Galician Derby: Pre-game thoughts

The stage may not be as grandeur, but the significance of the upcoming Derbi gallego is more tremendous than ever before. At this decisive time of the season, Celta Vigo and Deportivo La Coruña face-off in what some are billing as a Segunda División title decider.

With both expected to be in the Primera next season, this historic game in Spanish football will have the stage it rightly deserves.

When both teams take to the Balaídos field on Sunday morning, Depor will be the ones in front, having a seven point advantage over their great rivals Celta. However, the boys from Vigo still have a game in hand following the postponement of a match last weekend – a win on Sunday and also the game in hand, would mean they’d trail first place by just a single point. The incentive is clear not only in a rivalry context, but a statistical one too.

Both teams over the last month or so have played some of their best football of the season thus far, though in very different styles. Celta, coming into the game, have played the most eye-catching and expansive football. Paco Herrera has drilled his team in such a manner that their focus is predominantly on attack, a 4-3-3 with central midfield spraying balls out wide stretching the field as much as possible, executing the formation as it should be. In Fabián Orellana add Iago Aspas (13 goals this season), there are two willing runners who cause serious danger with their movement off the ball. The likes of Jonathan Vilá and Quique De Lucas (11 assists this season), who despite his advancing years can still carve open a defence, are the main dictators of play in central midfield. De Lucas particularly, will eb asked to control the tempo upon which Celta tick. Depor will need to nullify this threat if they are to keep another clean sheet, of which they take great pride in following recent form. They’re a patient side, but Celta can be too, as we saw against Real Valladolid. Herrera said he was happy with a point at Zorilla, but went away with all three. Valladolid regularly showed thrust and created, but ended up being let down by poor finishing – Celta pounced at the death much to everyone’s amazement. Taking into account the electricity around the penalty area Orellana and Aspas provide, a change of gear is easy to swing into. Depor restricting the duo’s options in gathering the ball from De Lucas, and wide areas, is paramount. That brings us to highly-rated Hugo Mallo, his overlapping from right-back will need to be careful from a Celta point of view, as being overly aggressive could see Depor’s counter attack snap into action

That brings us to José Luis Oltra’s team. Initial problems regarding the switching of systems have been dealt with suitably by Oltra, and he’s finally seen the players grasp the identity he eventually settled upon. They’ve maintained a regular balance with both formation and personnel, though Oltra doesn’t hesitate to switch to 4-1-4-1 from the favoured 4-2-3-1 if Depor are finding fluidity hard to come by. They are however, pragmatic in the most sincere of terms. The backline will be looking use its physical advantage and press up on Celta’s movement restricting the spaces they like to utilise. Juan Domínguez, key in the double pivot this season, will look to keep things neat and tidy from deep with his passing, removing the intensity out of the game. His influence will be pivotal to the outcome of the game, in my opinion. Ahead of him, is where the magic happens. If as expected, Oltra has his side sit in, then the spring of Andrés Guardado (9 assists this season, with 102 successful crosses) and Bruno Gama on the counter will need to be executed perfectly. Juan Carlos Valerón (9 assists this season) has been the subject of debate due to the amount of games he’s played, but Oltra’s still betting on him for this one. If the game heats up too much, it might not be the environment for the veteran. Gama and Guardado however, will thrive upon it. They drift superbly across the frontline and shutting them down early will be a priority for the hosts, Gama particularly is in excellent form and will be Depor’s main outlet here. Riki (11 goals this season), as usual, will be the focal point to hit in attack – as a target or link.

In summary, it’s Celta who arrive in the Galician Derby with more pressure upon them. Depor’s lead, and assurance over recent months make it so. Plus, the fact Oltra’s side won the game at Riazor. Herrera’s team will need little motivation, but they must make sure to play with their head rather than their hearts, otherwise Depor will be patiently waiting to pounce, and with a 10 pen point advantage, celebrate promotion.