Barcelona v Deportivo La Coruna, La Liga, April 14, 2010
“Beyond the joy the win at the Bernabeu gives us, I must say that we have to lower all this euphoria and keep our feet on the ground. I have a feeling, seeing the front pages of newspapers that we have already won the League. This is a very big mistake because it is not the case. The league is not won and must achieve that on the field. It would be a big mistake to think it’s done. Yes, we have placed ourselves in a much better position than them [Real Madrid] but now we must think about Deportivo.” – Juan Laporta.
After beating Real Madrid in El Clasico last Saturday night, the only thing stopping Barcelona from winning the Spanish title is complacency.
With just seven games remaining in the Primera Liga, Barcelona, three points clear of Los Blancos plus with a crucial 2-nil head-to-head record (which will be effective should the sides end the season on equal points), must falter twice in order to lose the championship. And having witnessed their performances through the season, that looks hugely unlikely.
Historically Deportivo have been a team whom have always been able to spring a surprise. At that has rung true even this season when La Coruna scored away victories at Valencia in the cup and at Sevilla in the league. But overall this season has been a drab squib for the Turcos, and, sitting in disappointing 9th spot in the league, Depor arrive at the Nou Camp with an unimpressive two draws and four losses in their last six games.
On Sunday, Miguel Angel Lotinaâ€™s side though they get back on the winning trend against struggling Racing Santander, having taken a first minute lead through Riki. However, they contrived to leak a late goal, leaving them five points behind sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao and very unlikely to mount a late challenge for a European berth.
The late goal against Racing was symptomatic of one of the Galicians big problem this season – keeping clean sheets. It has now been ten league matches since the Riazor outfit have shutout any team. But compounding matters furthers, just as important as their inability to stop other teams from scoring is Deopr’s poor scoring record in the league with just 33 goals scored in 31 matches.
On paper at least, this match should be a walkover for the champions-elect. (2.07 to be over 3.5 goals in the game, 1.56 to be under.)
If Deportivo are to upset the odds, their defence will have to sure up fast. Experienced central defenders Diego Colottois and Alberto Lopo are key in that regard, particularly as legend Manuel Pablo is missing through injury. Responsibility will also fall on holding midfielder Antonio Tomas to help shield his team from the persistent Barca onslaughts which can be expected throughout the match. Further forward it will be up to RIki and Adrian to try and unlock the home defence.
With a Champions League semi-final with Inter Milan just around the corner, and considering the quality an form of their opponents, Pep Guardiola could likely ring the changes on Wednesday night.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will definitely be missing with the Swede still recovering from a knee tear, while Eric Abidal is also sidelined with a knock. Gerard Pique is also rumoured to be feeling a slight knee problem and the centre-half could also get the night off, while Andres Iniesta is a long term absentee also.
Even with those missing in action, the Catalans have more than enough quality running through their side. Goalkeeper Victor Valdez is in superb touch at present as he marshalled a backline with three clean sheets in their last four league matches. Maxwell and Dani Alves offer pace and attacking qualities down the flanks, and Puyol and Gaby Milito while operate at the heart of the defence.
In midfield, as always, all eyes will be on the passing king Xavi Hernandez. The number six was in outstanding form against Real Madrid, and the Barca puppeteer has more than enough vision and ability to open up Depor time, after time, after time. And with the ridiculous spread of forwards including Lionel Messi, Pedro, Thierry Henry and Bojan Krkic to choose from, Barca could be in for an avalanche of goals. (Barcelona are 1.35 to win both halves, and 4.27 to draw/win.)
Should Barca score early, the only question will be how many they win by.
101gg predicts: Barcelona 3 – Deportivo La Coruna 0 (6.16)