The weekend arrives like a blast of fresh air. Sure, in this part of the world that blast is actually carrying a rainstorm and chilly temperatures, but whatever, I can deal with that for a return of domestic league football. I wasn’t able to catch a single minute of the international matches—this Friday and Monday thing somehow conflicts with my, you know, work schedule…and my, you know, going out with friends schedule as well—so this is an even greater return of football than normal.
We head to Galicia to face Deportivo la Coruña, the 18th placed team with 6 points. Their solitary win of the season came in their first match against Osasuna, one of just 2 teams beneath them in the table. That win, however, was at home, where they’ve got 1-1-1 (3GF, 3GA). It’s their 2 straight away losses, added onto their only home loss the week prior, that has contributed their current status. They played Valencia to a 3-3 draw at the Mestalla in Week 2, coming back from 3-1 down to earn themselves a point–granted they got their 3rd goal from a second yellow penalty on Ricardo Costa–and then earned 1-1 draws against Getafe and at Granada. It would be a mistake to take this team lightly, as if they’ll simply roll over. They’re much worse defensively away from home (6GA, 11GF), but 5 of those goals were shipped to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Interestingly, Riki, a former Real Madrid youth product who never made it to the first team before being shipped off to–get this, it’s shocking–Getafe, scored the opening goal of what turned out to be a rout in the other direction.*
Barça, for their part, still have defensive injuries to deal with, including both Pique and Alves missing out on the trip. Tito has countered this by including Jonathan dos Santos in the lineup for the first time this season: Valdés, Pinto, Jordi Alba, Adriano, Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano, Song, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Dos Santos, Cesc, Alexis, Villa, Pedro, Messi, Tello.
While it’s great to see JDS being selected for a match (I’m still a believer in his talent–more on that in a later post), it’s very unlikely that he’ll actually get any playing time. It’s more likely that a tired Messi will get the nod in central defense than JDS starting. And yeah, I understand probability so if JDS starts and Messi is on the bench through the 60th minute, don’t come tweeting me about all that crap. You can’t prove I’m wrong. Thing is, we don’t have the defensive depth to let Mascherano sit out, so it’s unlikely that Messi will allow himself to be rested while Mascher gets the nod. No way Pulga believes he can’t handle as much work as Jefecito.
So it’s a return to the world of La Liga, to Atleti somehow acting so un-Atleti like and hanging with us at the top of the table. Real Madrid has a busted defense in ways that are far more worrisome for them than Barça missing Pique and Puyol are for FCB (how crazy of a statement is that?). We’ll know the outcome of that match heading into our own, so there may be naught but status quo to play for or there will be a shock result to capitalize on. Either way, the most important thing is to beat Depor at the Riazor: no easy feat.
Official Prediction: 1-3. Valdes let’s an easy one beyond him to start the match and then Barça roar back. RM fans cry foul and demand that the red card Depor receive at 1-2 be reviewed at the highest level: by Mourinho. Goals by Pedro and Messi (2).
*Further fun: Riki scored what turned out to be the game-winner for Getafe against RM while he was on loan during 2004-05. The final score was 2-1 to Getafe. The other scorer for Getafe? Raul Albiol. Hat tip to @BassamDgheim for pointing out the Riki-RM connection. While he’s often considered a laughable strike option, he’s scored 40 goals in 174 appearances for Depor–not a great record, but not something that should make him ridiculed by all and sundry.