As Luis Enrique’s Barca prepares to take on the old lady of Turin in the Champions League final, his old side is battling for relevance in the league. Once perennially in Europe, Celta Vigo have seen just one top eight finish since ’03, when they finished fourth and plummeted the entire way down to the Segunda the following year.
10th in the league, Celta are well out of contention for both relegation and the Europa League, but even though they have nothing major to play for, expect a fight – Their only defeats since mid March have been to Barca and RM.
Celta are an entertaining side with lots of weapons and ways to score, even with a few key exclusions, namely Augusto Fernandez and Santi Mina. The former of the two – a defensive midfielder – is likely the bigger loss, as with Nemanja Radoja also out for the season, the Sky Blues are short on options at the position.
What to expect
On paper, Celta mostly attack in a 4-2-3-1 and defend in a 4-4-2, but they’re so fluid both on and off the ball that those numbers essentially exist only in theory. I wrote about Rayo earlier, and in many ways these two sides are comparable. They’re both mid-table crowd-pleasers with a fluid passing game and aggressive defending, whose star player is a Spanish Attacker (Bueno, Nolito).
I’m sure there are more, but as far this piece is concerned the similarities end there. Where Rayo’s passing game is orchestrated from spacing created by the system, like Barca and Bayern, Celta’s play seems to happen organically. The players simply create space by good awareness and off the ball movement individually, and they all play with a certain swagger and confidence on the ball.
In fact, if I was in the business of making comparisons – and I am – I would say Celta are in many ways strikingly similar to Arsenal (except Celta have only finished fourth once). In terms of individuals, Krohn-Dehli and Cazorla also play the exact same role, a very dynamic deep playmaker, in the exact same way.
But I digress…
In any Celta-game, you’ll se a lot of their chances come from the left wing, courtesy of Nolito. The recent international debutant has had a splendid season, leading his team in both goals and assists (12, 11). He’s a special, special player, and by far their biggest threat, so he needs to be treated as such.
Defensively, they’re aggressive more than they’re structured. The shapes are many and varied, but they get to the ball more often than not, so there normally isn’t much reason to criticize it. However, their lack of a distinct, uniform defensive shape can cause issues. At times they tend to get stretched vertically and leave entire parts of the field completely undefended and free to be worked by opponents.
They’re a fun side that can absolutely play, but suspensions and injuries could hurt them. All hot chicks don’t look the same, though, so people need to stop throwing Barca-comparisons around just because they both play attractively and like to keep hold of the ball.