CELTA DE VIGO
Tuesday, October 29, 22:00 GMT
Estadio Balaidos, Vigo
Fresh off a highly motivating El Clásico win on the weekend, Barcelona will travel to Vigo to face Celta, managed by a Barcelona legend, Luis Enrique, who just a few years ago was coaching Barcelona B to great success while Pep Guardiola broke all sorts of records with the A team. If there’s anyone who knows Barcelona and their football inside out and can devise the right strategy to finally stop the still undefeated defending champions, Luis Enrique is that man. Long gone are the days where the likes of Karpin and Mostovoy constantly wreaked havoc every time Barcelona visited the Balaidos, but Celta might still prove a very tough opponent especially considering the Catalans are bound to suffer from some Clásico hangover.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Celta de Vigo
Luis Enrique is not the only Celta man with deep connections to Barcelona; when he joined the club, he took with him Nolito, Fontás and Rafinha – all of them La Masia products. It is safe to say this will be a very meaningful match for all of them, since it will be the first time they will be playing against their boyhood club. Whether that will have a positive or negative effect on their performance, it remains to be seen.
Enrique didn’t exactly have the easiest start to his tenure at Celta; in fact, the club currently sit in relegation zone with only 9 points from 10 matches. Last weekend saw Celta record by far their best result of the season with a thumping 5-0 win at Malaga after a truly incredible performance. Luis Enrique will be hoping his team can repeat that performance against Barcelona, because that’s what will take to get a good result. As a Barcelona man, he is unsurprisingly faithful to a very expansive 4-3-3 formation and he’s unlikely to stay away from that even against Barcelona themselves; Yoel will be the goalkeeper, with a back four of Aurtenetxe, Fontás, Cabral and Mallo, shielded by Oubiña. Alex Lopez and Augusto Fernandez will have the creative duties in midfield, with Nolito, Santi Mina and Charles at the attacking trio.
From a strategic point of view, Celta will be forced to play without the ball far more than they like due to Barcelona’s unmatched ball retention abilities. It will take an enormous effort from all the players and great inspiration to match the Catalans at their own game, not to mention it will take extreme accuracy in front of all, which had been Celta’s achiles heel this season prior to last weekend’s match.
Probable Lineup: Yoel, Aurtenetxe, Fontás, Cabral, Mallo; Oubiña, Lopez, Fernandez; Nolito, Mina and Charles
Confidence could hardly be higher at Barcelona these days. The club currently leads La Liga, still hasn’t lost a single match in all competitions this season and has just won the most recent edition of El Clásico, with a solid performance and 2-1 win over their eternal rivals. Unfortunately though, there’s really no time to celebrate and feet must absolutely be kept on the ground; the advantage over Atlético Madrid at the top of La Liga remains only one point and Celta have the potential to be a very troublesome opponent – any slip-up might be enough to relinquish the lead in the standings, even after such a big win there’s no time to relax, total focus must be kept.
Gerardo Martino is likely to rest a lot of the players who featured in El Clásico and put his great squad depth to good use as some key players are bound to be physically and emotioally drained. Valdés will be the keeper as always; in the back four there are far less certainties, but there’s a decent chance Martino will go with Montoya, Puyol, Bartra and Adriano; Busquets and Xavi should be rested, with Song and Fabregas taking their place in mindfield alongside Iniesta; up front, Messi is pretty much a guarantee to start, and so should Pedro be after missing El Clásico, the only question being who out of Sanchez and Neymar, the stars of El Clásico, will be given the nod.
Strategically, there are no secrets, Barcelona known to keep their identity regardless of who or where they are playing; the Catalans will look to dominate the match through possession and intricate passing from the get go and apply relentless pressure every time they lose the ball. They will be looking to suffocate Celta from the beginning and to score as soon as possible.
Probable Lineup: Valdés; Montoya, Puyol, Bartra, Adriano; Song, Fabregas, Iniesta; Pedro, Sanchez and Messi
Key Match Facts
- Celta are yet to win a home match this season, both of their wins so far have come on the road.
- Last season’s corresponding fixture ended 2-2.
- Barcelona are undefeated in their last 10 away La Liga matches.
Player to Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Messi has been struggling with fitness lately and hasn’t scored in any of the last three Barcelona La Liga matches, which constitutes a very long dry spell for his standards. There’s little doubt that the Argentine prodigy will be looking to turn this around and get another world-class performance and his name on the scoreboard. As is the case every time Barcelona play, all eyes will be on him.
Celta de Vigo 2-2 FC Barcelona
Barcelona seem to have the clear edge in terms of talent and the fact that both teams play a similar style should give them a further advantage in this matchup, but the inevitable fatigue from El Clásico along with a Celta side in rising form and with a lot of former ex-Barcelona men eager to prove themselves will see this match end in an entertaining high-scoring draw.