Barcelona will host Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou for the La Liga encounter on the 11th of May. Barcelona are heading into this match, having secured a top-four finish in La Liga with a win over Real British last weekend. Xavi’s side are now assured of Champions League football for next season. Meanwhile, Celta Vigo cruised past Alaves 4-0 and there will be no shortage of confidence in the camp.
When former player Xavi returned back to the Camp Nou as head coach of Barcelona in November 2021, the first priority for him was to get the club back into the Champions League. The Catalan giants, riddled with a massive debt of over a billion euros and having suffered the painful loss of Lionel Messi over the summer, were languishing at ninth in the league table at that point under former manager Ronald Koeman.
Although Barcelona will not win any silverware and will finish the season trophyless, Xavi and his support staff can now say that they have achieved their primary objective for the current campaign with a top-four finish confirmed. The Catalan giants gave Copa Del Rey winners Real Betis a guard of honour at the Estadio Benito Villamarin which was certainly a rare but beautiful sight.
On the pitch as well, the two sides gave each other plenty of respect, which resulted in a very cagey first half. It was only when youngster Ansu Fati came off the bench in the second half that the floodgates opened. He fooled the opposition with a brilliant strike at the near post to score his first goal since being out with an injury in January. However, former Blaugrana defender Marc Bartra restored parity in the contest for Real Betis with a headed goal from a corner routine.
That wasn’t the final throw of the dice in the contest. With a goal worthy of sealing the Champions League qualification in Spain, Jordi Alba fired his half volley into the far post in the 94th minute to secure, perhaps, the most important three points of Barcelona’s 2021/22 La Liga campaign.
Although Barcelona have had their fair share of problems and have lost steam in recent weeks, they will be pretty confident about finishing runners-up in Laliga after both Sevilla and Atletico Madrid dropped points in the previous weekend.
Although it is still mathematically possible for Sevilla and Atletico Madrid to knock Barcelona down to fourth place, the pressure is now off the shoulders of Barcelona’s players for their final few games of the season with Celta Vigo, Getafe, and Villarreal, and preparations have already begun for a busy summer of acquisitions.
Barcelona have a four-point lead over Sevilla and are five points ahead of Atletico Madrid in second place in La Liga. Their previous win over Mallorca at the Camp Nou on the first day of the month saw Barcelona end an embarrassing streak of three losses on the bounce on their own turf in all competitions, something that is hardly heard of. Xavi’s side have now gone four games without a clean sheet at the largest stadium in Europe, and their upcoming opponents were in a rampant mood at the weekend.
Heading into the weekend match the Celta Vigo camp was rocked by news concerning Santi Mina. The 26-year-old Spanish forward was handed a four-year prison sentence and given a €50,000 fine after being convicted of sexual abuse by a court in Almeria. Celta Vigo announced on Wednesday that Mina would be removed from first-team training immediately while they open their own disciplinary investigation into the player. Celta emphasized that his suspension from senior activities was a “precautionary” measure following his sentence.
However, they certainly did not allow the shocking off-field incidents to distract them on the pitch as they more or less confirmed Alaves’ relegation from La Liga with a four-goal hammering. Captain Iago Aspas has been in breath-taking form and he notched up his 16th and 17th goals in La Liga this season. Meanwhile, Thiago Galhardo took just six minutes to break the deadlock in the contest. While Ximo Navarro’s own goal and a red card summed up Alaves’ disastrous outing away from home at the Balaidos.
Celta Vigo are currently 11th in the standings after Rayo Vallecano ended up dropping points against Getafe at home. Therefore, a finish in the top half of the table is by no means out of the question for Eduardo Coudet’s men.
The four-goal hammering of Alaves was also a major turning of the corner for Celta who had won just one of their last seven matches in Spain’s domestic league prior to that. However, their form away from home will be under the scanner as they travel to the Camp Nou, having picked up just a single victory from their last nine matches on the road in all tournaments.
With that being said, however, Celta Vigo have a tremendous record in recent meetings with Barcelona. They recorded a phenomenal comeback from being 3-0 down to ending the game at 3-3 earlier in the season. Even in the previous season, Celta Vigo recorded a magnificent 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou, and therefore, they will have yet another opportunity of inflicting pain and misery on Barcelona’s supporters this week.
BAR vs CEL, La Liga 2021/22
Date: 11th May, 2022
Time: 1:00 AM IST
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona
Barcelona La Liga form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Celta Vigo La Liga form:
Celta Vigo form (all competitions):
Barcelona wins: 23
Celta Vigo wins: 10
Barcelona Team News: After a couple of months with little to no relative injury concerns, Barcelona have been hit by depressing news once again. Star midfielder Pedri suffered a hamstring injury against Frankfurt and had to be taken off. Scans done on him after the match revealed the true extent of the damage and Pedri has missed every match since, and is out for the remainder of the season as well.
Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto to continue to be long-term absentees for Barcelona. Meanwhile, center-back Gerard Pique’s participation is also in doubt for this clash as the team management will be in no mood to hurry him and risk getting injured again.
Ansu Fati has returned to the squad after being on the sidelines with a hamstring injury for since January. However, Xavi has taken necessary precautions with him and has only introduced him in the last 10-15 minutes of the previous two contests as Fati slowly continues to build rhythm.
Barcelona will also be without their reliable pivot Sergio Busquets, who will be suspended for this clash, after picking up his 10th yellow card of the season in the win over Real Betis. Nico has also injured his foot in training and therefore, the only midfielders available for selection in the first team are Frenkie De Jong, Gavi, and Riqui Puig.
Right-back Sergino Dest is also sidelined but Xavi might have number 1 goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen returning to the fold after the German goalkeeper missed the previous game due to a stomach illness. Memphis Depay failed to impress after being handed a start last weekend and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang might replace him instead. He is likely to be accompanied by Ferran Torres and Ousmane Dembele once again as Fati is likely to come off from the bench as a substitute once again.
Celta Vigo Team News: On the other hand, Celta Vigo’s squad seems to be in much better shape as manager Eduardo Coudet will have most of his players available for the late stretches of the season. Hugo Mallo is expected to miss out here as he continues to recover from a patella fracture.
Celta Vigo have been dealt a couple of blows ahead of their trip to Barcelona however. Former La Masia graduate Nolito is out with an adduction tear while Carlos Dominguez might also miss out with a sprained ankle.
Coudet is unlikely to make a host of changes to the starting XI that took Alaves to the gallows last weekend. Renato Tapia is a great option to come off the bench and make an impact once again while Iago Aspas almost always seems to be on top of his game when playing against Barcelona.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; D Alves, R. Araujo, Garcia, Alba; Gavi, De Jong, Puig; Dembele, Aubameyang, Torres
Celta Vigo possible starting lineup:
Dituro; Vazquez, N. Araujo, Aidoo, Galan; Beltran; Mendez, Suarez, Cervi; Aspas, Galhardo
Celta Vigo always carry a threat going forward, especially with talismanic captain Iago Aspas leading the charge. They were prolific last weekend and have been a bit of a nuisance to Barcelona in the past. They will aim to take full advantage of the absence of Sergio Busquets and the stability he brings in the Barcelona midfield.
However, Xavi will not be too keen on his players dropping the ball after securing Champions League qualification. Even without Busquets, Barcelona have a flurry of strong talents all over the pitch and might just escape with a narrow win over Celta Vigo.