Four months ago, Real Madrid went into the Riazor and blitzed Deportivo with their B team — scoring six goals over 90 minutes. It was an uneasy time in A Coruña. Under Pepe Mel, the team lacked urgency and conviction towards the tail-end of the season, and were lucky to stay afloat. They can thank the historically bad Osasuna, Gijon, and Granada for that.
Things look better now. Pepe Mel has stuck around, but Deportivo have had a fantastic summer, and look to be capping it with the return of Lucas Perez.
To help us set the stage for Sunday’s La Liga opener, we reached out to the excellent Chris Moar (@MoarFootball), who covers Deportivo and Spanish Football.
Kiyan: Chris, a few months ago, when I asked you if Lucas Perez and Florin Andone could co-exist, you weren't too optimistic. Has that changed at all? How excited should Depor fans be with Lucas's return?
Chris: I genuinely cannot believe that this is close to becoming a reality. At first, the notion of a Lucas-Andone partnership was a pipe dream and something I disregarded out of fear of deluding myself. Now, though, I'm overjoyed. How excited should Depor fans be? More excited than we've been for years. This is the strongest window we've had this decade and, inarguably, we have our most potent attacking options since the early 2000s. The two together should be able to fire us up the table, possibly to heights so dizzy that we get a little taste of our past glories.
Kiyan: Please tell us how excited you are about our boy Fede Valverde. Has he won your heart yet?
Chris: I wasn't too keen on Valverde when he arrived. It wasn't a question of talent, but rather a principle I've held close to my heart for years: why should we take on a big club's youngster for a year, simply to develop them and then never see them again? I wanted someone on a permanent deal; someone experienced in top-flight football. Now, though, my opinion is starting to shift. Valverde was our second best player in pre-season. He covered every blade of grass, dictated play marvellously and even scored a beauty from inside his own half. I'm cautiously optimistic about him going into the new season — I just pray he isn't another Jose Rodriguez.
Kiyan: It seems like towards the end of last season, Deportivo had (weirdly) switched off, even though they should've been desperate to stay ahead of the relegation zone. Does it worry you that Pepe Mel is sticking around, or do you feel the continuity is welcome at this point?
Chris: I'm very worried about Mel continuing on. While his first four results definitely kept us up, it's only due to the inconsistencies of others that his remaining results didn't sink us into the Segunda. We conceded eight goals in the first minutes of games which already left us on the back foot before we could even develop a game plan. His tactics are reductive and outdated. I want consistency at the club, though, so it's a bitter pill to swallow. Mel has at his disposal the strongest Deportivo side this decade. He has to do something other than pull us down. He certainly has the personnel to comfortably avoid relegation, but will his tactics change? Probably not.
Kiyan: Rate Depor's transfer window as of now.
Chris: As I mentioned before, it's our best window this decade. From acquiring someone far beyond our level (Fabian Schar), to retaining an integral piece of last season's puzzle in Guilherme, we've definitely improved the squad. Some deadwood has departed, leaving behind a crop of supremely gifted talents. For the first time in a while, there's a nice mix of youth and experience which is balanced enough to get us the best of both worlds... on paper. Our defence is stronger, our midfield is stronger and our attack I simply cannot fathom. It's still too good to be true.
Kiyan: So, I take it this squad should be better than last season, then?
Chris: It most certainly is. This squad is more than enough to see us stay up for another year and maybe even dream of more.
Kiyan: How can Depor cause an upset this weekend?
Chris: How could Depor cause an upset? Real Madrid's entire squad could turn up intoxicated — that would certainly help! Maybe if Zidane decided he wanted to field the entire Castilla team, that would help too. In all seriousness, I don't think we can. Real Madrid have already played three highly competitive games ahead of the season while we've just finished a positive but humble pre-season.
Kiyan: Would you rather play Real Madrid on opening day, or later on in the season?
Chris: I'd rather play Real Madrid on the opening day, purely because it means that we won't meet again at an important time. Playing a big team on the final day, for a club like Depor, means running the risk of playing safety against a side potentially looking to win the title.
Kiyan: Call it.
Chris: I don't want to be too pessimistic -- and we are at home -- but Andone, Gil, Fede Cartabia and Çolak are likely to not play. These are four integral parts of our attacking puzzle, so I'm predicting an impotent performance with a bit of structure. 3-0 to Real Madrid? I wouldn't be too disheartened.