Depor host reigning Liga champions Real Madrid at Riazor looking to build on the improvement generated last season after the arrival of Pepe Mel in March.
Zinedine Zidane’s side will be aiming to maintain a record of scoring in every game that stretches back 68 games to the semi-finals of the 2015-16 Champions League, when Manchester City became the last side to shut out the free-scoring Merengues.
Zidane has overseen a successful start to the season at the Bernabéu with victories over Manchester United in the European Super Cup and Barcelona in the national equivalent, beating the eternal rival 5-1 on aggregate.
Madrid were defeated just three times last season, by Sevilla, Valencia and Barcelona, and thrashed Depor 6-2 in this fixture during the run-in as Zidane’s side claimed a first Liga title since 2011-12.
The Real boss has few injury concerns going into the opening game of the season and as his side showed over two legs against Barcelona, plenty of options available in a campaign that will see the Liga and European champions attempt to pull off an unprecedented single-season sextuple.
Zidane will have to manage without Cristiano Ronaldo , the Portuguese currently serving a five-match ban for shoving the referee during the opening leg of the Super Cup tie against Barcelona but in Marco Asensio he has the most exciting young player in the league at his disposal to cover for the absence of a player with 11 career Liga goals against Sunday’s opposition.
Gareth Bale could be in line for a first Liga start in four months after missing the end of 2016-17 with a calf problem while Karim Benzema found his form in the 2-0 victory over Barcelona in the Bernabéu last Wednesday, scoring a fine goal and looking sharp and participative throughout the game.
Casemiro and Isco were both rested in the Bernabéu and will probably return to the starting line-up in Riazor with the back four likely to be unchanged.
Mel came in to steady the ship with Depor in 16 and guided the side to safety – albeit with no improvement in league position – but it was the manner of the Galician’s survival that suggested there could be more to come this season. Barcelona were beaten in Riazor and Atlético held while Mel managed to avoid the pitfall of losing to any side outside the top 10 during his three-month tenure, a key component of his successful fireman’s job.
Depor have not profited in terms of squad depth from the summer window, losing seasoned campaigners in Pablo Ínsua, Oriol Riera, Fayçal Fajr and Alex Bergantiños while also seeing some of their attacking verve in the shape of Marlos Moreno and Gaël Kakuta return to their parent clubs.
Mel’s side struggled for goals last season, scoring just 43, and desperately missed the keen eye for the onion bag of Lucas Pérez. Negotiations are ongoing to bring the 28-year-old back from his Arsenal purgatory but it will not happen in time to aid Depor against Madrid .
Encouragement for Depor fans was abundant in pre-season, Mel’s side scoring freely in friendly matches against lower-league opposition and loan deals for Aston Villa’s Carles Gil, Valencia’s Zakaria Bakkali and Real Madrid’s Fede Valverde should provide some youthful verve throughout the campaign, although the
Castilla youngster is ineligible for this one courtesy of the so-called “fear clause.”
However, the side’s only game against an opponent of similar standing to Madrid during the off-season ended in a 4-0 defeat at Porto.
Deportivo vs Real Madrid live online: potential line-ups
Deportivo XI: Rubén, Juanfran, Schär, Sidnei, Luisinho, Cartabia, Borges, Guilherme, Mosquera, Bakkali, Andone
Real Madrid XI: Navas, Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo/Theo, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, Isco, Bale, Benzema