Barça travel to Galicia tomorrow to face Deportivo de La Coruña at Riazor in the final game of the first half of La Liga 2014/15 (Sunday 7 pm). Jeremy Mathieu with a sore achilles tendon will miss the trip as a precaution while Xavi is hoping for medical clearance after training normally with the group this morning. Munir El-Haddadi has returned to training with Barça B and he is expected to start for Eusebio’s team against Recreativo tomorrow.
It will be interesting to see how Luis Enrique handles the fixture schedule over the next couple of weeks. After Depor we face Atlético at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday then we return to Elche for a league game next Saturday. Then it’s the return game with Atlético on Wednesday 28 January before Villarreal at home in the league on Sunday 1 February.
The team has been scoring plenty of goals at Camp Nou (an impressive 34 in the last seven home games) but away games in La Liga have been far less productive with only six goals scored in the last seven visits. The fact that we couldn’t find the net at Malaga, Getafe and Real Sociedad should be a warning that we cannot take tomorrow’s game or next week’s trip to Elche lightly.
Lucho will need to find the formula to put out a strong team in each of the five matches we face in the next fifteen days. For Deportivo there seems little reason to believe the Barça coach won’t repeat the starting XI that beat Atlético last Sunday. Bravo, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez and Neymar were all rested in midweek and right now this is arguably are strongest line-up, Mathieu, Xavi and Pedro being first in line as back up.
The main attraction of Deportivo will be to see keepie-uppie king Isaac Cuenca playing against us for the first time. Cuenca broke into Barça’s first team during Pep Guardiola’s final season, scoring four goals in thirty appearances. He gave two or three dazzling performances that demonstrated his undoubted potential before injuries and inconsistency sidelined him, leading to a move to La Coruña last summer. He has scored twice in fifteen games for his new club though his inconsistency continues to frustrate fans. Tomorrow he is sure to be highly motivated to show Barça what we have lost.
Deportivo are a long way from the Super Depor of recent history. They have been relegated twice and then re-promoted twice in the last four years and this season they are again struggling in 16th place on just 17 points. However, historically Riazor has been a difficult ground with Depor winning 17 of the meetings there to Barça’s 15 victories with ten draws. Recent visits have been more favourable to Barça with our last defeat at the end of the 2007/08 season. The last meeting between the teams at Riazor was in October 2012 with Tito Vilanova’s Barça winning a nine-goal thriller with a hat-trick from Leo Messi.
Deportivo: Fabricio; Juanfran, Lopo, Sidnei, Luisinho; Cuenca, Rodriguez, Bergantiños, Dominguez, Cavaleiro; Riera.
Barça: Bravo,; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar.
Prediction: Deportivo 0 Barça 3
Date: Sunday 18 January 2015. Kick-off 7 pm local time.