Barca vs Celta Vigo: After a frustrating 90 minutes at the San Siro, Barcelona returns home, ready to host Celta Vigo in the 8th round of La Liga. Obviously, keeping all the points at Camp Nou is the bare minimum for a team like ours, but judging by the not-too-convincing late form of the Blaugranas, it promises to be far from a walk in the park.
Date: Sunday, 9th October
Competition: La Liga
Venue: Camp Nou
Time: 09:00 pm Central European Time ( Barcelona )
After a rather underwhelming performance against Mallorca, which somehow still earned a narrow victory for the Catalans, we fell short in a scandalous encounter against Inter midweek. Seemingly, the curse of the international breaks still haunts us, breaking the flow of our impeccable September form. In this situation, when even the likes of Mallorca could cause issues for Xavi’s men, nothing is certain, and this implies the clash against Celta Vigo as well.
Statistically, this Celta side is a typical mid-table team, in defense and attack. Their chance creation is average at best, ranked 15th in expected goals, 13th in shots, and 14th in shots on target, while their defensive production is somewhat better, ranked 10th in expected goals against, 4th in shots conceded, and 10th in shots on target against too.
What is something to moderate their results, especially when talking about a rather small sample size of just 7 games played so far, is the identity of the teams faced, a decent list in their case. Los Celestes have met both the Madrid teams and got beaten by both Real and Atlético by a margin of 4-1. Meanwhile, they surprised Real Betis with a 1-0 home victory, which indicates the potential to pose threat even to the big boys.
Talking about potential, the Galicians do possess the individual quality to break the deadlock and decide moments of incertitude. Their main weapon is the local hero, Iago Aspas, who is carrying the team on his back for several years now and his name has coalesced with the club, becoming an icon of the Vigo-based outfit.
Other players worth mentioning are the rock of the defense, the Ghanaian Joseph Aidoo, the highly-rated Spanish left-back, Javi Galán, the Peruvian midfield powerhouse, Renato Tapia, and the Argentinian attacker, Franco Cervi. Furthermore, Celta made sure to strengthen their squad with the additions of Augustín Marchesín, Gonçalo Paciência, Unai Núñez and Óscar Rodríguez to replace the likes of Néstor Araújo, Santi Mina, Okay Yokuşlu and Brais Méndez departing.
Among the multitude of arrivals to the Vigo side, we can spot some familiar faces, who, not too long ago, played in the jersey of Barcelona. First, there is Óscar Mingueza who spent the last encounter of the two on the other side, donning the garnet and blue of the Catalan side. With the enormous competition suddenly coming into the defense in the names of Koundé and Christensen, he understood that he needs a move if he wants regular playtime, and he completed a permanent transfer to the Galician club this summer. Sadly, the Spaniard has only 3 appearances so far in his new club, coming in as a substitute, and is struggling to get playtime – similarly to Denis Suárez, another former player of the Blaugrana.
On the other hand, their fellow ex-Barça teammate, Carles Pérez is enjoying the full trust of the gaffer, playing all 7 games so far. The former La Masia graduate, who debuted in the first team of the Catalans in the May of 2019 and spent one more season as a rotational player, has returned to Spain after a failed adventure at AS Roma, on a season-long loan. During his 7 first 7 games so far in the sky blue of the Galicians, Pérez has already registered an assist to his name, eager to prove his abilities, and he will certainly look to do so against his former club as well.
Speaking about the Blaugrana, the injury crisis has just worsened with the recent injury of Christensen as the Dane left the pitch injured during the midweek clash against Internazionale, not to mention that Araújo and Bellerín are still out of selection. However, as per reports, Koundé’s recovery is going well, and he might be available for the second leg against Inter at Camp Nou, but is likely to still miss the Celta game too.
With that, begs the question: who is going to fill their place? The obvious shouts would be the duo of Eric García and Gerard Piqué, but keeping in mind the stacked calendar and the few available defenders, it’s important to maintain squad depth and create new options to solve the problems.
That said, Xavi’s previous idea of deploying Frenkie de Jong or Pablo Gavi in the heart of the defense can become a reality – again, as he already experimented with playing the Dutchman as a center-back previously. This would be an interesting concept to see it materialize, keeping in mind the advantages and disadvantages of playing midfielders out-of-position. Their increased prowess to play the ball out from the back could ease the buildups and chance creation, but it could also include a serious risk when defending in the last line.
Another potential solution could be the inclusion of academy players in that position, namely the first-team call-up for Chadi Riad. The defender with Moroccan origins established himself as the main pillar of the youth defensive setup, and it is a great opportunity to show that he is ready for the next step in his career.
As we already discussed before, in the Inter game one could notice some visible misfits between the individual strengths and the assigned roles inside the Blaugrana machine. And, unfortunately, when one cog does not function as it should be, it inevitably affects the ones around him, due to the complexity and interdependence of the system. In simpler words, if one piece fails to execute its task, it could spoil the entire system around.
It was visible in the inadequate usage of profiles and the structure itself in the game against Inter. For example, it is a consensus that Dembélé had a horrible game. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that he had to constantly face double marking due to the lack of support to divide the defenders’ attention and create a passing outlet. It is just one example that how mistakes – even individuals, even the ones originating from the deficiencies of the used structure – can spoil another’s functioning and thus, initiate a chain reaction that makes the whole system fail.
Thus, it will be important for Xavi to choose the correct profiles in the correct system. It is a difficult period, where we are in a negative mood, facing a ton of difficult games. It may seem obvious that in our situation, the game we are facing against Celta Vigo isn’t the main challenge for us, however, it’s important to stay focused and prepare for the bigger games with a morale-boosting victory.