Competition news


10 May 2011
Tension and mystery in La Coruña; neither Lotina nor Caparrós gave any clue of what they will put on the field at the Riazor. In the end it is suspected that both trainers will put a similar squad to the one that played the last liga encounter.

It’s a clash between two sides with opposite goals; Deportivo La Coruña urgently needs a victory in order to increase its aspirations to achieve the permanence, while Athletic Bilbao needs the three points to secure its presence in the UEFA Europa League, the Basques are even dreaming with the Champions League, but it’s more difficult as they will need to win the remaining three liga games plus to see Villarreal failing three times in a row.

The true is that despite its current position (5th), Athletic Bilbao has been an irregular team during the whole liga campaign, actually they have lost more games than Deportivo on the season (15 defeats against 14 of the Galicians), and the big difference is that they are the second team with less draws in the competition (3), while the Galicians are the second team with more ties (12), only below Sporting Gijón (13).

There are two facts that should invite to be optimistic ahead of the clash; the first is that Athletic has a poor record playing away from home as it has only clinched five away wins and has suffered nine defeats away from San Mamés. The other is that the Basques have lost in their last three visits to La Coruña, always allowing three goals and with Joaquin Caparrós sat on the visiting bench.

The latest results are leaving Depor living at the end of the rope; now there’s no chance for more failures, Depor still has to play two matches at home and it needs five more points to save itself, so it can be said that the salvation passes through the Riazor. A stadium where Deportivo will face two teams living in European positions: Athletic Bilbao and Valencia.

But Lotina’s Depor has had problems with these kinds of clubs playing at the Riazor, because the Galicians have only defeated Villarreal (1-0, matchday 23) and RCD Espanyol (3-0, matchday 09), while it failed with FC Barcelona (0-4, matchday 18) and Atletico Madrid (0-1, matchday 34), while it drew with Real Madrid (0-0, matchday 25).

The club and the fans are aware of the emergency situation, and for this reason they are trying to contribute to the cause. The club is, for the third straight time, lowering the ticket prices, while the fans are once again preparing a massive attendance to the stadium, only on Monday’s morning 2,000 tickets were sold thanks to the cut in the ticket prices and in the afternoon there was a long line at the Plaza de Pontevedra trying to get the last tickets. So, the Riazor is now the main hope of all the Deportivismo.

On Monday’s afternoon the team trained behind closed doors at the stadium, there was a concentration of fans in the outside, and the group was so big that Lotina gave permission to open the gates. In the end it turned to be a training session with public. However, at that moment the Basque coach had already tested the lineup for the game and, contrary to past occasions, he didn’t allow any reporter to watch that part of the session from the outside.

So, in the end the starting lineup is a mystery, the best guess of the journalists is that Lotina will repeat the same 4-3-3 figure that left a positive impression in Gijón, with the only novelty of Albert Lopo, who is returning from suspension in order to claim the spot of Aythami. However, there are other two doubts: Manuel Pablo and Andrés Guardado; the duo is dragging physical problems since the past week and Lotina will wait until Tuesday in order to determine if both men will be starters.

Actually, Lotina ordered to keep Diego Seoane at bay on Sunday as Fabril was playing a crucial game at Segunda B against Leganés CD (1-2), this since the youngster would be the replacement of the Canarian. In the past game in Gijón the coach picked all the available players for the game, now he is doing the same. He is concentrating all the players at Hotel Hesperia Finisterre and will release a final list hours before the clash.

It is expected that Aranzubia will be the starting goalie, Laure will cover the right-back position, Manuel Pablo will play on the left if he passes a late test, if not the spot will be for Seoane. Meanwhile, the centre of the defense will be for Lopo and Colotto. At midfield, Juan Rodriguez and Rubén Pérez will be joined by Andrés Guardado, who will be coming from the back in order to exchange positions with the attackers. If the Mexican isn’t fit to play, then the spot could be for Lassad Nouioui. Meanwhile Adrian and Riki will be switching positions on the wings and Valerón will be the playmaker performing behind the duo.

Adrian López was talking of the importance of the meeting, ”We are living a very complicate situation and on Tuesday we have to win, yes or yes. We play at home and if we do the right things, then we can win. We must be mentalized and believe that we can achieve it. We want to depend on ourselves. After the last game some players were crying, but everybody was screwed up, but now it’s time to raise the head, be united and cheer up in order to face this match.”

Meanwhile, Riki was saying that he feels better playing alongside Adrian and Valerón, “It’s easier to play like this, with El Flaco, who has a great vision of the game. We try to take advantage of his ability to make the last pass, and also of our velocity, mainly with Adrian and me. And I believe that the three of us feel in the same way.”

At this crucial moment, perhaps the player that gave the best explanation of the current feelings at the changing room is Andrés Guardado, this during an interview at Radio Cadena Ser, "Tomorrow's game is the most important match in our careers. We are playing for our life and now it's when we need to feel the support from our public. We are at time to be saved. It won’t be easy, but we are feeling encouraged. These games are better played with the head rather than with talent.”

List of picked players (24): Aranzubia, Manu (goalkeepers); Manuel Pablo, Laure, Lopo, Colotto, Rochela, Aythami, Zé Castro, Seoane (defenders); Rubén Pérez, Juan Domínguez, Míchel, Juan Rodríguez, Desmarets, Andrés Guardado, Pablo Álvarez, Saúl, Valerón (midfielders); Lassad, Riki, Xisco, Pepe Sand and Adrián López (strikers).

Coach Joaquín Caparrós has found the success that he never met in La Coruña; despite that his team still criticized by his instable performance the true is that Athletic Bilbao has found regularity in la liga as within the last two seasons  it passed to be fighting for the permanence to be a candidate for the European positions. And the secret for this success is the offensive punch at the team.

Athletic is the seventh worst defense in la liga (it has even allowed more goals than Depor), but it’s the fourth best offense at Primera as it has scored 55 goals, only below the marks of Barcelona (91), Real Madrid (87) and Valencia FC (60). Many people will point out to Fernando Llorente as the main reason for this mark, after all the Navarran has scored seventeen goals on the season, this fifth highest mark in la liga, but it only represents the 31% of all the goals of Athletic on the Primera campaign.

And that’s when the work of Caparrós shows up, because he has been able to distribute the rest of the goals between the other players at the team. Emphasizing the fact that 18-year-old wonder kid Iker Muniain has grown up under his command; the Navarran is the third best scorer at the team with five goals. Same story goes with striker Gaizka Toquero, who was signed two years ago by Depor’s former coach and that has scored six times on the campaign.

Caparrós also allowed the growth of Javi Martinez after his arrival from Osasuna; he has conquered four goals on this season. Also to point out the contribution of veterans like midfielder Igor Gabilondo (five goals), defender Andoni Iraola and midfielder David López (both four goals on the season), this last player was also signed by Caparrós and also came from all-time rival Osasuna. In the end these six players combined have scored 28 goals, which is the 51% of the total on the season. In resume: a solid mixture for success.

For the game against Depor defender Pablo Orbaiz and attacker Iker Muniain were doubtful after picking a knock in the past game with Levante UD, but in the end both men were picked for the clash, though it isn’t expected that they will take part of the starting eleven. Also, striker Markel Susaeta (pneumothorax), defender Koikili Lertxundi and attacker Iñigo Díaz de Cerio (both muscular) are out due to injury reasons.

It has been rumoured that Caparrós was preparing several rotations for the game, but the Sevillan coach didn’t train anything during the last training session, and several journalists suspect that in the end he will present the same starting eleven that defeated Levante, with the only novelties of Orbaiz and Muniain been replaced by Carlos Gurpegui and Igor Gabilondo.

In this sense, it will be a 4-4-2 figure, with Gorka Iraizoz at the goal, Andoni Iraola performing at the right-back position, Xabier Castillo covering the left sector and the central positions at defense will be for Mikel San José and Navarran Borja Ekiza. Gurpegui will join Javi Martinez at midfield, David López will attack from the right wing, Gabilondo will cover the left, while the two strikers will be Toquero and Llorente.

Left-back Xabier Castillo was talking of the meaning of the game for his team, “The fifth position is at reach; let’s see if we can achieve it. It will be great, though to be in Europe is already important. The teams at the bottom are pressing a lot and it’s harder to get the points. A win in La Coruña would be vital. I expect a match with a lot of anxiety at both sides. However, to be fighting to survive is not the same than fighting for Europe, because the anxiety is bigger. We just have to know how to play these kinds of games. The 0-0 is good, tough we are going out for the three points. Neither the draw is good for them.”

List of picked players (19): Iraizoz, Raúl Fernández (goalkeepers); Amorebieta, San José, Iraola, Orbaiz, Gurpegi, Castillo, Borja Ekiza (defenders); David López, Iturraspe, Gabilondo, Javi Martínez, Muniain (midfielders); Toquero, Llorente, Oscar De Marcos, Urko Vera and Ibai Gómez Pérez (strikers).

Deportivo: (4-3-3) Aranzubia – Laure, Colotto, Lopo, Manuel Pablo – Rubén Pérez, Guardado, Juan Rodríguez – Adrian, Valerón, Riki.
Athletic Bilbao: (4-4-2) Iraizoz - Iraola, San José, Ekiza, Castillo - David López, Gurpegui, Javi Martínez, Gabilondo - Toquero, Llorente.
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (15 games on the season, only 5 wins for the local team)
Kick-off: 20h00 CET (Riazor)
Head-to-head Vs. Athletic: 32 wins for Depor, 22 draws, 27 wins for Athletic (Primera)
Record at the Riazor: 22 wins for Depor, 11 draws, 7 wins for Athletic (Primera)



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