La Liga Preview: 17. Deportivo la Coruña

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Since rejoining the top flight in 2014-15, Deportivo have fought off relegation all three seasons, finishing 16th twice and 15th once. Although they would like to return to the Champions League appearances of the early 2000s, it is unlikely with such a small squad. Despite having some of the most spirited fans, the product on the field is still not quite good enough to make the next step up in La Liga.

Last season: 16th
Predicted finish: 17th
Manager: Pepe Mel (first full season)
Transfers in: DM Guilherme, Udinese, 4.5 M euros; CM Frederico Valverde, Real Madrid Castilla, loan
Transfers out: CB Pablo Inua, FC Schalke 04, 3.5M; GK German Lux, River Plate, free; RB Laure, Alcorcon, free; CF Orol Riera, Western Sydney, free;
Predicted Starting 11 (4-2-3-1): GK Przemyslaw Tytón, RB Juanfran, CB Sidnei, CB Raul Albentosa, LB Luisinho, CDM Guilherme,  CDM Celso Borges, RW Bruno Gama, CAM Emro Colak, LW Ryan Babel, CF Florin Andone

2016-17: Deportivo started off with a home win over Eibar, but faltered in August and September and would not win again until October 1, week 7 against Sporting Gijon. 4-0 and 4-1 losses to Barcelona and Galician rivals Celta Vigo started another winless streak, but December saw stellar performances in a 5-1 win over Real Sociedad and a crushing 3-2 stoppage time loss at Real Madrid. A win over Osasuna finished out the 2016 calendar year, but 2017 started with three straight draws followed by four straight losses. Moral victories occurred in tough home draws against Villareal and Atletico Madrid, but the first win of 2017 did not come until March 5. The lack of wins led to the firing of Gaizka Garitano on February 28, replaced by former Betis manager Pepe Mel. A stunning home upset of Barcelona soon followed, but Coruña would only win twice more in the season, staying steady around 16th or 17th in the table.

Star player: 24 year-old Romanian striker Florin Andone led the team with 12 goals and contributed two assists in his first season for Deportivo. Born in Romania, Andone moved to the Valencian community at age 12 and played for Vinaros, Castellon, Villareal and Cordoba before making a 4.7 million euro transfer to Deportivo. He received help from Ryan Babel with nine goals, and six each from Celso Borges and Joselu. However, the team will hope to improve their production from just 43 goals last season, placing 15th in the league in that category.

Transfer window: Deportivo retained former loanee Guilherme in the midfield, but fans must expect improvements on both sides of the ball for a team that finished 16th last season. Their marks of 43 goals scored and 61 allowed are well below average in the top flight, meaning they must improve on both categories in order to make the next step up and avoid another relegation fight.

Prediction: Pepe Mel did exactly what he was hired to do on February 28 of last season, and kept a team that was just two points from relegation at his hiring in safety, albeit by just five points. With little in the way of reinforcement and holes on both sides of the ball not to mention the youth of several players, Deportivo is likely to fight in the relegation zone once again. However, they always have the ability to surprise, even against the best teams as evidenced by a win over Barcelona and draws against Villareal (twice) and Atletico Madrid. Deportivo can always pull an upset, but the overall body of work still leaves something to be desired.

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