Barcelona vs. Celta Vigo: Key Issues and Decisions That Will Shape La Liga Game
Celta Vigo will travel to Catalonia on Saturday to face off with Barcelona at the Camp Nou in what will be Luis Enrique’s first match against the side he coached to success last season. Although Enrique has returned to Barcelona, Celta Vigo have continued to progress at a rapid rate.
The club, now coached by Eduardo Berizzo finds themselves five places off the top of the table and has been a force to be reckoned with this season. Attackers such as Nolito and Joaquin Larrivey have been in excellent form and will bring that good run into the Camp Nou.
Enrique will be looking to bounce back after Barcelona’s loss to Real Madrid last weekend and solidify their place at the top of the table, while also seeing off the challenge of his former employers.
That being said, this match has excitement written all over it. Though Barcelona certainly has the stronger squad on paper, this game will come down to the little moments and key decisions.
Let’s now take a look at what major factors will play into Saturday’s contest.
* All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com
How the Defense Will Line Up
As is the case with every Barcelona match, a lot of focus will be placed on who stars in defense and how those players perform on the night. After a long string of minutes, Gerard Pique could continue in the starting lineup, though there are other options.
Marc Bartra and Jeremy Mathieu have both been excellent in the center of the defense this season, though Enrique has made a few odd decisions regarding them.
For one, Bartra has not seen the field as much as fans would have hoped based on his form, while Mathieu has been placed at left-back more often than expected. Either way, it is hard to argue against starting both in a game like this.
At the same time, Javier Mascherano has looked great recently and could get the nod as well. Although, he could also see time in the holding-midfield role with Sergio Busquets struggling for fitness over the last few weeks.
Dani Alves could remain in the starting lineup as well based on his stellar play this year, but Martin Montoya has barely seen the pitch despite performing well at the beginning of the season.
Enrique’s defensive selection will be thoroughly broken down by pundits and fans alike. He has a big decision to make against Celta Vigo and needs to make sure he gets it right in front of the Camp Nou faithful.
Will Celta Vigo's Surging Attacks Cause Problems for the Catalans?
To say that Celta Vigo’s attacking line has been good this year would definitely be an understatement. The club’s forwards have been in excellent form all season and are extremely dangerous no matter who their opponent happens to be.
Nolito and Joaquin Larrivey have already managed to score 11 goals between the two this season and are only getting better. Add into the mix the ever-deadly Michael Krohn-Dehli and Fabian Orellana and you have a recipe for success.
Going into this match, it is already expected that Celta Vigo will get their chances. Their attack is just too good to not create a few opportunities, but is what they do with those moments that could define the game.
If Barcelona wants to earn a big win at home, their defense is going to have to be ready for Celta Vigo’s surging runs. It certainly won’t be easy, but it is manageable with the right strategy in place.
Every time a smaller club comes to a stadium like the Camp Nou, they are out for blood. Celta Vigo fits that description perfectly and they just so happen to have the players to back up their optimistic outlook.
Don’t be surprised if the visitors score in this one, but it will be up to the Blaugrana back line to limit just how many chances they do surrender on Saturday.
Can Ivan Rakitic Find His Form Again?
Ivan Rakitic began the season as an unquestionable starter under Luis Enrique. However, due to the recent form of both he and Xavi, the Croatian now finds himself fighting for his spot in the lineup.
Xavi was handed the start against Real Madrid last weekend with Rakitic coming on in the second half, something that sent a message to fans. No one is quite sure who Enrique’s first-choice midfielder is, but it is important that both are playing well and are rotated appropriately.
The match against Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou is the perfect setting for Rakitic to get back on track. He has had plenty of time to gather himself and focus on what needs to be done, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in the starting XI on Saturday.
However, it is hard to say if the Croatian will play a part against Celta Vigo. He could find himself on the bench yet again. With Andres Iniesta out for a few weeks with a calf injury, Rakitic must seize the opportunity to find his best form again.
Then again, with Enrique facing off against his old club, perhaps Rafinha may see a spot-start on Saturday to fill in for Iniesta.
Starting the Golden Trio
Enrique chose to start Luis Suarez alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar in the recent El Clasico defeat and it is safe to say that the risk did not pay off. Though Suarez was dangerous in his own right, the attack clearly suffered due to the lack of familiarity.
Saturday’s match against Celta Vigo could be the second time the world gets to see the golden trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. Enrique has another big decision to make though, as starting all three again could be another big risk.
It is clear that the trio needs to play more together to reach the potential that they have, but building a familiarity and cohesive unit cannot be forced. Enrique must be careful with how he treats this transition and he can’t sacrifice valuable points in the process.
On paper, starting the trio against Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou may not seem like a risk at all. The three forwards are world-class stars and should be able to quickly find their rhythm together. However, things don’t always work out the way they should on paper.
Does Enrique start the golden trio, or should he ease into this time of transition in the attack? Whatever decision he makes, it will be a big one and could decide the outcome of Saturday’s clash.
Will Suarez start alongside Messi and Neymar on Saturday? What center-back pairing gives Barcelona the strongest back line? Leave your thoughts and comments below!