Competition news


29 Nov 2009
Depor searches the Champions League, while Racing battles to leave the bottom of the table. Lotina will probably keep playing with three strikers and counts with the return of Sergio and Guardado, while all eyes will be on Canales.

Thirteen years and nine months, that’s the time that has passed since the last defeat of Deportivo playing at El Sardinero stadium. It occurred on February of 1996 as John Benjamin Toshack’s Depor lost there with a 1-2 score. Since then, Depor has played twelve games there with a balance of six wins and six draws, numbers that demonstrate the dominance of Depor when it visits Santander. In resume, Depor has picked 8 wins and 7 draws after twenty Primera visits to El Sardinero, that’s the sixth highest mark in the history of Deportivo’s visits in la liga, only surpassed by the records held at Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Valencia FC, Oviedo FC and Sevilla FC.

To make things worse for Racing, the Cantabrians are currently the worst home team at Primera, with only one point achieved at El Sardinero and with only three goals scored there, actually the Cantabrians are the only Primera team that hasn’t won yet at home, this after five matches there: 1-4 Vs Getafe (matchday 01), 1-4 Vs Barcelona (matchday 04), 0-1 Vs Valencia (matchday 06), 1-1 Vs Osasuna (matchday 08), and 0-2 Vs Athletic Bilbao (matchday 10).

This poor behaviour at home explains why Racing is at the border of the abysm, only separated from relegation by the goal difference. Meanwhile, Deportivo is fifth in the table, just two points below the Champions League zone and six from the leader Real Madrid. Besides, the Galicians are also the fifth best visiting team at Primera with three victories after five matches played in this condition: 2-3 at Real Madrid (matchday 01), 3-0 at Xérez (matchday 04), 1-0 at Tenerife (matchday 06), 0-4 at Valladolid (matchday 08) and 2-0 at Getafe (matchday 10).

Coach Miguel Angel Lotina is ready to repeat the same strategy used in the victory against Atletico Madrid, which he understands as a 4-3-2-1 formation. However, the Basque man will make a couple of modifications, because he’s recovering Sergio and Guardado. The Catalan missed the last game at the Riazor due to suspension, while the Mexican was under suspicion of carrying the H1N1 flu, situation that was clarified on Friday as the laboratory result was negative.

The idea of Lotina is to present a “more defensive” approach, which means to remove a striker from the starting eleven adding a defensive midfielder. In this way the coach is presenting a triple pivote figure at midfield: Sergio, Antonio Tomás and Juan Rodríguez. With the Andalusian performing at the centre, the Catalan playing towards the right side and the Cantabrian, who will face his former club, towards the left.

In the game against Atletico, Andrés Guardado played at the centre of the attack, which gave him more mobility on the pitch. The Mexican confessed to reporters that he liked this new role at Depor, but the presence of the triple pivote figure is now forcing the winger to return to his old role of been attached to the left side, though Lotina will give him freedom to switch to the centre, which is the basic principle of this attacking line with three forwards.

The main doubt is who will play towards the right wing, Mista has made two very complete games in the last weeks (Getafe and Atletico), while Lotina still “in love” of Lassad’s ability to break down the defensive walls of the rival.  Both attackers have the chance to cover the spot at the right, Lotina said that he will take a final decision just hours before the game.

Meanwhile, Riki will be covering the central position in attack; recently the Madrilenian seems to be in-form each time that he faces Racing. On the past season he made his most complete game of the liga campaign during the 5-3 win at the Riazor, match in which he scored twice. Actually, since his arrival to Depor, Riki has scored 16 goals in la liga, and has only repeated against the same rival in two opportunities, one was Racing and the other Athletic Bilbao.

What won’t change is the defensive line. Daniel Aranzubia will be the starting keeper, Manuel Pablo will perform at the right-back position. Albert Lopo and Diego Colotto will play at the centre of the defence, and Filipe Luis will cover the left side. It’s the same combination used since matchday 04 (3-0 win at Xérez).

Brazilian midfielder Juca is already working with the rest of the squad, but it’s too soon for him and wasn’t picked for the game as he is now targeting the match with Barcelona FC as the one for his comeback. The other player at the injury room is Brayan Angulo, who already started to work in his recovery process after his knee surgery. Rodolfo Bodipo already returned to train after been suffering from pharyngotonsillitis, but Lotina left him out of the list for the game. Same case than central defender Zé Castro, who had a strong cold during the week.

Before the game, Antonio Tomás was saying that he is content with his current performance, “Here, we all try to add things to the squad. I’m content because I’m having minutes and let’s see if we can continue like this. Each day I’m going home content and calmed. For me the important thing is to have the respect of the squad. It has been a solid start and let’s hopes things will stay like this.”

The Cantabrian was also talking about the current status of his former club, “Sometimes the bad results pull you down there, but I believe that they have good players and will end recovering some positions to achieve the permanence. Racing has big potential up front and at the left side, all thanks to Óscar Serrano and Arana, but if we do the things as we did in the last games, then I’m convinced that we can achieve a good result there, but I also know that it will be a tough match.”

Lassad surprised reporters on Saturday as he was clueless about the presence of Miguel Angel Portugal at Racing’s bench, “Have they changed the coach? I didn’t know. I just think of my team and am careless about what happens at other teams. Right now we don’t know who is going to play up front. The coach didn’t say anything to us. I’m fine and hoping to see us tomorrow completing a good game.”

Meanwhile, Manuel Pablo was saying that Depor is going to El Sardinero in order to claim the victory, "It won't be easy to pick up the points in Santander, but definitely we are going there in order to win. If we do it, it will mean three points to stay up there. It will be tough because they are in need, they have good players, but I guess they will be without confidence, and we’re going to try to take advantage of that.”

Finally, Guardado is hoping to continue with the good streak in liga, “It’s always complicated to play outside home, but we are in a good streak and want to continue in the same way, trying to reaffirm what we are doing, but with the same humility, without believing that we’re the favourites.”

List of picked players (19): Aranzubia, Manu (goalkeepers); Manuel Pablo, Colotto, Lopo, Filipe, Laure, Piscu (defenders); Juan Rodríguez, Antonio Tomás, Sergio, Andrés Guardado, Pablo Álvarez, Iván Pérez, Valerón (midfielders); Mista, Lassad, Adrián and Riki (strikers).

Since Thursday coach Miguel Angel Portugal has been preparing several modifications ahead of the game against Deportivo. The coach avoided the world “revolution” during his press conference, but the media expects several changes compared to the squad that lost with Real Madrid (0-1), though it’s not clear what his really intentions are. All these novelties are trying to revive a squad that is struggling in order to stay outside the relegation zone and that hasn’t won yet any game at El Sardinero. But there’s a coincidence in all the possible formations: the presence of Sergio Canales in the starting eleven.

The 18-year-old midfielder impressed with his 30-minutes performance at the Bernabéu stadium and Racing is currently rushing the negotiations in order to extend his contract (it ends in June of 2010). He is considered as a huge promise for Spanish football and the light at the end of the tunnel for the Cantabrian fans. The intention of coach Portugal is to allow his debut as starter at Primera División taking the spot of Mehdi Lacen alongside Gonzalo Colsa at midfield. Curiously Depor is facing a player that could leave a good income in the future, because the Galicians will enjoy of the 50% of a future sell, something agreed as part of the exchange Munitis-Aouate.

Before the game, Canales was giving his opinion about the level of the rival, “The true is that Depor is fine, right now is fighting in the attempt to enter into the Champions. But what we need to do is to think that we need to win the next game, besides we’re playing at home. We can and must achieve the victory, this in order to start climbing positions.”

The rest of the starting squad is not clear yet, because not even Pedro Munitis has a spot for granted. However, it is highly believed that three players have a more secure place on the game against Depor: Antonio Rodríguez ‘Toño’at the goal, ex-Espanyol Marc Torrejón at the centre of the defence and Mohammed Tchité in attack.

Ex-Recreativo Nasief Morris seems also to have a secure spot, but it isn’t known where, because he can be appearing at the right-back position or at the centre of the defence. It’s more probable that Morris will be playing at the centre, while Oriol Lozano will be appearing at the right side of the defence, the left spot should be for Christian Fernández, he was doubtful during the week due to a ankle sprain, but will probably play since ex-Benfica Laszlo Sepsi was not picked for the encounter.

One of the hopes for the game is the contribution of Manuel Arana, the ex-Castellón was close to sign for Depor as the replacement of Lafita, but preferred the option of Racing since the Cantabrian club showed more interest. He could be appearing at the right wing, situation that would move Pedro Munitis to the left. The ex-Depor was more used to perform on the left when he was at the Galician team, but at Racing he has been more used as a right winger.

Finally, the doubt is to know who will join Tchité in attack, the options are two: Swiss international Alexandre Geijo or ex-Atletico Luis García, both strikers are still scoreless on the season. Actually, a thing to have in mind is that only five Racing’s players have scored a goal on this liga campaign, that’s the 3rd lowest mark at Primera División. That lack of goals is one of the main reasons why Racing is at the bottom of the table. Of those five players, only two will be starters against Depor: Arana and Tchite (both of them have scored twice), while the top-scorer at the Cantabrian team, Oscar Serrano (3), will probably be sited on the bench.

The ex-Depor players talked before the game, the first one was Xisco. The Majorcan striker was picked for the game, but will probably start on the bench. During the week he was defending his failed transfer to Newcastle United, "Clearly, things did not go as we wanted, though you never know when you take those decisions. There was a combination of circumstances that weren’t good for me, but we should not look back."

Pinillos, the former Depor’s defender, was saying that this is a final for his team, “This is the first of the finals in which we need to add the three points. It’s very important to win at home for all that it means: to bring joy to the fans and to demonstrate that’s tough to win on here, something that, unfortunately, hasn’t happened until this day. It’s very important to be strong at home in order to make a solid season. As soon as we achieve that first win at home, we will start playing with more confidence. We must start achieving some goals, and the first one should be to surpass Deportivo.”

List of picked players (18): Toño, Coltorti (goalkeepers); Pinillos, Oriol, Morris, Torrejón, Moratón, Cristian (defenders); Arana, Munitis, Colsa, Lacen, Canales, Serrano (midfielders); Geijo, Xisco, Luis García and Tchité (strikers).

Racing: (4-4-2) Toño - Oriol, Morris, Torrejón, Cristian - Arana, Colsa, Canales, Munitis - Luis García or Geijo, Tchité.
Deportivo: (4-3-3) Aranzubia - Manuel Pablo, Colotto, Lopo, Filipe - Juan Rodríguez, Sergio, Antonio Tomás - Mista or Lassad, Riki, Guardado.
Referee: Javier Turienzo Álvarez
Kick-off: 17h00 CET (El Sardinero)
Head-to-head Vs Racing: 32 wins for Depor, 14 draws, 22 wins for Racing (Primera & Segunda)
Record at El Sardinero: 14 wins for Depor, 10 draws, 10 wins for Racing (Primera & Segunda)



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