Deportivo La Coruna v Real Madrid, Primera Division, January 30, 2010
Another major test awaits Galacticos 2.0 at the Riazor on Saturday night as Real Madrid face fifth placed Deportivo La Coruna without star man Cristiano Ronaldo.
The worldâ€™s most expensive player picked up his second red card in a Real Madrid shirt during the 2-0 win over Getafe last week. Ronaldo had scored both goals and is crucial to Manuel Pellegriniâ€™s side after scoring 15 goals in just 16 appearances this season. The loss of the Portuguese winger is compounded by Gonzalo Higuainâ€™s absence â€“ the Argentine has been a revelation this season. (Real are 2/1 to score in both halves.)
The former Villarreal coach is mulling whether to play Raul or Marcelo at Deportivo, either partnering the Spanish veteran with Karim Benzema up front or adding the Brazilian to the midfield. Either way there will be much onus on Kaka to perform after half a season where the Galactico has failed to truly find his feet. (Real are 11/2 to win both halves, 1/14 against.)
A feature of Real Madridâ€™s season has been away defeats to the strongest teams in Spain. Last time away from the Bernabeu it was at Athletic Bilbao and they have also come off second best at Barcelona and Sevilla.
Deportivo have had a good week results wise, with victories over Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Primera Division and a 1-0 win away at Sevilla. Their 3-1 win over Bilbao though was tarnished by the fact that left back Filipe Luis, arguably their best performer this season, picked up a horror injury scoring the first goal that will see him miss the rest of the campaign.
Natural right-back Diego Seoane, who played as left back in the Copa del Rey match against Sevilla in midweek, is likely to continue against Madrid, second choice left-back Angulo is also suffering from a severe injury, so Depor is without a natural left sided defender. (Deportivo are 4/1 to keepa clean sheet.)
The battle in the middle of the park will be key to the outcome and Brazilian Juca has been excellent for Deportivo this season. Further up the pitch, Rodolfo Bodipo is a strong target man and Adrian a young Spanish striker of great potential. (Deportivo are 4/1 to score in both halves.)
On the opening day of the season Real Madrid beat Deportivo 3-2 at the Bernabeu. With Barcelona in irrepressible form, Real Madrid simply have to keep winning, Depor wonâ€™t make it easy and it will be up to some of Los Blancos lesser lights to be the match winner in the absence of you know who.
101gg predicts: Deportivo La Coruna 1 â€“ Real Madrid 3 (19/1)
Full match odds here.