RC Deportivo La Coruña will be looking to complete mission impossible for the second time in a season on Wednesday when they endeavour to overturn a two-goal deficit away to Manchester United FC in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final.
Against the odds
No one gave the Galician club a chance of beating Real Madrid CF in their own backyard in the Spanish Cup final a short while ago, when the Madrid club's centenary celebrations dictated that there could be only one winner. Yet Deportivo won against all the odds. They did not, though, start with a two-goal deficit, as they do tonight.
"Nothing is impossible"
Having already scored three goals at Old Trafford in the first phase of the competition, the task is not beyond them, but it will take an even greater effort than that managed at the Bernabéu. "In football nothing is impossible," said Javier Irureta, the Deportivo head coach. "At Old Trafford everything is possible if we play like we did in the Spanish Cup final. The key of the match will be to score an early goal, and to put pressure on Manchester."
With United's inspirational captain Roy Keane absent due to the hamstring he tore at the Riazor last week and midfield player Paul Scholes suspended, the balance has shifted a little in the Spanish club's favour, but whether it has shifted enough remains to be seen. It is fortunate for United that David Beckham, who looked very doubtful after a tackle by Diego Tristan in the last minute of the first leg, and Juan Sebastian Verón are both likely to be fit, otherwise their midfield would have been completely decimated.
Tristán on form
Deportivo got in some good practice at the weekend for the job in hand with a 5-0 win against RCD Mallorca which included a 12-minute Diego Tristán hat-trick, so they clearly have the necessary firepower. For this game, it is expected that Irureta will field a second striker - at the expense of a midfield player - most likely the Dutchman Roy Maakay, who is often used for away legs because of his pace.
The weekend's Primera División action was not without cost for Deportivo. Mauro Silva, their vastly experienced Brazilian midfield player, suffered a blow to a thigh against Mallorca and is a slight doubt for this game. The defender César Martín was also withdrawn during that game but more as a precautionary measure and is expected to be fit, likewise the midfield player Sergio González.
Valerón needs watching
As for United, they will be looking for another good marking job from Nicky Butt on the influential Juan Valerón. The problem from United's point of view is that Deportivo have many players of that ilk and Fran González, the captain, and the Brazilian Djalminha, if he plays, will also need close watching.
If personal experience of Deportivo was not enough - they beat United home and away earlier in the competition - then the Spanish team's exhilarating first-half performance away to Arsenal FC in the second phase was a clear warning of what they are capable. Despite all Deportivo's class though United must be favourites to go through. They seem to have finally rid themselves of the gremlins in their defence and are looking are much solid side than they were earlier in the season. Additionally, they have never lost a European tie after winning away in the first leg.
Superbly though United played in the first leg, their head coach Sir Alex Ferguson was still a little disappointed about the two golden opportunities which Ryan Giggs had to put the tie to bed when United were 2-0 ahead. The Welshman will hope those errors do not come back to haunt him.
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