After one of the worst runs of results since their incredible spell of dominance began almost five years ago, Barcelona welcome Deportivo La Coruna to Camp Nou badly need a victory to get their season back on track and boost morale ahead of their crunch Champions League encounter with Milan next week.
Jordi Roura, who continues to stand in for coach Tito Vilanova, is confident that the clash with Depor can spark a run of improved form.
“We hope it will be a better week than the one before last—I look at the players and I’m optimistic,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official website.
The Blaugrana remain 11 points clear of Atletico Madrid and 13 points ahead of Real Madrid in the league, but Roura is keen that his side no further slipups.
“This Saturday’s game is very important for us, we have to keep the lead we have at the top,” he explained. “When things are going well, people are often just too euphoric—but when we lose, there is too much pessimism. For us, the league is very important and there is still a long way to go before we can say we’ve won it. We have to play each game as it comes along.”
On paper, Barcelona couldn’t have wished for better opponents to try and overcome their slump. Depor have taken just two points from the last 24 on offer and are rooted to the bottom of the table, eight points form safety.
Fernando Vazquez’s appointment as manager last month has done little to lift the side, although they did snap a six-match losing streak with a goalless draw at home to Rayo Vallecano last time out. Veteran defender Carlos Marchena will be missing through suspension for the trip to Barcelona, while Ze Castro and Riki are out injured.
For Barcelona, Xavi has returned to training following his injury but is highly unlikely to be risked with Milan in mind. Goalkeeper Victor Valdes is suspended following his sending off against Barcelona.
D: Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Adriano
M: Thiago, Busquets, Fabregas
F: Sanchez, Messi, Villa
Deportivo La Coruna (probable)
D: Silvio, Insua, Aythami, Evaldo
M: Assuncao, Aguilar
Gama, Valeron, Pizzi
Prediction: There will be a temptation for Barcelona to rest players for the visit of Milan, but the side badly needs to rediscover its rhythm after some concerning performances. The team has been showing the warning signs of slipping from their usual high standards for some time and the quality opposition they have faced of late has exploited their problems both defensively and going forward.
Barca may not click right back into gear on Saturday, but they should still record a comfortable victory against a side looking destined for relegation.
Barcelona 3-1 Deportivo La Coruna
Where to watch: The Liga contest will kick-off from Camp Nou at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A Live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.