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FC Barcelona head to the opposite side of the Iberian Peninsula on Sunday for an early-evening league clash versus Deportivo La Coruña at the Estadio Municipal de Riazor, with kick-off set for 7.00pm (CET).
Barça hope to keep their well-oiled offensive machine rolling after last Sunday’s impressive 3-1 victory over defending La Liga champions Atlético Madrid. The Catalans were also unstoppable in Thursday’s 4-0 rout at Elche—finalising a 9-0 win on aggregate—that sent them steaming into the Spanish Cup quarterfinals, where they’ll face the very same Atlético side they just beat.
Following Thursday night’s win, Luis Enrique’s squad will have had less than 72 hours of rest when they face Deportivo. Defender Jérémy Mathieu—whose sensational free kick goal on Thursday night against Elche made him the 17th different Barça player to find the net this season—has been ruled out of Sunday’s match as a precaution after he reported feeling a bit of soreness in his left Achilles tendon.
Midfielder Xavi Hernández had been dealing with a mild calf strain and did not play in either of the Cup victories over Elche or in last weekend’s league win against Atlético. Although Xavi trained with the rest of his teammates both on Friday and Saturday mornings despite not yet having been granted medical clearance, he has also been left off the squad and will not be making the trip to Riazor.
Brazilian forward Neymar, who had missed a few training sessions earlier in the week after taking a hard tackle to the ankle—which drew blood and gave the Camp Nou crowd quite a scare before he came back on—in the Atlético match, rejoined the group on Friday and is on the squad headed to La Coruña.
Head coach: Luis Enrique
Head coach Luis Enrique has done an outstanding job of weathering the storm that blew in after his team fell to Real Sociedad two weeks ago. He and his players remained cool after the disappointing setback in Anoeta and then proceeded to reel off three straight commanding triumphs, with the gargantuan win over Atlético now looking like a catharsis just when Barça’s season seemed to hanging by a thread.
Luis Enrique knows the big key is to keep on winning games. “Good football will bring us closer to victory,” he said after last week’s Liga win.
In Saturday’s press conference ahead of the Deportivo match, the FC Barcelona skipper addressed questions surrounding his team’s inability to win consistently on the road this season. “It’s only logical for us to face greater difficulties when we play away” he admitted. “There are a lot of reasons why it’s easier to play at home, and we expect a tough match against a Deportivo side that will be a threat in certain phases of the game.”
Well aware of the temptation his players face in becoming distracted by the notion of having to face Atlético twice more in the coming weeks, he insisted that his men were focused on Deportivo. “We have to win every game and shouldn’t be thinking about other things,” he emphasised. “Right now, all we care about is tomorrow’s match. We’ll have time to talk about Atlético afterwards.”
Where they stand
The blaugrana have been on quite a little roll recently winning three straight in the last ten days. A pair of blowout wins over Elche for a 9-0 aggregate win and a berth in the Spanish Cup quarterfinals bookended an industrious 3-1 victory over Atlético de Madrid. The Catalans currently sit in second place in the league table, one point behind Real Madrid, who have a game in hand.
Meanwhile, Deportivo have won 2, tied 2 and lost 3 in their last six matches, including a big 1-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao two weeks ago in their last game at Riazor. They are now in 17th place in the league standings, just one point above relegation. It should be noted, however, that the bottom 12 teams in La Liga are separated by just nine points.
Players to watch
The spotlight will rightly be focused on FC Barcelona’s three-headed monster, the fear-inducing front line of Leo Messi—the runner-up in last week’s Ballon d’Or awards ceremony—Neymar and Luís Suárez. The so-called attacking “trident” single-handedly gobbled up Atlético Madrid’s robust defensive unit, scoring all three blaugrana goals, and have given Barça fans hope that this could be the year that the Catalans get back to winning multiple titles.
For Deportivo, one player has gotten all the attention this week, and it is a name that Barça fans know well. Isaac Cuenca, the 23 year-old born in Reus, Catalonia is in the middle of his first season in La Coruña after leaving the realm of FC Barcelona. Cuenca spent several years at La Masia, eventually debuting with the first team in the 2011/12 season. Although unfortunate injuries took their toll and put his career in danger, he’s now back and currently co-leads Deportivo with two goals, having played in 15 of 18 league games this season.
After the Galicians returned to the top flight in 1991 after an absence of almost two decades, FC Barcelona only won at Riazor in one out of eleven visits, including a run of six straight defeats between 1998 and 2002. But then it all changed. Of the nine games played since, Depor have just one win, 2-0 in 2008. FC Barcelona have played at Deportivo three times in the last five seasons and have won every time. They have scored 12 goals in those games, including a Leo Messi hat trick on the last visit.
Since 1941, FC Barcelona and Deportivo have played 42 league games. Deportivo lead all-time 17-15, with 10 draws…However, Barça have outscored Depor 69–56 over that span…Six players, including Messi, have scored hat-tricks in this rivalry, all from Barça…Leo Messi’s 16 league goals this season are two more than Deportivo’s 14 goals as a team…Barça have yet to score on a penalty kick this season, while Depor have just one…Deportivo head coach Víctor Fernández has 5 wins, 7 draws and 16 losses in his career against the blaugrana, while Luis Enrique has never faced Deportivo as a coach…Barça defender Gerard Piqué, with four yellow cards this season, is the only player on either team in danger of being sanctioned for accumulation.
Global TV coverage
The game is being shown live in Catalonia on Gol Stadium, Canal+ Liga / HD, C+ Liga Multi, C+ Yomvi, and GOL T; in the USA on beIN Sports Connect; and in the UK on Sky Sports. But no matter where you are in the world, we have you covered. You can also listen to live play-by-play in English on Radio Barça. The radio link will appear on the club's homepage before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.
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