Depor have to bounce back from Copa del Rey elimination, though they will not be given an easy time of it against los Blancos, who will be without Cristiano Ronaldo...
Riazor, La Coruna
Copa del Rey elimination for Deportivo La Coruna against Sevilla on Wednesday night was a virtual formality after the Galicians had contrived to lose the home leg of the quarter-final 3-0 last week. And so it became, with a 1-0 win leaving Depor eliminated and with the league their sole aim.
Coach Miguel Angel Lotina certainly seemed to see a loss coming, employing several second string players in his side for the midweek encounter, clearly keeping one eye on the club’s seemingly ever-worsening injury problems.
Filipe was the latest high profile Depor player to be struck by serious injury, suffering terrible damage to his ankle in scoring his side’s first goal last weekend. The Brazilian has promised to return a better player, while Real Madrid centre-back Pepe, who is also sidelined due to a long-term physical complaint is sympathetic with the left-sided player's plight.
“The images of his injury have impacted us all, but he is a player who has proved his worth,” the Portuguese international said. “Hopefully he will recover as soon as possible to give joy to all lovers of football. I give him a big hug.”
While the personal damage to the left-sided ace is clearly great, it will impact equally upon his team, on whom he had such a profound influence. Though Depor played in midweek, this will be their first time without their star man in a Liga fixture, and the opponents could barely have come any tougher.
Cristiano Ronaldo continues to dominate the headlines as one would expect one of world football’s greatest personalities to do when married to one of the world’s greatest clubs. The headlines that 'CR9' continues to generate are mixed, however, with last weekend’s match-winning brace against Malaga juxtaposed dramatically with the red card he earned in the same fixture.
Initially handed a two-game ban by the League’s disciplinary committee, Real swiftly appealed to get the €94 million man’s suspension reduced just to a solitary fixture, though they were unsuccessful in their quest.
Los Blancos will hope to recover Gonzalo Higuain, who is actually their top scorer in league play this term. The French-born Argentine star has been in irresistible form, upstaging several high-profile summer signings to finally secure a starting berth in the side, though injury has prevented him from featuring of late.
The second Galactico era kicked off with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Depor on the season’s opening day, and if president Florentino Perez is to taste Primera Division success this term, los Blancos cannot afford to allow great rivals Barcelona to pull away any further. Presently the gap stands at five points, by kick-off it could be eight. A win is imperative.
WON 1-0 (a) Sevilla (Copa del Rey, January 27)
WON 3-1 (a) Athletic Bilbao (Liga, January 23)
LOST 2-0 (a) Mallorca (Liga, January 17)
DREW 2-2 (h) Valencia (Copa del Rey, January 13)
WON 1-0 (h) Osasuna (Liga, January 10)
WON 2-0 (h) Malaga (Liga, January 24)
LOST 1-0 (a) Athletic Bilbao (Liga, January 16)
WON 2-0 (h) Mallorca (Liga, January 10)
DREW 0-0 (a) Osasuna (Liga, January 3)
WON 6-0 (h) Real Zaragoza (Liga, December 19)
Depor’s powerful left sided tandem of Andres Guardado and Filipe are both injured, decimating the club’s strongest unit. Brayan Angulo, Lassad Nouioui, Mista and Sergio Gonzalez also continue to nurse injuries.
In addition, Riki, Alberto Lopo and Daniel Arunzubia are all carrying knocks. Rodolfo Bodipo is also doubtful.
Juan Rodriguez returns after suspension.
Probable Starting XI: Aranzubia; Pablo, Lopo, Colotto, Laure; Tomas, Juca; Alvarez, Dominguez, Rodriguez; Adrian
There are a whole number of injury problems for coach Manuel Pellegrini to consider. Gonzalo Higuain and Rafael van der Vaart appear exceptionally unlikely to feature, while Ezequiel Garay is a further doubt.
Mahamadou Diarra and Lassana Diarra are both out. Gago continues to toil as well.
Probable Starting XI: Casillas; Ramos, Albiol, Arbeloa, Marcelo; X. Alonso, Granero, Guti; Kaka; Raul, Benzema
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brazilian holding midfielder Juca will have a big role to play on Saturday night. It will be his responsibility to break up attacks, but he has already shown a penchant for getting forward to score. The 30-year-old’s season has been disjointed to date, but his recent form has been promising.
There have been tentative questions asked about the form of playmaker Kaka, who has even been linked with a far-fetched move back to Milan. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that the Brazilian has not had the impact that Manuel Pellegrini might have wished. With Ronaldo missing, there will be an onus of him to impress.
Though Depor played in midweek, it was by no means their first string side, so fatigue really shouldn’t be a problem for the hosts. What is more of an issue is the fact that they will be missing many of their star men, though Real would also point out key absences in their ranks too. Los Blancos, however, have greater depth than their hosts, which should be enough to secure a victory.
Deportivo La Coruna 0-1 Real Madrid