Squad news

PREVIEW: DEPORTIVO – ATHLETIC (LIGA)

21 Apr 2013
Fernando Vázquez is missing Marchena and Abel Aguilar, but recovers Riki. His main mission is to avoid relaxation after his team left the drop zone. Athletic Bilbao arrive trying to secure the permanence and find some light in their grey season.

STATISTICS: FIVE IN A ROW
Last season, Deportivo established a new club record after clinching nine straight victories, but it happened playing at Segunda División. At Primera the record is seven straight wins (season 1999/2000); for the moment the Blanquiazul is trying to chain a fifth straight triumph, something that has only happened in nine previous opportunities playing at the elite of Spanish football.

The last time Depor clinched five straight wins was at the end of the season 2007/08 as Lotina’s Deportivo added five victories within matchdays 30 & 34: 3-1 Vs. Real Murcia, 3-1 at Racing Santander, 3-0 Vs. Athletic Bilbao, 1-0 at CA Osasuna and 2-0 Vs. FC Barcelona.

The rival, Athletic Bilbao, have had a mediocre season, especially playing on the road; condition in which they have only added three wins, all of them visiting relegation-troubled teams: 2-1 at Granada CF (matchday 10), 1-0 at RCD Mallorca (matchday 16) and 1-0 at CA Osasuna (matchday 26).

An interesting stat is related to the unbalance at both teams; the Basques (-22) and the Galicians (-21) are third and fourth in terms of goal difference at Liga BBVA. Only RCD Mallorca (-30) and Granada CF (-23) present a worst mark.

Finally, to mention another interesting stat related to the recent visits of the Basques to the Riazor an also linked to the number five. Athletic Bilbao have lost the four last games played in A Coruña (0-3, 1-3, 1-3 & 1-2), and Depor never clinched five straight wins against ‘the lions’ playing on this condition, it also clinched four between the years 1951 and 1954 (4-0, 3-1, 3-2 & 2-0), but never five.

DEPORTIVO: AVOIDING RELAXATION
The fans of Deportivo are living an episode of enthusiasm after witnessing how the Blanquiazul team miraculously wake up to overcome a situation in which they were lying nine points below safety to be, one month later, living out of relegation. But the players and the coach have been insisting that nothing is done yet as seven matches still remaining in the schedule and the difference with the pit is just of two points.

And there’s no better warning than what happened two seasons ago; during the campaign 2011/12, Lotina’s Deportivo were lying at the 15th position after matchday 31, with a manageable 5-point gap over the relegation zone; however the Galicians wasted the advantage and ended at Liga Adelante after only winning two of the last seven meetings in the competition.

The players are aware of situation and assure that Depor aren’t going to stop at this point; as captain Manuel Pablo told to reporters during the week, ”We aren’t relaxed; things are fine right now; we´re content and want to follow the same path before a rival that it isn’t from our league. We still need more victories in order to release the pressure from ourselves. We’re seeing ourselves out of the pit, but must keep fighting, because we remain in the same zone: the danger zone.”

Meanwhile, Aythami Artiles was saying that, ”The team has surpassed the expectations, but we want more. Before, we were dead and now we still in danger of suffering the relegation, though we´re out of the pit right now. We must remain facing the situation going game by game.”

Juan Dominguez was another example of the feelings inside the changing room, ”We know you can end up relaxed for been facing a situation in which you are out of the danger, but we’re going to follow the same lane thinking that nothing is done and that a lot still ahead. Relaxation at our side? Zero. Each game we go out trying to improve the performance of the previous meeting.”

Coach Fernando Vázquez has to avoid relaxation and at the same time he has to rebuild a winning formula that has been recently hit by the injuries, and it’s that two of his pillars are out of the game: centre-back Carlos Marchena, who is already out for the rest of the season after picking a quadriceps strain on his right thigh, plus centre-midfielder Abel Aguilar, who misses the clash due to a grade I muscle injury on his right thigh. He was unable to pass a late test on Saturday.

But strikers Riki and Nélson Oliveira, plus centre-back Ze Castro managed to overcome their injuries and were picked for the game. It’s a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Dani Aranzubia covering the goal, Manuel Pablo performs at the right-back position, Sílvio Azevedo covers the left, while the centre-backs are Ze Castro and Aythami Artiles.

Álex Bergantiños appears at the starting lineup for the first time since February (1-3 at Sevilla CF); the former Fabril is joining Juan Dominguez at midfield territory. This is just the sixth time on this liga season in which both Galician midfielders represent the duo of pivotes at the starting formation. The last time was in the first round match against Levante UD (Nov 18).

Bruno Gama  is living his best moment on this Primera campaign after scoring a goal in each one of the last two games. He will attack from the right wing, Pizzi does it from the left, while Juan Carlos Valerón is the playmaker in the formation. Finally, Riki returns in order to lead the attack.

Three players are staying at the injury room: Laure, Abel Aguilar and Marchena. Centre-back Kaká and winger Javier Camuñas  return to a list of picked players, while the players out for tactical reasons are centre-midfielders André Santos and Jesús Vázquez, plus left-back Evaldo Fabiano.

Ex-Athletic Aranzubia talked before the game and assured that his former team is not a direct rival in the quest for the permanence, ”Athletic aren’t a direct rival. I talk to people from Bilbao and they aren’t tranquil as they aren’t saved yet, but I will switch our situation for their position, because they have six more points. I think they won´t suffer, but can understand their fears, because if we win then we’ll be three points behind them and later they face Barcelona.”

List of picked players (18): Aranzubia, Lux (goalkeepers); Sílvio, Manuel Pablo, Ayoze, Kaká, Aythami, Ze Castro (defenders); Álex Bergantiños, Juan Domínguez, Assunção, Bruno Gama, Pizzi, Camuñas, Salomão, Valerón (midfielders); Riki & Nélson Oliveira (strikers).

ATHLETIC: A MEDIOCRE SEASON
It has been a disappointing season for Athletic’s fans; last year the club lived a dreamed season, reaching two finals, including the UEFA Europa League, and also for been the revelation in la liga. But things twisted since the pre-season and the situation has turned to be completely different on this year. First, coach Marcelo Bielsa had a series of internal conflicts that put him at the door out.

Then, emblematic striker Fernando Llorente didn’t want to renew his contract ending in June, which launched a “civil war” that reduced his participation in the season to just three appearances as a starter. The distractions were really expensive for the Basques as they have never lived above the 12th place in la liga; they were also eliminated in the group stage at the Europa League, and to make things worse little SD Eibar pulled them off the Copa Del Rey in the earliest stage for the Primera clubs.

The ghost has chased Athletic throughout the season and at this point the negative issue striking the club is the exit of defender Fernando Amorebieta, who is on his way to join Premier League club Fulham FC. It has been the main subject discussed by the fans during the week, even more than the game against Depor. So, it seems that this historic club is constantly distracted.

And that’s exactly what Bielsa doesn’t need at this moment, because this is a crucial moment in order to clinch the permanence as more distractions could put them directly in the middle of the fight to avoid relegation. They’re comfortably living eight points above the pit, but after this meeting they host FC Barcelona and two new losses could be really harmful.

Bielsa understand the importance of the meeting and marked the game in the calendar, and this is demonstrated by the fact that four of his normal starters “forced” the fifth yellow card in the match against Sevilla CF in order to skip the clash against Real Madrid and to be available for the trip to the Riazor.

Now the Argentine coach has a full squad available with the only important casualty of centre-back Fernando Amorebieta. Left-back Aymeric Laporte passed a late test and is available for the meeting. It’s expected an offensive 4-3-3 scheme for the game. With ex-Espanyol Gorka Iraizoz defending the goal, Andoni Iraola covers the right-back position, 18-year-old Laporte performs on the left, while Borja Ekiza and Carlos Gurpegi are the centre-backs.

The trio at midfield is composed by ex-Zaragoza man Ander Herrera, ex-Alavés Oscar de Marcos and Ander Iturraspe. Markel Susaeta attacks from the right wing, Aritz Aduriz is the central attacker and Iker Muniain performs on the left.

Another reason to explain the poor form of Athletic on this season is the disappointing performance of players that shone last season; that’s the case of Muniain; last year he was one of the best young players in the league, now his contribution has been reduced to one goal and one assist. Lately he has been benched, but he will be a starter against Depor.

 So, the offensive weight of the team has been over the shoulders of Ibai Gómez, Susaeta and Aduriz, the first is the best assistor at the squad with seven assists in liga, the second has provided six assists plus five goals, while the latter is the top-scorer at the team with 13 goals in favour plus 4 assists.

Iraola was describing the visit to the Riazor as a key meeting for his side, ”We are conscious of the things at stake on Sunday; the next games against teams at the bottom are key. The important thing is to go out with tension, not committing mistakes, to see them unable to meet the same game practiced in previous matches, to see talented men like Pizzi and Valerón feeling uncomfortable. We’ll try to make them feel uncomfortable, so they won’t step into our area.”

Meanwhile, De Marcos explained what he expects to meet at the Riazor, ”They are morally strong. It’s going to be a difficult game, but we´re thinking of ourselves and knowing that we need to pull things forward. We arrive to the Riazor living a good moment. This team is prepared for Sunday. We’ve seven finals in front of us; we must focus and try to reach the 42 points.”

List of picked players (18): Iraizoz, Raúl Fernández (goalkeepers); Aurtenetxe, Laporte, San José, Iraola, Gurpegi, Ekiza, Ramalho (defenders); Iturraspe, De Marcos, Ibai Gómez, Susaeta, Muniain, Ander Herrera (midfielders); Toquero, Llorente & Aduriz (strikers)

PROBABLE LINEUPS
Deportivo: (4-2-3-1) Aranzubia – Manuel Pablo, Aythami, Ze Castro, Sílvio – Álex Bergantiños, Juan Dominguez – Bruno Gama, Valerón, Pizzi – Riki.
Athletic: (4-3-3) Iraizoz - Iraola, Gurpegui, Ekiza, Laporte - Iturraspe, De Marcos, Herrera - Susaeta, Aduriz, Muniain.
Referee: Pedro Jesús Pérez Montero
Kick-off: 17h00 CET (Riazor)
Head-to-head Vs. Athletic: 33 wins for Depor, 23 draws, 27 wins for Athletic (Primera)
Record at the Riazor: 23 wins for Depor, 11 draws, 7 wins for Athletic (Primera)

ARCHIVE NEWS APRIL/13

ZAPPING

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