Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has warned of the danger a resurgent Deportivo La Coruna could pose in Saturday’s La Liga game at the Nou Camp, Barca’s final game before they jet off to Japan for the Club World Cup.
Chasing a sixth Spanish league title in eight years, Barcelona are two points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid at the top after 14 matches, with Real Madrid a further two points adrift in third.
Sixth-placed Deportivo have surprised this season after narrowly avoiding relegation on the final day last term thanks to a 2-2 draw at Barca, who had already wrapped up the title.
“They are not the same Depor as last season,” Luis Enrique told a news conference on Friday.
“We are approaching the game very cautiously,” added the former Barca and Spain midfielder.
“They are perhaps the team that has most surprised me in the early stages of the season.
“We are going to see a team that defends incredibly well, which can change tactics, which doesn’t give you any space and which has a player in attack Lucas Perez who is on a great run.
“It’s not the best game to be playing before heading to Japan.”
Luis Enrique said Barca’s Argentina forward Lionel Messi was available for Saturday’s game after he missed training on Thursday for personal reasons.
Messi returned from two months out with a knee injury at the end of November and scored in Barca’s 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen in Champions League Group E on Wednesday.
Brazil forward Neymar missed the game in Germany after picking up a minor muscle strain in Tuesday’s training session and Luis Enrique said his recovery was on track.
Midfielder Sergi Roberto and defender Jeremy Mathieu are also available again after injury.
Barca’s opening game at the Club World Cup is their Dec. 17 semi-final in Yokohama against CONCACAF champions Club America or Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, who play their quarter-final on Sunday in Osaka.