First Hosts Last: Barcelona vs Depor

You could say that FC Barcelona has been going through a rough patch. The team has lost 3 of its last 4 matches in all competitions by a combined 8-3 and hasn’t kept a clean sheet since January 6. It sounds pretty bad. But Deportivo La Coruña fans would probably kill to be in the position that Barça fans are complaining about. Depor has earned just 17 points all season and just 2 since January 5. Whereas Barça fans are looking at the table and contemplating magic numbers,* Depor fans are staring at the hard reality of being 23 points from safety with only 36 points remaining. Those 23 points (conventional wisdom suggests 40 points keeps you from relegation) represent 6 more points than the team has earned all season. They sit last, with just 17 points from 26 matches.

They put up a spirited effort against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu 2 weeks ago, but ended up with nothing to show for it. They’ve only earned 2 points in the last 8 matches, having drawn 1-1 at Real Sociedad and 0-0 at home to Rayo. Their top scorer, Riki, has 10 goals. The rest of their team has a combined 19 goals. They’ve allowed 56. They’ve won just 3 times all year and never away from home. They’ve allowed 35 goals on the road, 5 more goals than Barcelona has allowed total. Oh and did I mention Riki is injured and remains doubtful for the weekend?

Given all that, Barcelona is having a very, very good year.

You can’t really blame Depor coach Fernando Vázquez for being a bit pessimistic and declaring that a far more important match for the Blanquiazules is against fellow Galicians Celta Vigo in a week. Given that, he has suggested he’ll rest Riki, who is suffering from a Grade 1 abductor pull, but that Riki will at least make the trip to Barcelona. Why is Riki’s exclusion potentially so important? He’s created like 8,000 chances against Barcelona the last time out, which, if you remember, was a rollicking 4-5 victory for the blaugrana in Galicia. Vázquez will also be without Ze Castro, Laure, and (the other) Kaká through injury.

That last match was a lesson in staying awake. One that Puyol would have been perfect for, simply because he would have been screaming in everyone’s face to wake up, pay attention, stop scoring own goals (ahem, looking at you, Jordi). Maybe this time around the team will not go to sleep at 3-0 up and let Depor back in. Obviously that means they have to get to 3-0 up, which is an altogether different question than it was in October when the team was scoring by the bucketload. The team still has moments of absurd offensive domination (see Getafe on February 10), but has been faltering as of late in an extremely difficult period.

Whatever the reason–fatigue, coaching, dark star matter–the team hasn’t been firing on all cylinders, yet is still sits 11 points ahead of Atleti and 13 ahead of Real Madrid. Only three times since the beginning of the league 26 matches ago has the team failed to score two or more goals: against Valencia twice and this past Sunday. The team has an 8 match home winning streak and have never once failed to score in a match. The other side is that the team, as mentioned, hasn’t held an opponent scoreless since January and have only done so a grand total of 5 times throughout the league season.

But who would put money on Deportivo even grabbing a draw, much less a win? It’s hard not to wonder how they’ll muster even a decent outing when their current best player is, I don’t know, Carlos Marchena? Juan Carlos Valeron? Paulo Assunção? Their combined ages are 103. Feel free to read that again. Maybe it’s Pizzi, he of the double against Barça, or Abel Aguilar, who is on loan from Hercules? Without Riki, the honest answer is that it’s probably no one. Valeron is 37 and well beyond his scintillating best. They’ve got 17 points at the moment because they’re simply not very good. Even compared to Mallorca, who have just 23 points.

What this has to be for Barça is a warm up, a tune up, a Milan-preview. It has to be an all-out match in which there are rotations, but no letoff in terms of intensity. Whoever is in the back line, and it won’t be Bartra because he just got injured again, presumably by carrying too many water bottles for starters at once, will have to marshall an actual defense in front of Pinto. He of the Braids will be standing in for Valdes for a while. Perhaps we’ll see Tello start, maybe Messi will even get a rest. It’s hard to know, but with a potentially season-defining match on Tuesday and the club administration in the news for all the wrong reasons, there could be a lot more pressure on the team than usual. If they can relax and just play, they’ll be fine. If Roura can actually pull this off, he’ll be a hero. But it starts against Depor. It starts now.

Official Prediction: 3-1. Will we ever keep a clean sheet?

* The simple math says 25, but obviously that’s not quite right because FCB and Atleti play each other. Sadly, even I can’t really be bothered to do G + 1 − WA − LB….or, I suppose, to research it better. Those of you with greater skills at math things can probably tell me how wrong I am.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. ooga aga
    March 9, 2013

    re: 40 pts to stay safe rule of thumb.

    last 5 years you would have needed 37, 42, 42, to 43, and 44 pts to be safe from relegation in la liga

    incidentally, in the EPL you would have needed 31, 35, 36, 37, 40

    this would be a small statistcial suggestion that here is more parity among teams in the Liga.

  2. nzm
    March 9, 2013

    Marchena is out after being Yellow/Red’ed in last week’s game against Rayo.

    Fernando Vázquez has only coached Depor for 2 games, so it will be interesting to see how/if he’s made any changes to the team’s performance in this time. They almost did beat Madrid despite the 1-2 scoreline and holding Rayo to a 0-0 at Vallecas was no mean feat.

    If Riki doesn’t play (and I won’t believe it until the team walks out onto the pitch because he’s already back in training) then the danger will come from Pizzi, Camuñas, Oliveira and Aguilar.

    I think that Pique will miss this match after picking up his 5th Yellow in the clasico, but I haven’t seen any mention of this on the club website. Pique is also possibly facing further sanction if the RFEF decides to take him to task for his handcuffs gesture at the Bernabeu clasico.

  3. barca96
    March 9, 2013

    I’ve always fancied Riki since his Getafe days. It’s not just his hairstyle that caught my eyes, same as Villa 🙂

    I always wondered why Madrid never gave him a chance then. But like many players who had a great first season, they fizzle out.

    I remember when Chivu (Inter) joined Ajax and had a superb first season although picking up a few red cards along the way. People in Holland were wondering if the shoes will be too big for him in the 2nd season. Thankfully it still fitted him perfectly.

  4. barca96
    March 9, 2013

    Somebody on the Guardian suggested that Eusebio take over the first team duties if we progress further in CL. Thankfully Blitzen was there to help him. That commentor made some good points though.

    Invite Flake and Cortezuma (playmaker, Dublin, ambrocius) when you see them Blitzen.

  5. barca96
    March 9, 2013

    Does anyone (old timer) remember Djalminha? One of the most skillfull players I’ve ever seen. Has a bags of tricks with him. I remember him running into the box and used his heel to flick the ball over the defenders in the box. And he succeeded.

    I’ve seen that trick before but I never thought that anyone would use it on a football field in a professional match. Can’t remember if he managed to score though. Crazy guy!!

    There used to be so many skilful players around. Is the game getting too serious for any player to be fancy?

    Now people associate Ronaldo with skill. It always pisses me off when I hear that. Jay Jay Okocha, that’s skill, Ronaldinho, that’s skill.

    • G6O
      March 9, 2013

      Djalminha was a genius. Too bad he he had “attitude issues”…

      Regarding skill: the overall skill level has definitely gone up; the players who are coming up now have grown up watching Ronaldinho in his prime and learning his tricks. The problem is, quite paradoxically, that this has largely taken the “genius” element out of it – you see players doing Ronaldinho’s tricks but they do them because they’re trying to be like him, not because it comes naturally to them, and often times not because the game situation really requires it. Cristiano is a perfect example of that.

  6. A little late but I wanted to give my 2 cents on the whole supporters section debate in the last thread.

    First off, let it be very clear that it is an extremely complex situation and the complexity has led many cules and even the club to be ill informed and take poor stances on this.

    The complexity here comes firstly from the fact that Barca or even Camp Nou do not exist in isolation. Hooliganism, fan violence and ultras have existed for decades and continue to exist in the whole of Spain. It has been a threat to cules in away stadiums, as well as in Camp Nou. It has been threat outside of Camp Nou, in nearby bars etc. as well. To put the point across, consider that cules have been subject to abuse and violence such as attacks by sticks, pelting with bottles, flares and in some cases even stabbed.

    Another major point of complexity comes from the fact that while the extremely violent, neonazi skinhead part of the ultras is what gets highlighted, it was always only a small part of the huge supporter groups that exist. ( The most violent ones were generally Casual or a faction of the Boixos)
    There are a huge number of fans that were non violent that are painted with the same brush which does them a great disservice for all the loyalty and support they have given the club.
    (Much more than most penyas in my opinion)

    Letting the Boixos or Casuals Back into Camp Nou is the worst thing one can do. Undermining one of the most important work Laporta did and I really cannot highlight this enough, with Gaspart they had incredible amounts on power, and lets be clear we’re talking about violent,racist neo fascist criminals here, Laporta mostly did away with them and destroyed most of the power they enjoyed. A HUGE task by any measure.

    BUT it has come at the cost of greatly punishing other supporter groups who are non violent and have stood by the team for many years. And that has come at the cost of a dead atmosphere in the Camp, however anyone may try to justify it.

    (part 1)

  7. Specifically I’d like to point out the Almogavers. They have fervently supported the club for almost 25 years. For a quarter of a century they have supported the club, singing their lungs out, waving flags coordinating tifos and in general making the Camp Nou have atmosphere with the best parts of English and Italian style mixed with their own. In the worst of times, these young and economically weak cules spend their hard earned money to be checked like criminals just so that they can come to the Gol Sud and give everything to the club for 90 minutes and cheer it on.

    In that entire time I haven’t heard them linked to even a single incident of violence. That is because they have been strictly non violent and also very importantly apolitical in this heavily political club and the scene of youth groups.

    “Almogàvers distinguished itself by its non-violent, apolitical fan model characterized by the organization of large, spectacular choreographed displays. The group’s article of association prohibits the use of physical violence among its members.”

    When they are lumped up with the worst of the Boixos and Casuals and other violent ones by fans, media or even the club, it makes me sad and angry that we do a great insult to them.

    Why should die hard cules suffer because the action of a few other idiots? Be treated as extremists even when they are the farthest thing from that? Why should they suffer from extremist rival and barca fan groups who threaten and do violence against them?

    There needs to be discussion on these matters and serious one that takes into account the many types of groups and fans. Branding all under just one banner (almost what Laporta did) isn’t fair to the others. It specially isn’t fair when such supporter groups, in this cules’ eyes are far more important than old men who sit in their club houses (penyas) and do nothing.

  8. mom4
    March 9, 2013


    Barcelona line-up (official): Pinto – Alves Puyol Mascherano Adriano – Cesc Song Thiago – Alexis Villa Tello

    Messi sits…a sign of the Apocalypse?

    Cesc plays…so maybe we won’t see Ini, Xavi, and him on the same midield- Hooray!

    Abi doesnt play… 🙁

    • G6O
      March 9, 2013

      I just saw the line ups – I am really surprised by Messi’s absence, apparently we’re taking the situation seriously this time…

  9. Blau-Grenade
    March 9, 2013

    Whats going on at Camp Nou? Who is the guy making the speech?

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