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Celta Vigo: The unlikely giant killers out to upset Barcelona

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Miguel Cardoso’s men visit the Camp Nou on Saturday

Real Sociedad v RC Celta de Vigo - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Currently in ninth place in La Liga, Celta have shown a remarkable ability to compensate for their shortcomings. Whilst the Galician minnows suffered a disappointing Copa del Rey exit at the hands of Real Sociedad, as well as a frustrating goalless draw at home to Leganes, they silenced their critics with a hard fought 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid as well as a 3-2 victory over Villarreal in their own backyard.

With 28 goals scored and 24 conceded in their 16 La Liga games, Celta have only failed to score on two occasions, which is a bad sign for Barca given their defensive inconsistencies this season. At the forefront of Celta’s attack is Iago Aspas, the Spanish forward who has become a key component of the Celta attack, netting an impressive 10 goals in 16 appearances this season. Not only has he impressed at club level this year, but the occasional Celta captain has also received regular call-ups to the Spanish national squad, and has found the back of the net six times, which includes two goals in three World Cup qualifiers.

Celta de Vigo v Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Apart from the threat posed by Aspas, there are very few players in the Celta lineup to write home about. That being said, the Celta squad clearly has some solid team chemistry, and is able to get the most out of the players at their disposal. This ability would have been crucial for picking up points against the likes of Valencia and Espanyol, in addition to the shocking victories that were mentioned above. Celta’s traditional 4-4-2 formation has been effective in providing the passing lanes needed to retain significant ball possession on numerous occasions, as these underdogs have enjoyed over 50% possession against Real Madrid, Villarreal and Valencia, and managed to attain 49% possession against Atletico Madrid. A continuation of Celta’s recent ball-retention habits could pose much frustration for the Blaugranes, whose playing style demands that they maintain the majority of ball possession throughout each match. This frustration would only be multiplied if Barca lack ball possession at home this weekend.

One weakness that Celta Vigo have consistently shown this season, however, is their failure to capitalise on goalscoring opportunities. Whilst they earned 80% possession against a substandard Leganes side, they only managed to get two of their 15 shots on target, which resulted in their first goalless draw of the season. This tendency has been evident since October, when in their disappointing 1-1 draw with Getafe, a mere two shots on target out of eight prevented them from earning a victory, despite their dominance in the other aspects of the match. The Blaugranes will do well to take note of this weakness, and further minimise Celta’s goalscoring opportunities by carrying out those cinematic Barcelona attacks filled with breathtaking passing and skill that Barca fans know and love.

Real Sociedad v RC Celta de Vigo - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Taking both the strengths and weaknesses of Celta into account, the Blaugranes should really have no problem brushing aside the underdogs this weekend. Despite Barca’s season-long defensive inconsistencies, their defence has really shaped up in the last few matches, with clean sheets being kept in the last three La Liga outings. This recent run of good form, combined with Celta’s poor shot accuracy, should make it incredibly difficult for Celta to trouble Barca’s defence, even with Iago Aspas leading the charge.

Furthermore, Barca have scored an incredible 15 goals in their last five La Liga games, which is an average of three goals per game. Given that some of these goals have come against opposition who are in higher league positions than Celta, for example, Levante, Espanyol and Atletico Madrid, there is no rational reason as to why the Blaugranes would not be able to impress their fans at the Camp Nou on Saturday. This match is a must-win, particularly since Barca will be looking to maintain their three-point lead at the top of La Liga in what is already a heated title race.