FC Barcelona (2nd, 13pts) vs RC Celta de Vigo (16th, 4pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Friday
Competition/Round: 2023-24 La Liga, Matchday 6
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Pedri (out)
Celta Vigo Outs & Doubts: Franco Cervi (out)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 23, 2023, 6.30pm CET (Barcelona), 5.30pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 12.30pm ET, 9.30am PT (USA), 10pm IST (India)
Venue: Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, Montjuïc, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Mario Melero López
VAR: Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Viaplay Sports 1 (UK), Movistar La Liga (Spain), TSN 2 (Canada), others
Following a sensational win over Royal Antwerp to kick off a new European journey, Barcelona play a third consecutive home game as they welcome Celta Vigo to the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Saturday afternoon for some La Liga fun.
This is a really, really fun time to be a Barça fan. A pair of sensational 5-0 wins with performances that remind us of the very best moments from the last 15 years have improved the mood tremendously after a tough August, and the Blaugrana have been truly breathtaking since the international break.
The challenge now is to maintain the standard set in the last two games, and while it’s unrealistic to expect Barça to win 5-0 every time there is merit to the expectation that the quality of the football can remain the same as the players continue to get more familiar with each other and the three big summer signings, João Cancelo, João Félix and Ilkay Gündogan get even more comfortable with their teammates and their fit in Xavi Hernández’s system.
The quality of the opponents will be higher, and the next two weeks until the international break have a lot of tough games and very little time to recover in between them. Xavi will need to be smart with his rotations and the players will need to take care of their bodies and minds to be as close to their best as possible every two or three days, but the confidence is high and the hunger to play even better and win more will certainly help them navigate a tough stretch.
Barça are favorites this Saturday and will be top of the table for at least 24 hours if they win, but it’s hard to take any game against Celta Vigo for granted. Even though the Sky Blues are off to a slow start with just one win in their first five games and manager Rafael Benítez is struggling to find consistency on both ends, they always find a way to raise their level when facing Barça both at home and away.
It doesn’t feel like Barça are in the mood to take anyone for granted right now, but Celta will present a different challenge compared to Real Betis and Royal Antwerp: they’ll play with a back five and will be as cautious as possible, something that Barça have struggled against under Xavi and other coaches before him.
Barça might not be as scintilating in attack this time around and Celta might succeed in frustrating the Blaugrana if they remain organized and create enough danger on the counter, and this could be the game where Barça come back to Earth a little bit and have to grind out a result.
The attacking players are all in excellent form and the midfield has dominated recently, but chances might not come as easily this time. This will be a game about efficiency in front of goal, and the likes of João Félix and Robert Lewandowski have to take their opportunities to avoid any drama towards the end.
Celta deserve tons of respect, and Barça must be at their best from the start. If they are, it’ll be another winning evening at Montjuïc. Even if it’s not as pretty.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Cancelo, Kounde, Iñigo, Balde; Gavi, Romeu, De Jong; Yamal, Lewandowski, Félix
Celta Vigo (5-3-2): Villar; Mingueza, Núñez, Starfelt, Domínguez, Ristic; De La Torre, Beltrán, Bamba; Aspas, Larsen
Celta always raise their game when facing Barça and while I do believe we’ll play well and win again, it probably won’t look as straightforward this time: 2-0 to the good guys.