Real Madrid host Deportivo la Coruña tomorrow.
Deportivo are a pretty normal, slightly-below-average La Liga team as of late. In 1999 they actually won the league, and were regulars in European competition for a while, before a gradual decline culminated in their relegation in 2010. Since their promotion back to La Liga, Deportivo have been regulars in the bottom half of the table.
And it’s been business as usual for Depor this season, which I mean, ain’t so hot. They currently sit 16th, just one point clear of the drop zone. They’ve been solid at the Riazor, but have struggled on the road. They’ve taken three points from eight games on the road, and are tied with Leganés and Sporting Gijón for the fewest goals scored away from home (5). If Madrid can’t keep a clean sheet against Depor in the Bernabéu, well, we’ve got some problems.
Deportivo play open, or at least open relative to other teams caught in a perpetual relegation scrap. Romanian centre-forward Florin Andone is pretty exciting and can finish his chances. On the right wing is Juanfran (not that Juanfran), who is pacey and can make some things happen too.
For Madrid, this is a match all about getting back to winning ways after two straight draws. The results themselves aren’t so much the issue, as they played two of the best teams on the planet, but as we saw in September, this Madrid team has a propensity for stringing draws together.
So, the lineup. Given the opponent and health of the team, Zidane has some options to get some guys back to match fitness, let others rest, and that’s what he’s doing.
Up top, Lucas Vázquez has made himself into Bale-lite, and will seemingly be in the lineup until the Welshman returns. As he damn well deserves. Lucas has been outstanding in Bale’s absence, and it warms the cockles of my heart to see him do so well. Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema will rest, with Álvaro Morata and Marco Asensio likely to play along with Lucas.
Also resting will be Luka Modrić, opening the door for Mateo Kovačić to fill his spot. James looked superb on Wednesday, but has taken a backseat to Isco in La Liga ties. Casemiro was solid against Dortmund, and will in all likelihood start.
Toni Kroos played against Dortmund, but given the period between the matches and his health, one would imagine he’ll rest up here, or at least not play a full 90 minutes( to be clear, this is 100% wishful thinking). How ironic it would be for Zidane to rest all essential personnel this match...excepting Kroos.
By the time kickoff comes, Real will know what happened in Barça’s trip to Osasuna, and seeing as Osasuna sit at the absolute bottom of the table, Real will want to put away Deportivo to keep pace atop the league (or if Osasuna doing something amazing, increase their lead).
Kickoff: Saturday, 10th December 2016 at 2:45pm EST
Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Marcelo, Raphaël Varane, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal; Casemiro, Mateo Kovačić, Isco; Lucas Vázquez, Álvaro Morata, Marco Asensio
Deportivo la Coruña: Tyton; Sidnei, Albentosa, Navarro, Juanfran; Colak, Guilherme, Borges, Gil; Babel, Andone