Return to the Riazor: Depor – Barcelona

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.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.

224 comments

  1. I hope Villa plays and scores. Not only to bring his confidence back up but, to also make use of the balance from the 40 mil euros we spent on him. I also hope for a clean sheet as well VV.

  2. “Real Madrid has a busted defense in ways that are far more worrisome for them than Barça missing Pique and Puyol are for FCB…”

    Perhaps, though figure in the other missing FCB defenders and I don’t think Madrid can feel particularly hard done by. I’d much rather see Barca head into more games (especially away fixtures after an international break) with a back line of Abidal-Pique-Puyol-Alves, perhaps I should add it to my xmas list! ;p

    Atleti…can’t decide whether I’d be happier with them keeping pace at the top to mix things up a little or for a little bit of breathing space. Surely they’ll fall away eventually…right…?

  3. I’ve missed Depor being in the first league just because I haven’t been hearing the Spanish commentators saying “Reekee” every time they talk about him. 😀

  4. So happy that the international break is over. I hate the international breaks. The 1st one breaks up the beginning of the season after 2 games and prevents any rhythm being formed. This break did give Puyol 2 weeks to recover without us missing him, but it also tire’s out our entire squad since most of them are international players. During Pep’s reign we played very poorly after the breaks and I hope Tito’s reign isn’t more of the same. I swear during Pep’s reign you could pretty much guarantee a draw or loss after an international break. My prediction, 2-1 for a Barca away win. Pedro with one to continue his fine form and Villa with the other. We concede from a set piece.

  5. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing Villa play 90 minutes. I’m hopeful that this will see some rhythm in our forward play and some searing through balls. Also, Iniesta should be playing the full 90. We’re wrapping him in too much cotton wool.

  6. Barça’s starting XI against Depor: Valdés, Cesc, Villa, Iniesta, Messi, Mascherano, Sergio, Jordi Alba, Montoya, Song and Tello #FCBLive

    1. Barcelona bench: Pinto, Bartra, Adriano, Dos Santos, Xavi, Alexis, Pedro.

      An unfamiliar name makes the bench! 😉

      Cesc and Iniesta in midfield should be interesting.

  7. Cesc in the Xavi role, where historically he’s been not great. Excited for Villa to get a start, let’s see what he does with it.

    1. Why? It’s just a game. Look on the bright side, Montoya is playing! At least, we have a natural defender on the pitch.

      Team will be fine. I expect a WIN. Or if they lose, I’m gonna go all tiger-mom on them. No pressure 😛

  8. Looks like we’ ll be getting the ball forward a little quicker which might suit Villa. Good to see Xavi get a little rest although I’d have liked to see Messi join him.

    1. Some strange ref decisions in that one.

      Gutted for Bilbao – they really needed that win for their confidence. They defended down to 10 men for almost 30 minutes, but it was too much.

  9. Not even 2 minutes into the match and Ray has the quote of the game.

    While talking about the Barca away strip, he said, “It looks like the sun threw up.” 😀

  10. Love the BeIN stream – you can really hear the stadium atmosphere – something we don’t get on Spanish TV.

  11. Not looking great in defence ATM. Both Song and Masch have made tackles they didn’t need to and not won the ball and positioning in last two/ three minutes has been awful.
    Other than that, great 🙂

    1. It was also a case of not being able to pay high wages, given the reduced monies in the second league.

    1. Masch was in the box and the player fell over him but the annoying thing for me is that he was allowed to run that far without the defence coming out to meet him, then there was no need for Masch to go to ground.

    2. Yes, but he rolls back into the box and that’s when the player goes over him. At least that’s what it looked like on Sky.

  12. It’s always so disorienting watching this team play without Xavi. The directness is exciting and all, but the team just doesn’t look like itself somehow…

  13. Man of the first half – Cesc.

    Controlling the midfield, assists, shots on goal, he was everywhere.

    Iniesta could have done much more in the midfield, especially dropping back and supporting Busquets when Cesc goes on his forward runs.

  14. I am growing more and more tired about Valdes , can’t help but thinking about the number of goals we would not have conceded if we had a better goalie .

    1. Seems the 3 Spain gk are having a horible season. VV Reina and Iker are not playing well. VV is conceding more uncharacteristic goals though.

    2. You’re being hard on VV on that goal. Anyone could have let that one in. It was practically through the entire team. Don’t get wrong, I think next year it’s time to bring in some competition but he’s hardly a liability. You sound like Eric Wynalda.

    3. Blasphemy… but that thought does cross my mind every now and then. I’d care less if he did not transform into a sweeper against big teams

  15. Cesc had an amazing 1st half. Like Ray said that’s the best he’s looked for Barca. Great to see.ive never seen his distribution from midfield look so good. That’s really reassuring.

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