controversial.

Like the recent home meeting before RC Celta, game in which Elche suffered four expulsions, three of players on the pitch and another one on the bench, something that fired the fury of president José Sepulcre, who even sent a letter to the referee’s committee complaining about it. It partly explains why Elche has had a negative performance in 2012, because the suspensions have affected the performance of the team.

For the past meeting before FC Cartagena, Los Blanquiverdes lost two players due to suspensions: midfielder Sergio Mantecón and left-back Edu Albácar, while for the match at the Riazor they are losing right-back Javier Carpio, also for adding five yellow cards on the season. The confrontation with the referees isn’t the only concern of new coach César Ferrando, who arrived a fortnight ago in order to replace José Bordalás, because in the past two weeks the team has been hit by a series of injuries that have wiped off the tactical options for the matches.

Actually, for the clash at the Riazor, Ferrando exactly had eighteen players available; this since there are five casualties due to injury reasons: centre midfielder Jorge Luque (Soleus), striker Miguel Linares (knee ligaments), centre midfielder Miguel Palanca (muscular ), central defender Sergio Pelegrín (groin) and centre midfielder Cristóbal Márquez (stress fracture).

A sixth casualty is the mentioned case of Javier Carpio. Former Gimnástic Tarragona striker Berry Powel was passing a test during the week, but Elche has ruled out his signing. To mention that former Depor winger Cristian Hidalgo was picked for the game.

The expected lineup is a 4-2-3-1 formation, with ex-Villarreal B Juan Carlos Sánchez defending the goal, former Osasuna man Javier Flaño enters in order to perform at the right-back position, José Eduard Álbacar surpassed an adductor injury and performs on the left, while the central defenders are ex-Athletic Xabier Etxeita and former Levante Héctor Rodas, this last man scored both goals in the past match against FC Cartagena.

At midfield, another former player of Osasuna, Roberto López ‘Ruper’, is performing alongside Sergio Mantecón; then Jordi Xumetra attacks from the right wing, this former player of Girona has scored six goals on the season, including a wonderful one before Depor in the first round; French Gregory Jose Beranger, who normally performs as a left-back, will be the improvised left winger, ex-Zaragoza David Generelo is the playmaker in the scheme, while the centre of the attack will be for Danish Nicki Niels Bille, who’s one of the top scorers at the team with nine goals in favour. The other Pichichi at the squad, ex-Tenerife Ángel Luis Rodríguez, will be sat on the bench.

Midfielder Sergio Mantecón talked before the game about the difficulty of been facing Deportivo, ”If we have demonstrated something is that we can defeat any team, so we are going to the field of the better team in the league, and although it’s complicated, we are convinced that we can win. The true is that it will be very difficult, because they just dropped a few points; they´re living a spectacular moment and have confidence in themselves.”

List of picked players (18): Juan Carlos, Leandro (goalkeepers); Etxeita, Héctor Rodas, Edu Álbacar, Beranger, Flaño, Héctor Verdés (defenders); Perico, Mantecón, Kike Mateo, Cristian, Rúper, Xumetra, Generelo, Paños (midfielders); Ángel and Nicki Bille (strikers).

PROBABLE LINEUPS
Deportivo: (4-2-3-1) Aranzubia – Laure, Colotto, Ze Castro, Morel – Álex Bergantiños, Juan Domínguez – Bruno Gama, Valerón, Guardado – Lassad or Xisco.
Elche: (4-2-3-1) Juan Carlos – Flaño, Etxeita, Héctor Rodas, Álbacar – Ruper, Mantecón – Xumetra, Generelo, Beranger - Nicki
Referee Francisco Manuel Arias López (18 games on the season, only 6 wins for the local team)
Kick-off: 12h00 CET (Riazor)
Head-to-head Vs. Elche: 11 wins for Depor, 7 draws, 13 wins for Elche (Primera & Segunda)
Record at the Riazor: 7 wins for Depor, 5 draws, 3 wins for Elche (Primera & Segunda)

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