Real Madrid travel to one of the most unforgiving stadiums in Spain to face a relegation threatened Deportivo side on their third manager of the season. With a huge midweek Copa del Rey match against Barcelona weighing heavily on their minds--it'll be interesting to see how Jose Mourinho approaches this match.
Rock bottom. Not just a great UFO song, it's also where a proud Deportivo squad find themselves in La Liga's current hierarchy. Former manager Domingos Paciencia resigned after Granada thrashed Depor 3-0 at the Riazor a few weeks back. His replacement, Fernando Vazquez, hasn't managed in the Primera since 2006-7 when he was in charge at Celta Vigo. As Lucas noted, it'll be hard to anticipate any sort of tactical approach Deportivo may use this evening, particularly since their manager has been out of Spanish football for an extended period of time.
What we do know is that Depor have lost their last five league matches. Something Real Madrid should be aware of is that, according to Opta, history shows that Deportivo haven't lost six straight league matches since 1964/65, nearly 50 years ago. Opta also notes that if Madrid can't secure a win at the Riazor: "it will become the only ground that Jose Mourinho has visited more than once in La Liga without recording a victory." The stadium certainly hasn't been kind to los blancos, as Depor are somewhat surprisingly undefeated against Madrid in 11 of the last 12 matches played there, according to WhoScored.com.
Even with those interesting historical currents in mind, Deportivo have come by their treacherous table position honestly, scoring only 28 goals from an eye-opening 241 chances created. Depor's failure to convert chances is compounded by a porous defense, as Whoscored notes that Deportivo have conceded at least three goals in their last four league matches (interesting how that overlaps with their longest Primera losing streak in almost 50 years). Those numbers have to be enticing for a Real Madrid lineup certain to feature at least a few players hungry to earn more minutes.
Alvaro Morata's strike against Rayo last weekend will most likely earn him another start, particularly with Karim Benzema's status unclear after the striker didn't train with teammates on Thursday. Xabi Alonso looks to be rested as he nurses a nagging groin injury. Gonzalo Higuain and Marcelo are both available for selection and it's hard to envision a more favorable circumstance to allow the Brazilian left back to log some valuable minutes ahead of the run-in.
WhoScored is predicting that Deportivo could deploy a 4-5-1 midfield monolith to clog the middle of the pitch. Kaka's creativity and Michael Essien's tenacity and physicality could be valuable if indeed the Galician side lines up in that formation.
It'll be extremely interesting to see how Mourinho approaches this match tactically. Does he instruct the team to press for an early lead and then hang back? Will the approach be cautious and counterattacking from the outset? Or will the team be positive and experiment ahead of the Clasico?
What do you think?