Liga Preview: Barça – Depor, Wednesday, 4pmEST, ESPN Deportes/ESPN360
It’s back to the regular old hum-drum of the league, eh? It’s the winding down, it’s the last 7 matches, it’s la recta final, all that jazz. Yawn. Deportivo la Coruña? On a Wednesday night? What could be more pedestrian? They’re not even in the top 10 of the league–oh wait, they are? Really? Depor? Haven’t they failed to win for like…18 months? Isn’t their top scorer Riki? Oh, it’s only been 6 matches since they won? Oh, Riki has 6 goals? That’s not too bad.
So I guess this isn’t going to be a walk in the park? I mean, maybe it will be, but we’re without Iniesta now for the rest of the league season and maybe even the Champions League final, if we make it, and that makes the match all the harder. Little Don Andres Gusiluz Ghostface is out with a recurrence of the hamstring injury that kept him out of action for the past few weeks; he returned for cameo appearances against Arsenal and RM at the weekend, but is now set to miss a solid month of fixtures. Can you type tears? Well, if you can, that’s what I’m doing.
Despite my half-joking about them above, Depor is no walk in the park, it’s just that without Felipe Luis, they’re struggling mightily and I don’t think they’ll get back to their winning ways against us. Not right now, not with the momentum and ability we have on our side. Messi and Xavi are playing out of this world and while we’ve got a massive derby coming up on Saturday and a ridiculous game against Inter on Tuesday, we’re in this thing to win it and Depor is not going to get in our way. They play boring, boring football, but don’t allow many goals, but they don’t score many either (36GF and 36GA all year; 15GF 16GA away from home), so I’m thinking it will be a fairly drab affair where they sit back and try to counter us sometimes, kinda, but mostly just are boring. Ugh.
What we have in store for us from now until the end of the league season is this:
- Depor, @Espanyol, Xerez, @Villarreal, Tenerife, @Sevilla, Valladolid.
What they (and I’m no longer talking Depor here) have is this:
- @Almeria, Valencia, @Zaragoza, Osasuna, @Mallorca, Athletic, @Malaga
The toughest game in there is our trip to Sevilla while their toughest match looks to be the trip to ONO Estadi to face Mallorca. Not that Villarreal is a walk in the park whatsoever, it’s just not as daunting this year as the trip to Sevilla, which is strange because Villarreal held their own against 1-1 in our meeting at the Camp Nou while we throttled Sevilla 4-0. I’m hoping that we arrive at the Sevilla match with a pasillo waiting for us, but that’s probably a bit much to ask. All-in-all, I think our road to the final jornada is a bit tougher, but it’s hardly worth talking about since we have our destiny in our own hands and it’s ours to lose.
And first step to not losing is beating the pants off of Depor. That means keeping Andres Guardado in check while also simply keeping them off the scoreboard. At their place we beat them 1-3 with 2 goals from Messi and one from Ibra (highlights here). So anyway, we’ve got to keep them bottled up and that means no stupid backwards headers–Busi. The key, to me, is to come out firing and not back down. I think that means a return to the backline of Alves, Puyol, Pique, Maxwell, even though I know that Abidal is back in training. I don’t want to push him back early and would rather have him for Espanyol and Inter than for this match against Depor.
Ibra will miss out after still not training with the squad, but I think he’ll be back for Espanyol and definitely for Inter. That’s good news for us in the future, but for now we’ll have to stick with our rotational striker group. I’m expecting to see Henry out there because, well, who else do we have? In the midfield I really, really want to see Yaya, so that he can show us all what we’ve been missing the last few matches (come on, Guardiola, play him more!) and so that Busi can get a rest. Kid’s all tuckered out, I think. Not only that, but I think that a midfield partnership of Yaya-Keita-Xavi will be dominate against Depor, who, while having a capable midfield, isn’t the team they were (Guardado’s words, not mine) and I think a stamp of authority on the match will go a long ways.
Up front, then, I’m going with Bojan, Henry, and Messi to round out the squad. La Pulga probably needs some kind of a rest, but he’s 22 and doesn’t seem to enjoy resting yet, so I think Guardiola will keep playing him. So, the full lineup:
Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, THE YAYA, Keita, Xavi, Bojan, Henry, Messi.
I’m not expecting a romp, but I think that a romp could be in the works. We’re firing on all cylinders (all 500 of them!) and we’re almost back to Status: Machine like we were towards the end of the season last year when we made small teams go kablooey! That’s right, kablooey.
Time: 10pm Barcelona/local time, 4pmEST, check your local time here
Watch: In the US, this match will be on ESPN Deportes and ESPN360.com
Weather: ~54F (~12C), partly cloud to clear, 0% chance of rain.
And begin disagreeing with me….NOW!