La Liga: Celta Vigo vs FC Barcelona: Match Preview

Denis Doyle

A preview of Barcelona's trip to Balaidos as the Blaugrana, buoyed by their recent El Clasico win over rivals Real Madrid, prepare to take on Luis Enrique's Celta Vigo

Buoyed by their recent El Clasico success, FC Barcelona travel to Galicia tomorrow, where they will take on Luis Enrique’s Celta Vigo at the Estadio Balaidos. Despite being linked with the vacant managerial role at the Camp Nou this past summer, ‘Lucho’ has somewhat struggled for results at Celta, who recently slumped to a disappointing eight matches without a win. That run however was emphatically ended this past weekend, as Os Celestes utterly demolished Malaga at La Rosaleda, thumping five goals past the shell-shocked Willy Caballero.

Celta fans may be eager to see their heroes pick up their first home win of the campaign, but is Luis Enrique really kidding anyone when he suggests that he doesn’t plan on a draw? Admittedly, his intention could be to play for a win – although is that the best approach to take when facing the Blaugrana?

To an extent, it was the approach that Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid took on Saturday, as the Italian fielded three forwards in an experimental line-up, only to end up losing 2-1. AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Osasuna on the other hand have taken every precaution, placing ten men behind the ball in order to secure favourable results against Gerardo Martino’s team.

Unless you’re in charge of Bayern Munich, it would probably be foolhardy to commit to an attacking approach against FC Barcelona, but who am I to complain?

TEAM NEWS

BARCELONA

After all, Barcelona will be the team that benefits if Lucho continues to throw all caution to the wind. Gerard Piqué may have been omitted from the squad, but Barcelona boast tremendous depth in defense now that club captain Carles Puyol has made his return from injury – certainly I would back the Blaugrana to have enough about them to keep Celta at bay. The same however cannot be said of tomorrow’s hosts – Celta have kept just one clean sheet at Balaidos thus far this season, and have conceded at least two goals in each of their last four encounters with Barça.

Similarly, Barcelona have not kept a clean sheet in each of their last four matches against Celta Vigo – a run that Victor Valdés will be keen to end tomorrow. The Catalan shot-stopper was in inspired form once again on Saturday evening, denying Sami Khedira at point-blank range in arguably the most crucial phase of the game. While he couldn’t secure his ninth shut-out of the season, Valdés will be pleased with his performance and anxious to go one better against one of his former colleagues.

Dani Alves and Adriano Correia may continue on either side of defense tomorrow, although either Alves or Montoya may face competition in the form of young full-back Martin Montoya, who started last weekend’s goalless draw with Osasuna. With Gerard Piqué absent, Carles Puyol is expected to lead the Barcelona defense, with Marc Bartra the fan’s choice to partner our beloved captain – but I personally would be weary of swapping out both our central defenders from the Clasico win.

In midfield, Sergio Busquets may receive a well-earned rest if Martino looks to rotate his squad before Friday’s Catalan derby and next week’s UEFA Champions League return against AC Milan. That would mean a start for Alex Song, which in my opinion, would also rule out a start for Sergi Roberto, unless Martino is feeling extra adventurous. Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta would therefore be my choice to partner Song – if he started, with Roberto available to replace Iniesta off the bench in the second-half.

Moving onto the attack, Lionel Messi will start as the team’s false nine following his brief switch to the right-wing (which I personally would be interested in seeing again, but only in the truly "big" matches), although he is expected to be without Neymar, who some tip to start on the bench. And this is where the patterns begin to creep in. Bartra missed the cut for Saturday’s matchday squad, but is expected to start tomorrow. Cristian Tello missed the cut for Saturday’s matchday squad and guess what? In Neymar’s absence, Tello would be an obvious choice for the left-wing berth...but there is also a case for Martino to start Pedro on the left, hoping that a change of position could kick-start his often-underwhelming start to the season.

CELTA VIGO

Barcelona vs Celta Vigo, or Barcelona vs Barcelona B? One could be forgiven for confusing the two teams: from former B team coach Luis Enrique to current B team loanee, Rafinha Alcântara, Celta are stacked with ex-Barça talent. Andreu Fontas and Nolito are both expected to start tomorrow, but Enrique will be without Danish winger Michael Krohn-Dehli and hinted that he may drop the club captain Borja Oubina, if he is forced into a change to combat Barça’s gameplan.

FORM GUIDE

Barcelona: WWWDDW

Celta: DLLLLW

LAST MEETING

Celta Vigo 2-2 FC Barcelona – 30th March 2013 – La Liga

Borja Oubina left it late to secure a share of the spoils, grabbing an equaliser in the 88th minute to leave the Blaugrana frustrated with their nights work. Cristian Tello had been in sensational form, cancelling out Natxo Insa’s 38th minute opener before laying on Messi’s go-ahead goal on the 73 minute mark, only to be denied by Oubina’s late header.

LIKELY LINE-UPS

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdés; Alves, Puyol, Bartra, Adriano; Song, Fàbregas, Iniesta; Sánchez, Messi, Pedro

Celta (4-3-3): Yoel; Mallo, Cabral, Costas, Toni, Fontas, Lopez, Rafinha; Fernandez, Charles, Nolito

MATCH PREDICTION

A trip to Vigo can be a tough proposition, but surely not for a Barcelona squad that is still celebrating a Clasico win over Real Madrid? I’m going for a 3-1 away win.

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