Coming into Saturday's showdown at Camp Nou, there's no question that Barcelona is a massive favorite over Celta Vigo.
Os Celestes just rejoined La Liga in June after a five-year absence and has a meager 10 points in nine games this season. Nonetheless, Iago Aspas is one of the most underrated forwards in the world and Celta has enough similarly underrated players to pull off an upset.
For Barcelona, that means the team will have to keep its focus and get top-notch performances from elite players. Coming into this weekend's slate of matches, the Blaugrana are tied with Atletico Madrid atop the standings with 25 points and will likely need to avoid a huge upset to keep pace.
With that in mind, here's a look at stars who must step up for Barcelona in Saturday's clash against Celta Vigo.
For the world's best player, this week was one of personal joy, as he and his girlfriend welcomed their first child on Friday.
While congratulations are in order, manager Tito Vilanova certainly won't expect anything but greatness from Lionel Messi against Celta.
The 25-year-old forward missed training, meaning he could be at less than full strength.
Nonetheless, if Messi plays, Barcelona will be counting on him once again to carry the brunt of the scoring load. Continuing his scintillating performances from years past, Messi already has 13 goals in nine games this season—a figure nine higher than his second-highest scoring teammate, David Villa.
Considering that Vilanova's squad will need to continually press the ball up the field to keep Celta off the attack, Messi performing at an expected level will be critical to getting three points.
Getting the start in net on Saturday, Victor Valdes will look to give Barcelona their third consecutive clean sheet since March.
The 30-year-old goalkeeper was sensational in his last outing, last weekend's 5-0 drubbing of an overmatched Rayo squad.
While Celta Vigo certainly isn't among La Liga's most elite scoring teams, it does pack an interesting scoring punch and will certainly come out looking to be aggressive. Aspas leads Os Celestes' scoring with just three goals, but has shown a ton of promise that just hasn't resulted in finding the net.
With Vilanova choosing to sit out some top players for rest, Valdes will need to be in fine form and man his position well to avoid putting any undue pressure on the attack.
To keep Valdes' sheet clean, Barcelona will likely rely on Javier Mascherano to come back from suspension in fine form after he sat out last weekend's victory over Rayo.
The 28-year-old central defender's return will be especially important considering the level of uncertainty with the rest of the defense. Dani Alves is still working his way back into form after being injured and Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique will both be unavailable on Saturday.
As his squad walks into Camp Nou extremely short-handed, it's necessary that Mascherano has a solid match and helps keep the pressure off Valdes.
If not, Saturday could turn into a goal-scoring free-for-all, which would be fun for fans, but unbelievably nerve-wracking for Vilanova and the Barca faithful.
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