Barcelona will be aiming to reclaim the top spot in the La Liga table from Real Madrid when they face off against Celta Vigo this weekend.

Matches in the 2019/20 La Liga continue to come thick and fast as we enter the business end of the campaign. Reigning champions Barcelona will continue the defence of their league title when they travel to Estadio de Balaidos on Saturday as they take on Celta Vigo.

Barcelona’s inability to defeat Sevilla last week meant they handed Real Madrid the top spot in the La Liga table. While Quique Setien’s side did reclaim pole position with a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in midweek, Madrid matching that result meant they moved back to the top, owing to a better head-to-head record against the Catalans.

Barcelona will have a chance to eke ahead and put pressure on their arch rivals this weekend, but will need to perform much better than they have done in the last two fixtures. However, things will not be easy against an in-form Celta Vigo side that has lost just one of their four matches since the resumption of the season.

Indeed, Oscar Garcia’s men are unbeaten in their last three fixtures, winning the last two. Last weekend, they hammered Alaves 6-0 at home, before registering a 1-0 away win at Real Sociedad. The results have meant that the Celticos have managed to pull away from the relegation battle, opening up a seven-point gap to RCD Mallorca in 18th place.

The reverse fixture in November last year saw Barcelona hammer Celta Vigo 4-1, with Lionel Messi leading the way with a hat-trick. Ahead of their meeting on Saturday afternoon, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Celta Vigo

The hosts have a number of injury-enforced absences for the game against Barcelona. Manager Oscar will be without the services of Sergio Alvarez, Fran Beltran, David Junca, while Lucas Olaza and Hugo Mallo will also miss out. However, Celta Vigo will be boosted by the return of Okay Yokuslu, who is back from suspension.

Oscar set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in the last two matches and having come out on top on both the occasions, he is unlikely to tweak the system against Barcelona this weekend.

Ruben Blanco will be the man in goal for the home team. Kevin Vazquez should continue at right-back in the absence of Mallo, while academy prospect Jose Fontan could be set for his first La Liga appearance, with Junca and Olaza ruled out. Jeison Murillo and Nestor Araujo should pair up at the heart of the defence.

The returning Yokuslu should walk back into the lineup at the base of the three-man midfield. He should have Filip Bradaric in order to provide more defensive steel, while on-loan Barcelona star Rafinha Alcantara will likely provide the forward thrust from the centre.

Another former Barcelona man, Denis Suarez, should get the nod on the left flank while top scorer Iago Aspas is expected slot in on the right. Spearheading the attack for Celta Vigo should be Fedor Smolov.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Blanco; Vazquez, Araujo, Murillo, Fontan; Rafinha, Yokuslu, Bradaric; Aspas, Smolov, Suarez

Barcelona

Barcelona, too, will be without a few important first-team players for the trip to Balaidos. Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele are all out with their respective injuries.

Meanwhile, midfield mainstay Sergio Busquets is suspended for the contest. Arthur has been included in the 23-man squad, despite him being on the verge of leaving for Juventus.

Sergio Busquets is suspended for the trip to Balaidos (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Sergio Busquets is suspended for the trip to Balaidos (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a certainty to feature between the sticks for Barcelona. With Roberto out injured, Nelson Semedo should continue at right-back, while Jordi Alba is the obvious pick on the left. Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet should once again pair up at the heart of the Barcelona defence.

Ivan Rakitic should move into the holding midfield role in Busquets’s absence on Saturday. Arturo Vidal adds a lot of value with his energy and intensity. He should once again feature for the Catalans, while academy graduate Riqui Puig is likely to finally start after a fine performance against Athletic Bilbao last time out.

Lionel Messi has increasingly looked like he is in need of a rest, but given the current situation in the title race, Setien is likely to start his captain once again. Ansu Fati, who looked bright after coming on as a sub, should get the nod on the left. Martin Braithwaite could be in line for a start as the striker, with both Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann looking scratchy.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Rakitic, Puig; Messi, Braithwaite, Ansu Fati

Key Stats

  • Celta Vigo have won three of their last four La Liga home matches against Barcelona (W3 D1).
  • Barcelona’s four-game winless run at Balaidos is their longest ongoing streak without victory at any ground in La Liga. Should they fail to win on Saturday, it will be Celta Vigo’s joint-longest unbeaten home record against the Catalans in the top-flight.
  • Having won the reverse fixture 4-1, Barcelona could complete the league double over Celta Vigo for the first time since 2013/14, under Gerardo Martino.
  • Celta Vigo have won three of their last four La Liga matches (L1), having failed to win any of their previous six games at Balaidos in the competition (D4 L2).
  • Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in their last two La Liga away games – against Mallorca and Sevilla. The last time they kept three consecutive shut outs on the road came between April and August 2016, under Luis Enrique.

Player to Watch

Riqui Puig

Riqui Puig made a great impression in the last game (Photo by Lluis Gene/AFP via Getty Images)

Riqui Puig made a great impression in the last game. (Photo by Lluis Gene/AFP via Getty Images)

Regarded as one of the brightest prospects to have come through La Masia in recent years, the 20-year-old has been knocking on the first-team doors for quite some time now. But, opportunities haven’t been very forthcoming, with Puig featuring just six times for the senior teem this term.

However, after his confident, impactful performance in the last game against Athletic Bilbao last time out, it is high-time Quique Setien trusts the youngster. The 20-year-old will be hoping to carry on from where he left off in the previous match and carve out a regular berth for himself in the starting XI, especially with Arthur expected to be on his way out of the club soon.

Prediction

Celta Vigo 1-1 Barcelona

Barcelona are unbeaten in five matches on the trot, keeping clean sheets in all those matches. However, they have been well below their best in the last couple of games. Celta Vigo, on the other hand, have hit peak form and are unbeaten in their last three matches, scoring seven goals and conceding none.

The reigning La Liga champions haven’t had the best of records at Balaidos of late, having lost three of their last four away matches against Celta Vigo. With Lionel Messi seemingly suffering from fatigue, Barcelona might find it difficult to grab all three points on Saturday. The Hard Tackle predicts this one to end in a 1-1 draw.

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