Tonight Guardiola and 21 of his players will travel to Galicia needing to secure another 3 points in what is going to be a La Liga season that I see coming down to the last few games. Guardiola himself said in a pre-match conference he believes the team will need to secure another points breaking record to lift the trophy come May.
Our opponents tonight are Deportivo La Coruña (currently 12th), managed by the very experienced Miguel Ángel Lotina, who most will remember as the manager of Espanyol, even leading them to 5th place in 2004/5. He has been at Depor now since 2007 and has done a decent job, but nothing to impress. In particular, his Depor sides of the last few seasons have been known for rather dull football and issues scoring goals. Last season Depor only managed to net 35 times (.92 per game), which was the second worse in the league.
However, they are always a much tougher task at home, which is evident in their statistics. 3 of their 5 wins are at home, 4 of their 6 draws, and only 1 of their 5 losses. Scoring has once again been a problem, only netting 15 goals in 18 goals (.83 per game). But, 10 of those 15 have been at home and of the 20 they conceded only 5 have been at home. Furthermore, they are unbeaten in their last 5 at Riazor, dating back to September 26, 2010. So statistically, this should be a tough game.
There has been some talk in the Spanish press that Lotina is going to revert from a 5 man defense they have been using lately, to a 4. Frankly, I do not se this happening and expect a rather defensive display from Depo.
And now Barca. We have a perfect 8 for 8 away record, scoring an impressive 29 goals (3.6 per game) and conceding just 4! Puyol is back from his small injury, and it is expected Guardiola will play his best starting 11, which everyone should now recognize as Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro Messi, Villa.
Villa has a great personal record against Depor, having scored 10 goals in his last 13 games against them. I don’t think he has been as bad as some say, he still finishes well, works very hard, and has provided some genius assists, but I’ll agree he has not hit the heights we imagined. Maybe tonight, as he looks for his 150th goal in La Liga, against a team he has luck with, we will see him relax a bit and not force his game. Messi recently hasn’t done too badly against Depor either with 4 goals in his last 6 against them (though I imagine he has a similar record against most teams).
We haven’t been at our best since the winter break, though a lot of that is due to defensive tactics from opponents, but every game played is one closer to when we will eventually start dazzling again. I hope Depor don’t defend exclusively and we see a bit of an open game. It may be wishful thinking, but Madrid face Villarreal tomorrow, so hopefully they can drop points. Either way, our objective tonight, like any other, is to get all 3 points.
Squad for tonight: (3 will not make game selection):
Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Adriano, Abidal, Maxwell, Puyol, Piqué, Milito, Sergio Busquets, Mascherano, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Afellay, Messi, Villa, Bojan, Jeffren, Pedro