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Irureta could turn to youth

Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004, 12.00CET
Rivaldo returns to the Riazor as RC Deportivo La Coruña coach Javier Irureta considers his options.

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Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004, 12.00CET

Irureta could turn to youth

Rivaldo returns to the Riazor as RC Deportivo La Coruña coach Javier Irureta considers his options.

A possible debut for the 19-year-old Carlos Pita was the chief talking point ahead of RC Deportivo La Coruña's opening Group A match against Olympiacos CFP.

Midfield vacancy
Pita has been drafted into the Deportivo squad from the club's B team, where he has been learning his trade far from the bright lights of the UEFA Champions League in Spain's Tercera División. Yet that could all change tonight after injuries to Aldo Duscher and Mauro Silva created a vacancy in the Depor midfield.

In the spotlight
The teenager, who has been assigned the No33 shirt, said: "I am, of course, surprised to be in the spotlight, but after the injuries to Mauro Silva and Duscher I am one of the options that Javier Irureta has for the central defensive position in midfield. To be part of Deportivo's first team in a Champions League game is like a dream."

Scaloni or Pita
Whether the dream comes true depends on coach Irureta who could yet select the Uruguayan Lionel Scaloni to partner Sergio González in midfield. "We will have a final training session on the morning of the match," Javier Irureta said yesterday. "After that, I will make the decision who will play instead of Mauro Silva or Duscher. Right now it looks like I have to decide between Scaloni and Pita."

Mauro Silva and Duscher were injured during the 3-1 home defeat by CA Osasuna on Sunday, a match where Depor led through Walter Pandiani and saw their opponents reduced to ten men before losing their way. After Duscher damaged knee ligaments, Mauro Silva, who replaced him, suffered a calf strain. They also lost a third midfield player in Víctor Sánchez to a hamstring problem, so all things considered, not the best way to prepare for the start of their fifth consecutive Champions League campaign.

'Wounded animal'
The Galicians struggled to overcome Irish champions Shelbourne FC in the third qualifying round to get there - drawing 0-0 away before three late goals in a 3-0 home success - and have taken one point from their opening two Primera División matches. For this reason, Olympiacos coach Dusan Bajevic described tonight's opponents as "a wounded animal".

Bajevic said: "I know that the two first games of Deportivo in the Spanish league were not good. But this does not make our job easier. To meet a wounded animal is always more dangerous. They are missing players but we have not played an official match so far. So both teams have their disadvantages."

Rivaldo's return
Olympiacos, whose domestic campaign opens at home to Kalithea FC on Sunday, will give a debut to Deportivo old boy Rivaldo and Irureta warned of the considerable quality in the Greek ranks. "They have many internationally experienced players like [Gabriel] Schürrer, Rivaldo, [Yiannis] Okkas, [Antonios] Nikopolidis or Giovanni. They are dangerous for their counterattacks, so we have to exert so much pressure that they cannot build those counterattacks."

Away record
For all that experience, however, Olympiacos have a lamentable away record in this competition. In 22 games they have suffered 19 defeats and managed only three draws - the last of which was actually in the Riazor on 18 September 2001. Then it took an added-time goal from Juan Carlos Valerón to save Depor from defeat in a match that finished 2-2. It was the only time Olympiacos have avoided defeat in eight visits to Spain - and you imagine a repeat result this time would suit them just fine.

Last updated: 15/09/04 13.26CET