- Copy link
And Saturday brings yet another game as the fixtures come thick and fast in the quick-fire finale to the Liga season. Four down, seven to go, and next up is a visit to Balaídos, home of a Celta side that is sure to cause more than a problem or two for the defending champions.
After four back-to-back 10.00pm CEST starts, this 5.00pm CEST kick-off (GLOBAL TV GUIDE HERE) is the first since La Liga restarted that Barça have played in daylight. And the temperatures can get very high indeed in late June.
Tight at the top
A 1-0 win over Athletic Club on Tuesday (an impressive fifth consecutive clean sheet with Marc-André ter Stegen yet to be beaten since the competition resumed) restored Barça’s place at the top of the Liga table. But Real Madrid responded win a 2-0 defeat of Mallorca the day after. All Barça can do is keep winning, and hope that the all-whites drop points somewhere along the way – buoyed by the knowledge that it has happened before.
Real Madrid will be in Barcelona, to play struggling Espanyol, on Sunday.
Quique Setién will be missing two key midfielders for this one, with Sergio Busquets suspended after completing a cycle of yellow cards, and Frenkie de Jong out through injury. Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto are also unfit.
Óscar García was an attacking midfielder at Barça in the nineties, and since November has been in charge of Celta, looking to ensure a ninth consecutive season in the top flight for a side in serious trouble. It seems to have worked, for Celta are now seven points clear of the relegation zone. They have only conceded one goal in their last seven league games and in their last home fixture they put six past Alavés.
There are plenty of familiar faces to look out for in the playing staff too. Striker Nolito spent three season at Barça B, Denis Suárez was in the Barça first team last season before going on loan to Arsenal, Rafinha is on loan to the Galicians and Colombian Jeison Murillo was at Barça on loan from Valencia last season and is now at Celta as part of a similar deal with Sampdoria.
The biggest dangerman when it comes to goals is, as ever, Iago Aspas – who has netted eleven times this term (joint fourth overall) and has scored six times against Barça in the past.
Last five games
Getafe 0-0 Celta
Celta 0-1 Villarreal
Valladolid 0-0 Celta
Celta 6-0 Alavés
Real Sociedad 0-1 Celta
Head to head
Last five meetings
09/11/19 (LIGA) Barça 4-1 Celta
04/05/19 (LIGA) Celta 2-0 Barça
22/12/18 (LIGA) Barça 2-0 Celta
17/04/18 (LIGA) Celta 2-2 Barça
11/01/18 (COPA) Barça 5-0 Celta
Meetings between the two have typically gone the way of the home side in recent years. Not one of the last eleven games between Barça and Celta (league and cup) have ended in an away win, and Barça have been beaten in three of their last four league visits to Balaídos (the other ended 2-2).
Earlier this season, Barça put four past Celta (including a Leo Messi hat-trick), but if recent history is anything to go by, big wins at Camp Nou are not necessarily replicated on the Galician coast. So this is a high tension fixture. Barça can afford nothing less than three points, but they will need to be at their very best to get them.
Lionel Messi has not scored at Balaídos since 2013. Time to set that record straight, and if he does, it will be his 700th career goal (for club and country).
Antoine Griezmann has scored eight goals against Celta, but is looking for his first in a Barcelona shirt.
Barça and Celta are first and second for shooting accuracy this season. 62% of Barça’s 301 shots have been on target, while 53% of Celta’s 215 have.
Quique Setién’s views
The title chase: "I still think we can win the league. It is highly unlikely that both us and Real Madrid will win every game. They are in great form, but so are we. So let’s hope they slip up somewhere … Celta and Atlético Madrid are difficult games, but so are all games. All teams are struggling to get through their matches.”
Riqui Puig: “There are important players out, so this could be his moment. He’s making progress and has an excellent attitude, but we have had to show him some things he needs to do to fit with what the team needs, to make sure he's making the right contribution.”
Rafinha: “He's playing very well and so is his team. Celta have picked up morale and that means everyone is playing better. They have some great players and I like the way they play off each other.”
- Copy link