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FC Barcelona have their final Liga fixture this Sunday at 9pm CEST, and it takes them to Balaidos, home of Celta Vigo. Having already won the league title with games to spare, it’s ultimately just a formality. But there are still plenty of things to play for in what promises to be a very tricky fixture indeed against a side that needs to win to be certain of holding onto their first division status.
Celta in trouble
The Galicians’ run of eleven consecutive seasons in the top flight could end on Sunday night. A poor start to the season meant they spent the World Cup break in the relegation zone. But the results picked up after that and by March they were in the top half of the table.
But then came a slump. Celta have lost seven of their last nine matches and now need to beat Barça on the final day to be certain of avoiding the drop. If they don’t, and Valladolid beat Getafe in a game being played at the same time, then it’s second division football for them next season.
Valladolid themselves are one of two teams that have beaten Barça since the Liga title was clinched, clearly benefiting from an understandable drop in intensity in the blaugrana camp. Celta will hoping the situation will play in their favour too. But...
Plenty to play for
Barça have reasons of their own to want to post a good performance. Perhaps the most important concerns the opportunity to set a Liga record for clean sheets. Last week’s 3-0 defeat of Mallorca tied Deportivo’s record dating back three decades, and one more would be an incredible all-time best of 27 shutouts.
And goalkeeper Ter Stegen has a double reason to want to avoid conceding goals on Sunday. He is already well on course to win his first ever Zamora trophy for the best goalkeeping record. But as long as he can avoid conceding in Vigo, then he would set the record for the lowest goals-per-count in Liga history!
Robert Lewandowski is also on course to become top goalscorer in his first ever season in La Liga. In his case, however, the matter is far less urgent. He is currently five goals clear of second placed Karim Benzema, so barring something quite extraordinary from the Real Madrid forward against Athletic Club, the trophy is looking more than safely decided.
Last week Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba both said their goodbyes to Spotify Camp Nou. But although they will never again play in front of their home fans, for both of them this is their very last official fixture for the club. And Barça would obviously love to give them a winning send-off.
Helping hand for Barça Atlètic
A Barça victory would also be doing a massive favour for the reserve team. Barça Atlètic are playing Real Madrid's reserves this weekend and next, and the winners of that tie will face either Celta B or Eldense in the playoff final for promotion to the second division. However, if the Celta first team are relegated, then Celta B could not be promoted to the same level as their senior team, thus eliminating them from the playoff equation. That's an additional motive for the Barça first team to win their game!
Head to head
Barça won 1-0 when the sides met earlier this season at Spotify Camp Nou, the only goal coming early on from Pedri.
But Balaídos has not been a very happy hunting ground for Barça of late, with the Catalans winning on just one of their last seven visits.
Japan straight after
This is an unusual fixture for the Barça squad, because rather than return home when it’s done, they will instead be flying straight to Japan! That’s because they have an end-of-season friendly lined up against J-League side Vissel Kobe on Tuesday.
Because they are going to Japan afterwards, Xavi is taking all of his players to Vigo, with the exceptions of the three injured players. With Pedri and Ronald Araujo already side-lined, he is now missing Alejandro Balde too after the full-back ruptured ankle ligaments against Mallorca last week.
With Barça Atlétic playing a huge playoff on Saturday night against the Real Madrid reserves, Xavi has naturally not wanted to disrupt Rafa Marquez’s plans this weekend, meaning that there are places in the senior squad for Unai, Marc Guiu, Pau Prim and Dani R.
Julian Araujo and Héctor Fort are also in the travelling party. They haven’t been included in the squad, but are going because they will be joining the players on the trip to Japan afterwards.
Celta have recovered Iago Aspas, who has a spectacular goalscoring record against Barça, and also Beltran, but Marchesín and Aidoo are both out with injuries.
“We want to go out on a high, with a win and looking good. But we are playing for much less than Celta.”
“Ter Stegen will play.”
“Of course I’d love Leo Messi to come back. He knows that because I told him. But it's his decision and I’d understand whatever decision he makes. In any case, our biggest priority is a defensive midfielder.”
"I haven’t spoken to any players about leaving because we may not be able to sign any new players. So I can’t really act. We’re on stand by.”
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