Barcelona will be three points clear at Christmas
Saturday’s win over Celta means that Barcelona will sit top of the table on Christmas Day once again.
Ernesto Valverde’s men will be three points clear of Atletico Madrid and potentially Sevilla, if they beat Leganes on Sunday.
It’s not quite the same gap as last season, when Barcelona found themselves top by nine points from Atletico Madrid after 17 games played. However, they can still be pretty pleased with themselves given the unpredictable nature of this season so far.
Celta also represented something of a tricky tie for Barcelona. Valverde’s side dropped points against the Galicians twice last season in La Liga, drawing 2-2 at home and away, but had no such problems this time around.
Dembele into double figures by December
Ousmane Dembele was on target yet again for Barcelona with his 10th goal of an increasingly productive season.
The French forward fired the ball between goalkeeper Ruben Blanco’s legs after he’d parried Lionel Messi’s shot from Jordi Alba’s ball in on 10 minutes.
Dembele was bright throughout the match and had to put up with a fair few hefty challenges from Celta players as they tried to stop him.
It’s something he’s going to have to get used to as the season progresses, but it’s a compliment that he’s become such a target for opposing teams.
The strike also means Dembele has now had a hand in 10 La Liga goals (seven goals, three assists) and it’s only December – how many will he finish this season with?
Competition for places is helping Barcelona
Valverde opted for Arturo Vidal and Ousmane Dembele once more over fit-again Arthur and Philippe Coutinho against Celta.
The coach’s starting line-up on Saturday appears to be his favoured XI currently, which means the two Brazilians are having to be patient and sit on the bench.
Arthur enjoyed a brilliant start to life in La Liga but lost his place to Arturo Vidal when he was injured, and the Chilean has taken full advantage with a series of accomplished midfield displays.
Meanwhile, Dembele’s three goals in his last four games means that Coutinho is facing a fight to get back into the attack alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Valverde did send on both Arthur and Coutinho in the second half with Barcelona 2-0 up, which highlighted the options he has available.
The competition for places in the squad will only help Barcelona as they head into 2019.
Rotation will be needed in the second half of the season as the Spanish champions compete for trophies at home and in Europe.