Match Preview: Deportivo de la Coruña v FC Barcelona
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Just four days after Barça’s epic 6-1 win (match report: highlights) gave Luis Enrique’s side a 6-5 aggregate victory over PSG and secured a place in the quarter finals, the Liga leaders have a trip to Deportivo de la Coruña (Sunday at 4.15pm CET).
Barça somehow managed to make it past Paris Saint-Germain 6-5 on aggregate on Wednesday thanks to stunning performances from Neymar Jr and a late late winner from Sergi Roberto securing a happy ending in one of the most enthralling matches ever witnessed at the Camp Nou.
However, it is now time to refocus on the battle for the Liga title and Luis Enrique’s players know they cannot afford to slip up. Three points on the road are a necessity to extend their lead at the top to four points and put pressure on Real Madrid, who are at home to Betis later in the day and have a game in hand.
The manager has had to make some changes to his squad as both Neymar Jr and Rafinha are unavailable. Barça’s number ‘11’ is suffering from pain in his left adductor, while the Brazilian midfielder has gastroenteritis and join Aleix Vidal and Mathieu on the sidelines. Jordi Masip has been left out of the squad and Barça B’s Aleñá comes in.
The final match day squad for the trip to Galicia is: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, Arda, A. Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Umtiti and Aleñá (28).
Deportivo’s new coach Pepe Mel has some injury issues to contend with too, with Guilherme's chances of recovering in time looking slim and wingers Marlos Moreno and Gael Kakuta also missing out.
Luis Enrique has emphasised the need to forget about the incredible Champions League comeback and focus on Depor, insisting his side are up for the challenge: “I trust my players’ experience to know how much is at stake. We are aware that there is still a lot to be decided, there are eight teams left in the Champions League, three in LaLiga and two in the Copa.”
Deportivo, he added, "are dangerous opposition who have made changes and managed to secure five points from three games. I am worried about their team as a unit.”
Pepe Mel, the new Deportivo manager, spoke about making it difficult for the blaugranas: “The players know it will be a difficult challenge, but we have a fit squad.” He also focused on how Barça “will come here feeling like they’re floating on clouds and maybe believe they are better than us, but our morale is also in the clouds.”
All is well at FC Barcelona as the fans can dream of winning the treble once again. Since the shock 4-0 defeat at the Parc des Princes, the Catalans have won all five games and scored 17 goals in just the last three.
Deportivo come into this fixture with renewed optimism since Pepe Mel halted their slide towards the bottom three thanks to creditable 1-1 draws against Atlético Madrid and Real Betis as well as a 1-0 win over Sporting Gijón. But the Galicians are still not out of the woods, with only five points separating them from the relegation zone. Their improving form and newfound defensive solidity, with only two goals conceded in the last three, will put Barça to the test.
FC Barcelona comfortably beat Depor at the Camp Nou earlier this season with Messi, Suárez and Rakitic (2) scoring in a 4-0 win. And their recent history at Riazor makes for comforting reading, with a total of 21 goals in the last four games, 12 of those under Luis Enrique.
Since 2010/11, they have only conceded four and those were all in the thrilling 5-4 win. The other two games were goal-fests but only Barça found the net as they went home with 4-0 and 8-0 wins in the bag.
Wherever you are in the world, we have you covered. And if you can’t get to a TV don’t worry as our very own Nick Simons will be commentating on Radio Barça. You'll find the link on the home page shortly before the game kicks off.
And you can always follow the action on our official Twitter account for constant updates as the action unfolds.
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