Celta Vigo vs FC Barcelona: La Liga Preview and Prediction
FC Barcelona’s chase to topple Real Madrid from the top continues tonight. The Catalan club travels to Vigo, Galicia to play Celta Vigo at Estadio Municipal de Balaidos in an important La Liga fixture.
With Real Madrid looking in stupendous form, FC Barcelona have no room for error if they wish to retain the La Liga title. Los Blancos are facing bottom-placed Espanyol this matchweek, so Barca have to win in order to keep the pressure on Real Madrid – especially considering that the Blaugrana will be playing Atletico Madrid next.
Celta Vigo also cannot take the game lightly as they are hovering around the drop zone. They are six points above 18th placed RCD Mallorca but with seven games to go, the point gap is not enough to ensure safety for O Celtina.
The visitors are unbeaten since La Liga resumed on June 11 but have not looked entirely convincing. The Catalan side was impressive in the first two wins over RCD Mallorca and CD Leganes but have looked average in the last two games.
They were able to manage a goalless draw against Sevilla and in their last game, defeated Athletic Club, 1-0. A moment of Lionel Messi magic that produced an assist for Ivan Rakitic proved to be the key moment in the win over Athletic Club. That shouldn’t gloss over the fact that Barca looked uninspiring for large stretches of the match.
Celta Vigo have won two, drawn one and lost one since the restart. Their loss came against Villarreal in the first game since resumption. Since then, Oscar Garcia Junyent’s side have looked sound keeping three consecutive clean sheets and winning against Deportivo Alaves and Real Sociedad.
The win over Alaves was a resounding one as Celta Vigo put six past Asier Gatirano’s men. Former FC Barcelona player Rafinha Alcantara was the star of the show, scoring twice in that win.
Junyent’s men were also able to grind out a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad in their last game.
Head to Head
This fixture has been a hotly contested one in recent seasons. The last six meetings between the pair have resulted in three wins for Barca, two draws and one win for Celta Vigo.
In the reverse fixture this season at Camp Nou, FC Barcelona thrashed Celta Vigo, 4-1. Messi scored a hat-trick and Sergio Busquets added the fourth.
Celta Vigo’s last win over the Blaugrana was in the 2018-19 season. Iago Aspas and now Valencia striker Maxi Gomez were on target as Celta Vigo triumphed over the reigning La Liga champions in May 2019.
Veteran midfielder Busquets will miss this clash due to accumulating too many yellow cards. Expect Rakitic to start at the base of midfield alongside Arturo Vidal. Riqui Puig is likely to come on from the bench in this one.
Arthur Melo is the subject of a major swap deal with Juventus who are sending Miralem Pjanic the other way. It will be interesting to see if Quique Setien starts the Brazilian midfielder.
Okay Yokuslu has served his suspension and is slated to start in defensive midfield. Full-back Hugo Mallo has returned from injury but it is unlikely that he will be rushed into the lineup.
Sergio Alvarez and Daniel Junca are sidelined for this match.
Nestor Araujo vs Lionel Messi
Messi has scored 11 goals and given eight assists in 15 La Liga games against Celta Vigo. Across all competitions, La Pulga’s tally stands at 13 goals and nine assists in 16 games.
He is currently leading both the scoring and assist charts in La Liga and you can expect him to add to that number in this game.
Messi had scored a hat-trick in the last game against Celta Vigo so Nestor Araujo knows the consequences of giving the Argentine room. The Spaniard will have to stand firm and cut down Messi’s mazy dribbles with the help of his defenders.
Messi’s teammates like Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez are not in good form so focusing on the Argentine solely might pay dividends for Celta Vigo.
Denis Suarez vs Arturo Vidal
FC Barcelona’s defensive line has been porous this season. So, it is a surprise that the Catalan club has kept four clean sheets in a row since La Liga resumed.
Barca’s defenders have received help from the midfielders with Arturo Vidal showing his effort on the pitch. Tonight, he’ll have to play slightly differently as it will be his job to curtain Denis Suarez’s creativity.
The former FC Barcelona man provided two assists in the 6-0 win over Alaves and has found his footing and confidence back at Celta Vigo, after a disappointing loan spell at Arsenal. He can combine well with Rafinha and Iago Aspas and Vidal will have to harangue his man in order to prevent him from dissecting through Barca’s defense.
FC Barcelona are feeling the heat of this superb La Liga title race. With no room for errors, Setien’s men will be under a lot of pressure to keep up with Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane’s men are only above Barca due to their superior head-to-head record.
You can expect that pressure to play a role in today’s tough game as well. Barca, if not for Messi’s heroics this season, would not have been challenging for the title. Their squad’s advanced age is showing as the team has looked lethargic for long stretches.
Looking at all of this, I expect Barca to come out with a narrow one-goal win over Celta Vigo. The Catalans will dominate possession but look clueless while trying to make attacking forays. A moment of magic, most probably from Messi, will prove to be the difference maker.
Predicted scoreline: Celta Vigo 0-1 FC Barcelona