Preview: Barcelona v Deportivo La Coruna

Barcelona take on relegation-threatened Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday hoping to extend their unbeaten run in La Liga this season.

Spanish Primera League
17 December 2017
Kick-off 21:45 CET
Venue: Camp Nou

Referee: A. Mateu
Assistants: P. Cebrián, R. Díaz
Fourth official: F. Miralles

Head-to-head summary:

Barcelona 44 22 9 13
Deportivo 44 13 9 22

Previous encounter:
Barcelona 1-2 Deportivo 12/03/2017 (La Liga)
Barcelona goalscorer: L. Suarez (46’)
Deportivo goalscorers: Joselu (40’), A. Bergantiños (74′)

Players to watch:

After a failed spell at Arsenal, Lucas Pérez returned to Depor on loan at the start of the campaign and has been the club’s main attacking threat along with Romania international Florin Andone.

While the 29-year-old has only netted five goals in 15 games this season, his ability to run in between defenders and stretch full-backs out of position will be key against Barcelona’s ultra-high line of defence.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have rekindled their world-class attacking threat after an initial struggle to get to grips with a new system, due to the departure of Neymar.

However, the Argentine has remained consistent throughout as the league’s top scorer.

His return of 14 goals in 15 games has kept Ernesto Valverde’s side on an unbeaten run with 12 wins and three draws – holding a five-point lead over second-placed Valencia.

Team form and quotes:

Eleven goals in their last four games across all competitions has seen Barcelona sweep everyone in their wake, but their ageing backline has been a real cause of concern.

With a long domestic and European season ahead, Valverde understands his side will need to bolster their options in the upcoming transfer window in order to sustain their exploits on all fronts.

Samuel Umtiti’s injury earlier this month was a particular talking point which the former Atletic Bilbao coach eluded to in the pre-match press conference.

“We have time to evaluate such a signing. In theory, we are happy with the centre-backs we have, but we’ll see,” he said.

“You might consider [signing a centre-back] when there are injuries. We know that the injury to Samuel is a lengthy one and we hope he recovers well.

“From [Sergio] Busquets to Lucas Digne there are other solutions we’ll have to look at.”

Deportivo La Coruna are in 17th place in La Liga, just three points clear of the relegation zone, after 15 rounds of matches.

The Galicians sacked coach Pepe Mel after a miserable start to the season and former Barcelona player Cristobal Parralo has taken over the hot-seat at Abanca-Riazor.

A vital 1-0 win at home to Leganes last weekend lifted the club clear of the bottom three, but results have been poor overall and Depor lost their last away game 2-0 at Sevilla.

Team news:

Ousmane Dembele and Rafinha are both back training with the group after lengthy spells out through injury, but the two are not ready to return to first-team action just yet.

However, Umtiti is sidelined after suffering a muscle strain in the 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo earlier in December.