Squad news

PREVIEW: DEPORTIVO - BARCELONA (LIGA, 20h00)

25 Apr 2008
Depor dreams of Europe while Barca is only thinking of the Champions League second-leg match with Manchester United. Depor also searches its sixth straight win at home while Barca the second place in liga. That's the reality for the two teams colliding at the Riazor. Lotina is recovering Manuel Pablo, but he still has to decide who will replace Sergio: Verd� or Juan Rodr�guez. Meanwhile Rijkaard is reserving Messi, Xavi and Eto'o for the visit to Old Trafford.

STATISTICS: FOUR YEARS WITHOUT A WIN OVER BARCA
Deportivo has been unable to defeat Barcelona during the last four years and a half, the Galicians have only achieved two draws against the Catalans within the last eight confrontations in liga. Those two draws were achieved during the last two meetings at the Riazor 3-3 (season 2005/2006) and 1-1 (season 2006/2007). The last time that Depor defeated Barca was at Camp Nou on October 18th, 2003 (2-0, with goals of Luque and Sergio).

But Depor is arriving to this game in the middle of a positive streak: the Galicians accumulate four wins in a row in la liga and at the same time, five straight victories at the Riazor. If Depor achieves a victory on this game, it will be the first occasion since the season 2002/2003 in which the Galician side is able to add six consecutive wins at home. Also, it will be the first time since the season 2003/2004 in which Depor is able to win five straight matches in la liga.

Besides, Depor has dramatically improved its numbers as a home team. The Galicians were the last place in this classification after the first round ended, because they only added five points in the first nine matches played at the Riazor. But things changed during the second part of the tournament as Depor has added six wins plus one draw during the following seven games played at home. Reason why Depor is now 14th in the table of best home teams.

Meanwhile, Barcelona is arriving to the game in a middle of a negative streak, the Catalans have only added one win within the last eight matches played in liga, reason why they already lost the second place with Villarreal. Besides the difference with Real Madrid  is now of eleven points, if Barca loses the game at the Riazor and if Real Madrid wins the home game against Athletic Bilbao, then the Catalans will no longer have options to clinch the title in la liga.

Despite this, Barcelona still to be a tough rival. In fact, the Catalan side represents the team that has suffered less defeats on this season, only six: 1-3 at Villarreal,  0-2 at Getafe, 0-1 Vs. Real Madrid, 2-4 at Atl�tico Madrid, 1-2 Vs. Villarreal and 2-3 at Betis. Although three of this six defeats were suffered within the last eight matches. Taking in mind the record as a visiting team, Barcelona is 7th in the table with 20 points achieved in 16 games played in this condition.

DEPORTIVO: JUAN RODRIGUEZ OR VERDU?
The main question at Deportivo's squad is who will replace Sergio in midfield. The Catalan is one of the most in-form players in the squad as he has scored two goals in the last two games, but he�s suspended after he picked his fifth yellow card of the season in the past game against Osasuna. Antonio Tom�s was the first option of Lotina, but the Cantabrian was discarded for a muscular problem on his right leg (quadriceps). Therefore the remaining two choices are Juan Rodr�guez and Joan Verd�.

The Andalucian is a more defensive alternative, while the Catalan is an option that would allow a better ball possession, something that Lotina wants for this game. However, the Basque coach didn't want to confirm who will play alongside Julian De Guzm�n (see article below). An interesting fact is that both men haven't been regulars in Lotina's squads during recent matches. Rodr�guez has only played one game as starter within the last two months (Vs. Racing Santander), while Verd� has only played 14 minutes during the same period (also in the game against Racing) His last appearance as starter was in February against Recreativo.

In defence, Manuel Pablo is returning after suspension and the Canarian has also surpassed a knee injury, meaning he will cover the right-back position. The central spots will be once again for the trio Albert Lopo, Fabricio Coloccini and Pablo Amo. Filipe Luis will continue performing as a left-back. However, Lotina said that Manuel Pablo might not be fit to play, reason that will force him to play with two central defenders and with Coloccini or Chapi performing at the right. This option means a 4-4-2 formation.

Other player that's returning after missing the game in Pamplona is �ngel Lafita, the Aragonian will appear as a playmaker performing towards the left wing. Christian Wilhelmsson will do the same thing on the right, the Swedish winger was struggling with a muscular problem on his left leg (biceps), but he's fit to play. In this way, Lotina will replace the scheme with two strikers used at Reyno de Navarra and will return to use the 5-2-2-1 figure with two playmakers, but always as long as Manuel Pablo is fit to play.

Finally, Xisco will be the lonely striker in the formation. The Majorcan surprised with his five goals between the games against Murcia and Racing Santander, but the 21-year-old attacker has remained scoreless in the last two liga encounters. He will continue to pursuit the mark of eleven goals in one season achieved by Albert Luque and Diego Trist�n on the seasons 2004/2005 and 2005/2006. But Xisco isn�t obsessed with this marks, he prefers a victory of his team, as he said on Friday: �If I could help the team with a goal, it will be welcome. But I don�t want to score just because we are facing Barca. What matters is to see the team winning, achieving the three points and continuing with this positive streak.�

A player that will be followed really closely is Fabricio Coloccini, the Argentinean has been linked with Barcelona for the next season, however the ex-Milan defender didn't want to talk about this speculation, as he said at Abegondo on Thursday "We still have to end the present campaign. We hope to do it in the best possible way,  entering into Europe. Later, we can talk with the club. They will decide and we will see if there's a concrete offer. They know my main target is to stay in La Coru�a. After that, we can see the offers."

The list of called players presents the novelties of Rub�n Castro and David V�zquez Gonz�lez �Chapi�. Lotina said recently that with Fabril fighting for the promotion to Segunda, he will try to avoid to include any player from the B squad in his list of called players, but since Barrag�n is already out for the rest of the season, he doesn�t have a choice and will be forced to call a Fabril's defender for the remaining games in Primera. Meanwhile Rub�n Castro is returning after his failed exit to Elche, he has only played six times in la liga and his last appearance was in January during the 0-3 defeat with Atl�tico Madrid. Together with Antonio Tom�s and Barrag�n, the casulties for injury reasons are Valer�n (knee) and Andr�s Guardado (stress fracture).

Called players (19): Aouate, Mun�a (goalkeepers); Manuel Pablo, Pablo Amo, Lopo, Coloccini, Filipe, Chapi (defenders); Verd�, Juan Rodr�guez, De Guzman, Wilhelmsson, Lafita,  Cristian (midfielders) Rub�n Castro, Bodipo, Riki, Taborda and Xisco (strikers).

BARCELONA: NO MESSI, NO XAVI, NO ETO'O
It's clear that Barcelona is only thinking of the Champions League semi-final series against Manchester United. In la liga, the Catalans are eleven points under first place Real Madrid, and with only five games remaining in the calendar, coach Frank Rijkaard is only betting in the European title, reason why he's resting the best men in his squad.

For the game against Depor, midfielder Andr�s Iniesta and defender Gabriel Milito are suspended after they picked their fifth yellow card of the season in the previous game with RCD Espanyol. Besides, Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Xavi Hern�ndez are out of the match since Rijkaard is preferring to rest them for the crucial game at Old Trafford. Also, it must be reminded the absence of Ronaldinho for injury reasons (some journalists say he's not injured but discarded for a confrontation with president Laporta).

All of this means that Rijkaard will present at the Riazor a very different squad compared to the one that faced Manchester United for the Champions League. In fact, the line-up has been thought taking in mind the team that will face the British side in the returning leg. V�ctor Vald�s will be the keeper of the squad, the Catalan keeper is currently second in the list for the Zamora trophy (31 goals allowed in 33 games) and he will try to achieve a clean sheet in his personal battle with Real Madrid's Casillas (30 goals allowed in 33 matches).

The line of four defenders will be conformed by Gianluca Zambrotta playing at the right-back position. Since Abidal played against Manchester United, this time the spot on the left sector will be for Sylvinho. The central positions will be for Carles Puyol and Rafael M�rquez. Puyol missed the first leg against the Premiership's club due to suspension, while M�rquez is playing at the Riazor because the Mexican picked his second yellow card in Champions League in the game played at Camp Nou, therefore he can't play at Old Trafford.

Another player that will be rested is Toure Yaya, the Ivori Cost midfielder hasn't missed a game since March and Rijkaard will left him sited on the bench, therefore the line of three midfielders will be conformed by Deco, Edmilson and Eidur Gudjohnsen. Portuguese Deco has just played fifteen times on this liga season and he was doubtful for a back injury, but Rijkaard will give him a chance in the game.

The 4-3-3 formation will be completed with Giovani Dos Santos, Bojan Krkic and Thierry Henry. The first man didn't play against Manchester United while the other two only played for a few minutes. It's the first season for Giovani with the first squad, but the Mexican already performed during 24 matches in la liga, he will cover the right wing.

Henry and Bojan represent opposite stories at the Catalan club, the ex-Arsenal has only scored seven times in this liga season and his last goal was scored in February against Zaragoza. The criticism against him has been a constant thing during the last months. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Bojan has impressed everybody with his 8 goals in 26 liga matches, he's the most in-form striker in the team since he has scored four goals within the last five liga encounters. Maybe the biggest relief for Depor's fans is the absence of Samuel Eto'o, the Cameroon striker has scored ten goals against Depor in his career (four with Barca and six with Mallorca).

The list of called player includes the name of striker Pedro Rodr�guez 'Pedrito', a 20-year-old attacker that has just played seven minutes on the season, while ex-Celta captain Jos� Manuel Pinto returns to the Riazor after he joined the Catalan side in January as the replacement of long-term injured keeper Albert Jorquera.

List of called players (18): Vald�s, Pinto (goalkeepers); Oleguer, Zambrotta, Puyol, Thuram, M�rquez, Sylvinho, Abidal (defenders) Tour�, Deco, Gudjohnsen, Edmilson (midfielders); Giovani, Bojan, Henry, Ezquerro and Pedrito (strikers).

PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Deportivo: Aouate - Manuel Pablo, Lopo, Pablo Amo, Coloccini, Filipe Luis - De Guzm�n, Juan Rodr�guez or Verd� - Wilhelmsson, Lafita - Xisco.
FC Barcelona: Vald�s - Zambrotta, Puyol, M�rquez, Sylvinho - Edmilson, Deco, Gudjohnsen - Giovani, Bojan, Henry.
Referee: Delgado Ferreiro (13 games on the season, only 3 wins for the local team).
Kick-off: 20h00 (Riazor).
Record Vs. Barcelona: 19 wins for Depor, 14 draws, 42 wins for Barcelona (Primera).
Record At the Riazor: 16 wins for Depor, 9 draws, 12 wins for Barcelona (Primera).

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