Barcelona will be aiming to end their three-game winless run in La Liga when they face off against Celta Vigo at Abanca-Balaídos this weekend.

Even as Barcelona fans await the confirmation of Xavi Hernandez as their new manager, interim boss Sergi Barjuan will take the first team to Galicia on Saturday evening as they get set to take on Celta Vigo in the 2021/22 La Liga. The Catalans have been without a full-time manager since Ronald Koeman was sacked last week, with B team boss, Barjuan, being handed the reins in a caretaker capacity.

In his two games in charge so far, the 49-year-old has led the Blaugrana to a 1-1 draw against Deportivo Alaves last weekend and a 1-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv earlier this week. In what could potentially be his final game in charge, if Xavi’s appointment goes over smoothly, Barjuan will be hoping to end his time with another win, thus breaking a run of three winless matches in the league (D1 L2).

Barcelona have endured their worst-ever start to a La Liga campaign since 2002/03, accumulating just 16 points from nine games and are currently ninth in the table, nine points off of leaders Real Sociedad, albeit with a game in hand. Nonetheless, a win at the Balaidos will be crucial for the Catalans as they look to get their campaign back on track.

Meanwhile, Celta Vigo have been extremely inconsistent this season. The Galician outfit are currently 15th in the standings with 11 points from 12 games, having managed three wins and two draws. These three wins have come in their last seven games, while they have also lost three, with their most recent fixture ending in a goalless draw against Rayo Vallecano.

Manager Eduardo Coudet will be hoping to turn the tide around and take advantage of a Barcelona side performing way below their best this season. While the corresponding fixture last season had ended in a 3-0 win for the Catalans, Celta had managed to beat them 2-1 in their most recent meeting in La Liga earlier this year and will look to draw confidence from that performance.

Ahead of this crucial match-up between two teams looking to get their seasons back on the correct course, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Celta Vigo

Celta Vigo do not have any major injury concerns ahead of the visit of Barcelona. Santi Mina, who had picked up a knock, has seemingly recovered enough to be named in the squad by manager Eduardo Coudet. However, Brais Mendez will be unavailable for selection as he serves out a suspension for an accumulation of cards.

The home team will set up in their usual 4-1-3-2 setup in front of goalkeeper Matias Dituro and will look to stay disciplined at the back in order to frustrate their opponents while attempting to catch them out on the break. Captain Hugo Mallo and Javi Galan should be the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively, with the duo likely to tuck in close alongside the centre-backs, Jeison Murillo and Nestor Araujo.

Renato Tapia will provide further protection to the Celta backline, slotting in as the lone defensive midfielder as he looks to curtail the influence of Frenkie de Jong. Meanwhile, Fran Beltran will have the creative onus starting in the No. 10 slot, although he is likely to drop in alongside Tapia and shield the defence when Barcelona are in possession.

Ex-Barca star Denis Suarez and Nolito will occupy the wide areas and exploit the spaces left behind by the opposition full-backs. Iago Aspas, who has three goals this season, should start at the top alongside the fit-again Mina, who is the top-scorer for the Galicians with four goals.

Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Dituro; Mallo, Murillo, Araujo, Galan; Tapia; Suarez, Beltran, Nolito; Aspas, Mina

Barcelona

Barcelona will have to make do without Ousmane Dembele yet again, with the Frenchman picking up another hamstring injury, having made his return in the midweek clash against Dynamo Kyiv. The Catalans will also be without Martin Braithwaite, Sergio Aguero, Pedri and Gerard Pique, while Neto, Sergino Dest and Sergi Roberto also miss out.

Sergi Barjuan set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in midweek and is expected to stick with the same shape at the Balaidos, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has emerged as a shock transfer target for Newcastle United, guarding the goal. Eric Garcia and Ronald Araujo ought to pair up at the heart of the Barca defence, flanked by the full-back pairing of Oscar Mingueza and Jordi Alba.

Sergio Busquets is a nailed-on starter at the base of the Catalans’ midfield, from where he will look to cut out attacks and recycle possession effectively. Flanking him on either side should be Frenkie de Jong and Nico Gonzalez, who has been in impressive form in the past few games for the visitors.

With Dembele and Dest unavailable, and Philippe Coutinho struggling for form, Barjuan could decide to go in with Gavi on the right flank as he did in the midweek clash. Ansu Fati, who scored the only goal of the game in Kyiv, ought to play through the middle, with Memphis Depay slotting in on the left wing.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Garcia, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Nico; Gavi, Ansu Fati, Depay

Key Stats

  • Barcelona won their last away La Liga game against Celta Vigo in October last year, ending a run of five games without a win on the road against them in the competition.
  • Celta Vigo have won just two of their last nine La Liga games against Barcelona (D3 L4).
  • Barcelona have failed to come out on top in their last three La Liga matches (D1 L2) and have lost their previous two away from home without scoring past their opponents.
  • Celta Vigo are the only team yet to lead in a home game in La Liga this season, while Barcelona are the only side that have failed to do so away from home.
  • Memphis Depay has been involved in three of Barcelona’s last five goals in La Liga (two goals and one assist). He has been involved in more goals (7) and created more chances (28) than any other Barcelona player this season.

Player to Watch

Ansu Fati

Having been handed the iconic No.10 jersey by Barcelona following the departure of Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati is living up to the reputation and the burden that comes with it. While the teenager hasn’t played much this season due to injury issues, he has made a telling impact almost in every game he has played.

The Spanish international has two goals and an assist from 168 minutes of La Liga football this season. He also scored his first Champions League goal of the season this midweek to lead Barcelona to a critical win over Dynamo Kyiv. Fati will undoubtedly hold the key for the Blaugrana’s chances on Saturday as they look to end their recent run in league football.

Prediction

Celta Vigo 1-2 Barcelona

Celta Vigo have just not clicked so far this campaign, and even though there have been a few positive results over the past weeks, they are just not producing those consistently. And while Barcelona may be a team with plenty of problems of their own, they should have the edge over their opposition on Sunday due to the gulf in quality between the two squads and the form of Ansu Fati.

The Hard Tackle predicts a narrow win for the Catalans in what could be interim boss Sergi Barjuan’s final game in charge.

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