Real Madrid host Deportivo tomorrow in what will be their last match at the Bernabeu before flying 10, 000 kilometers to face their semi-final opponent (TBD) in the Club World Championship in six days.
As we know by now, Benzema, Modric, and Ronaldo are omitted from tomorrow’s squad in order to rest before the team heads to Japan. This is perhaps risky from Zidane. While it’s an opportunity for Morata, Casemiro, and Kroos to gain match fitness — and allow James to potentially continue his good run of form — against a Deportivo team treading water above the relegation zone, it also wouldn’t hurt to have Ronaldo and Benzema on the bench just in case.
Real Madrid are heavy favourites, to be sure, but Deportivo are coming off a heavy 5-1 win over Real Sociedad and Florin Andone has really rounded into form heading into this match.
Before I have you read on and delve into this Q&A with Deportivo journalist Chris Moar (@MoarFootball), here’s some housekeeping notes:
- Our mid-week podcast will be up shortly, around 5 EST. Apologies for the delay on this, but Blog Talk Radio has been a bit wonky lately.
- I’ll be on our Facebook to do a live video this evening. Will also probably discuss Monday’s draw and humour your anger over my preferring of Juventus over Arsenal. Feel free to tweet me questions ahead of time, or simply tune in live to interact.
Alright, let’s go.
Kiyan: Chris, if there's ever a good time for Depor to face Real Madrid, it's surely now, isn't it? You sent ripples through Spain for what you did to La Real, and Depor now has some solid momentum going into this game.
Chris: I think we're still a while away from gaining genuine momentum. It was a great victory - one of our most dominant and entertaining in years - but the worrying thing is that we have only won 3 times this season. Is it ever a good time to face Madrid? Not for us!
Kiyan: How replicable is that performance against Sociedad in general? Do you think Depor could exploit Sociedad the way they did had Eusebio not played such a high line?
Chris: Gaizka Garitano absolutely nailed his tactics against Real Sociedad. He exploited the high line, entrusted Andone to chase a lot of loose balls and offered him a supporting cast of eccentric attackers (Babel and Gil). But exploiting a high line the way we did requires some risk being taken - and Garitano is known primarily as a defensive, well-structured coach rather than one that takes risks. For that reason, I suspect we will sit very deep on Saturday rather than attempt to exploit any of Madrid's frailties.
Kiyan: Tell us about Florin Andone's development, please. He's an intriguing young player. Not that replacing Lucas Perez is every going to be easy, but do you think Andone ever gets to that level? Perez was a late bloomer, let's not forget!
Chris: Florin has been utterly outstanding in the last five games. He has been scoring regularly, playing with freedom and giving us an air of confidence in attack. The ten games prior, he hadn't scored for Depor. That was most definitely becoming a concern for the fan base, but it was just a matter of time before luck entered his game. He was missing one-on-ones due to super saves, hitting the post, scoring but being ruled out for offside... it was crazy, but you have to commend his mentality. He never once looked frustrated and now he is reaping the benefits of being a calm striker. As for Florin reaching Lucas' level, I wouldn't rule it out. He's supremely gifted and has all the tools for success (there's a reason why the club have enforced a rumoured 25m euros as his release clause).
Kiyan: On that note, did you shed a tear when Lucas scored his hat-trick on Tuesday?
Chris: No tears... but I was happy for him. A lot of Spanish kids grow up with a yearning for one day playing in the coveted Champions League. I know this was a dream-come-true for him and I cannot wait to see how he develops at Arsenal.
Kiyan: Is it just me, or did Ryan Babel show up to this season on the Gonzalo Higuain diet.
Chris: A lot of the fan base, myself included, joked that Babel only joined Deportivo for a free gym membership. But, to be fair to him, it's natural that a footballer gains weight when inactive. And, hell, he's already bagged 3 goals this season - one very important one, too. I like what he offers to the side and I genuinely hope we can extend his contract beyond this month.
Kiyan: Rate Gaizka so far. Seems to me it would be harsh if Depor didn't at the very least let him finish this season - do you agree? Seems like a good coach that's a victim of the circumstances.
Chris: Gaizka has been extremely hard done by, from poor officiating to just horrendous bad luck on the pitch. But he's also had his faults. He has allowed teams to consistently pressure us while we hoof the ball forward; he has failed to develop a style that suits the side, rather continuing to enforce a style he's familiar with yet nobody else seems to work within it. I hope that the Real Sociedad game can spark some stylistic versatility into his repertoire, otherwise he is going to continue to struggle. Should he stay until the end of the season? I'm a firm believer in the manager getting as much time as possible to develop his team, but if we continue to struggle the way we are... I can't see him lasting that long.
Kiyan: I know Deportivo won't get relegated - it's just too apparent to me that they're above Gijon. But I have to ask: Are Deportivo going to get relegated?
Chris: I don't think we will get relegated, though it is a legitimate concern. I feel as though Osasuna and Granada are already gone (yes, I know it's early and Granada love a late escape), so therefore there's only one plausible spot for relegation. Despite how awful we have been this season, I can still see this team pulling through at the very end. It's going to be extremely tough - and I wouldn't be surprised if we did get relegated - but my gut, head and heart all tell me that we're going to turn our fortunes around. At least enough to escape relegation.
Chris: Any score line in which we don't concede more than 3 goals is one I'm happy to take. I'd love a draw, but those days of being able to go toe-to-toe with Madrid are long gone.