By Andy Hall
Back in his days in charge of Real Sociedad de Fútbol, the RC Deportivo La Coruña coach, Javier Irureta, had a lucky raincoat that made his side unbeatable.
"It was actually part of our uniform," he told uefa.com. "We went 13 games without defeat when I wore it so I became quite attached to it. Someone in San Sebastian even wrote a book about Irureta's raincoat." He paused and added with a chuckle: "I wish I had it now!"
Certainly Deportivo could do with a few breaks. After major successes in the last five Champions League tournaments, they go into their Matchday 5 meeting with Olympiacos CFP with just two points from their first four games and their European hopes dangling by a thread.
If they are to progress to the last 16, Irureta's side must win both of their remaining games, against Olympiacos and AS Monaco FC, and hope the Greek team or English contenders Liverpool FC slip up in their final games. An unlikely scenario, maybe, but Depor's luck has to turn eventually.
"We have had the misfortune of not being able to field all of our top players in the majority of the games," sighed Irureta. "Mauro Silva has yet to complete a full match, Diego Tristán was out for a while, Víctor Sánchez is injured. Without those injuries, I'm sure that our performances would have been better."
Mauro Silva's absence has perhaps been the most noticeable - the team has looked weaker without its Brazilian holding midfield player. "Mauro's absence has been a key factor - not just for what he represents at Depor but because his natural understudy, Aldo Duscher, has also suffered injury problems," Irureta added.
With Mauro Silva and winger Fran González both having announced that they will retire next June, the Deportivo team that has enjoyed so much success in recent years is starting to look threadbare. "Both of them have been important players during Depor's most brilliant era," said the coach.
Inevitably the coach will have to find replacements for those reliable warhorses, but while his summer signings Rubén Castro and Jerónimo 'Momo' Figueroa are spending a year on loan at Albacete Balompié, he is wary of getting players from Deportivo's youth academy to provide injury cover.
"Bringing young players into the side has its positive and negative sides," he said. "In one way it is good because it is necessary and we have been obliged to do so but it's not ideal to force so much responsibility on them when the team is suffering. It's very tough for them."
One player who has shone on his occasional forays into the first XI is midfield player Carlos Pita. So far, Irureta has been impressed. "I have a lot of faith in him," he said. "He still needs time to mature but I'm confident that in the future he will be an important player for us".
Diego Tristán was injured at the weekend, leaving Irureta with a further headache ahead of the game against Olympiacos. However, while a less experienced manager may have been laid low by such an injury crisis, the 56-year-old has a more philosophical approach.
The only thing you can do when things are going badly is be patient and maintain one's confidence in the squad," he said. "There's nothing worse than allowing anxiety to creep in because sooner or later, you always come out of these bad spells."
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