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Despite 3-1 defeat at Levante last week, Barça are still top of the Liga table with a game in hand on everyone apart from Real Madrid. With the final international break of 2019 to follow, Saturday 9 November (9.00pm CET) brings a home fixture against third-from-bottom Celta.
Barça have lost twice as many games to Celta (four) than anybody else since the 2014/15 season. In contrast, however, Celta have the poorest historical record (just two wins) out of all the teams that have visited Barça 50 times or more in Liga history.
Leo Messi (surprise, surprise) is Barça’s top goalscorer against Celta with eight goals, although his French partner has amassed the same number of goals (and given five assists) playing for other teams against the sky blues.
Both Samuel Umtiti (2017) and Ousmane Dembélé (2018) scored their first league goals for Barça in games against Celta.
It was against Celta in 2016 that Luis Suárez scored that audacious goal in a 6-1 win, when Leo Messi chose to pass the penalty (although apparently the ball was originally intended to go to Neymar Jr!).
LAST FIVE GAMES
Eibar 0 Barça 3
Slavia Prague 1 Barça 2 (Champions League)
Barça 5 Valladolid 1
Levante 3 Barça 1
Barça 0 Slavia Prague 0 (Champions League)
Celta 1 Athletic 0
Alavés 2 Celta 0
Celta 0 Real Sociedad 1
Betis 2 Celta 1
Celta 0 Getafe 1
Oscar García is the new Celta manager, a player who spent most of the nineties as an attacking midfielder at Camp Nou and who also gained his first coaching experience at the Ciutat Esportiva. He continues quite a tradition of Celta bosses with a Barça past, who have included Eusebio Sacristan, Luis Enrique, Juan Carlos Unzué and even Hristo Stoichkov for a short period in 2007.
The Celta squad also includes Rafinha Alcántara, currently on loan to Celta from Barça, but absent from this game with an injury, and Denis Suárez, who left for Celta in the summer (following a spell on loan to Arsenal).
The great news for Barça is that Luis Suárez (below) has been declared fit and included in the squad announced on Friday, meaning Jordi Alba is the only player missing out through injury.
Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Aleñá and Carles Pérez have also been left of this weekend’s selection, but Ansu Fati of the U19A squad has once against been called up for first team duty.
As well as Rafinha, Celta are also missing Santi Mina, Claudio Beauvue and Kevin Vázquez to injury.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS (at Camp Nou)
22/12/18 Barça 2 Celta 0
11/01/18 Barça 5 Celta 0 (Copa del Rey)
02/12/17 Barça 2 Celta 2
04/03/17 Barça 5 Celta 0
14/02/16 Barça 6 Celta 1
ERNESTO VALVERDE SAYS
"Celta’s situation is a bit of a surprise. They have good players and expectations were high, with so many good forwards you’d expect more goals from them. And they have been conceding some unlucky late goals. But they’ll get out of the relegation zone once they have got their confidence back.”
“As for us, there is no escaping the fact that we have not won some games and that always generates instability around us. Sometimes that resonates with us and we get knocked off balance by all the furore. We need to stay strong and keep driving onwards. Tomorrow’s game is important for us and not just because we want to stay top of the league.”
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