The Spanish champions will once again have the chance to go five points clear at the top of the table...The Curious Case Of Deportivo
Deportivo La Coruna are in a curious position in the Spanish Primera Division table. Having collected 21 points from 17 matches, the Galician side are 12th in the table, eight points above the relegation zone and six points off a Europa League slot - the perfect example of an also-ran with no urge of an adventure for the remainder of the league campaign.
Adventure for Depor, though, comes in the form of the Copa del Rey. The 3-1 extra-time defeat of Cordoba in the second-leg of their Round of 16 tie secured them a place in the quarter-finals and also saw them win their second successive game in the new year. On Sunday Depor defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in the Basque country for only their second away victory of the season in La Liga.
Going into Saturday's encounter against mighty Barcelona, Depor would be seeking at least a point at the Riazor. Miguel Angel Lotina's side are not exactly formidable on their home ground as they have won just three times. On the positive side, though, they have lost just once and have conceded only five goals in eight matches.
Picking Up Pace
Barcelona may still remain the best club side on the planet but the Spanish champions have yet to pick up momentum in the new year. The Blaugrana did commence 2011 on a winning note but the 2-1 league victory over Levante didn't come without moments of nervousness and doubt. Then in midweek Pep Guardiola's team just about crawled into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey as they got the better of Athletic Bilbao in the Round of 16 only on away goals' rule.
However, the former European champions have bounced back in style every time they have struggled and one expects them to do so this time too. Barcelona have a phenomenal away record in the Spanish Primera Division as they have won all eight matches on the road. Not only have the Blaugrana emerged victorious in those games, they have triumphed too, having scored a whooping 29 goals, conceding a miserly four.
Against a Deportivo La Coruna side who are floating in mid-table, Barca would expect themselves to pick up maximum points. With Lionel Messi back in the team, the world's most entertaining football team would also look to play exhibition football.
With 46 points from 17 matches, the Catalan side are currently two points clear of arch-rivals and second-placed Real Madrid and a win will increase that advantage to five until Sunday at least.
Deportivo La Coruna
Riki, Michel and Andres Guardado are set to miss the game through injury, while Urreta and Knut Olav Rindaroy are doubtful. Albert Lopo, Manuel Pablo and Lassad Nouioui all will return after being rested in midweek.
Lionel Messi, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique all will start the league encounter against Deportivo after missing last weekend's encounter. Ibrahim Afellay, signed in the winter, is in line to make his league debut. Left-back Maxwell has been included in the squad after overcoming a thigh strain.