Gabriel Veiga fired two goals past Barcelona on Sunday night to save Celta Vigo from relegation. The Catalans, for their part, were dismal for most of the game and it is difficult to say that the result was undeserved.
The Galicians were not the more dominant side on their home turf but simply more effective in front of goal. With just 28% possession, they managed to take 12 shots including nine on target. Xavi’s men struggled to defend Celta’s lethal counters and thus saw the curse of Balaidos continue.
Barcelona’s only consolation on the night came through a late goal from Ansu Fati. It was, however, not enough to trigger a comeback.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Celta Vigo 2-1 Barcelona.
1. Ansu Fati’s late resurgence
Ansu Fati only played the final 30 minutes at Municipal de Balaidos on Sunday, but that was enough for him to leave his mark. The youngster got onto the scoresheet in a game where the Catalans were struggling in front of the goal, and once again showed the world why he is so highly rated.
The La Masia star required just 15 minutes after coming on to score for his team. In the 78th minute, he timed his run beyond the Celta defence exquisitely and got on the end of Ousmane Dembele’s cross to slam home the team’s only goal on the night.
The 2022-23 campaign has not been an easy one for the youngster. Coming back from injury, many felt that it would be Fati’s time to shine but a combination of poor form and luck saw him pushed to the edge.
He started only 12 of Barcelona’s 38 league games in 2022-23 and averaged 39 minutes per game across his 36 appearances. He does finish the season as the team’s second-highest scorer, but only thanks to a late resurgence.
The game against Mallorca last weekend was the turning point in Fati’s season. His two goals on the night visibly impacted his confidence on the field, and the same appears to have carried forward to Galicia.
In his short cameo last night, the 20-year-old was close to his best. He was lethal in front of goal, completed one dribble, and won two duels in just 27 minutes, and now puts the administration into serious reconsideration over his future. Needless to say, preseason will be a critical factor in determining his situation.
2. A failed midfield experiment
Xavi’s team selection for the final game of the season raised several eyebrows, especially for his picks in midfield. The manager called upon Frenkie de Jong, Franck Kessie, and Eric Garcia to feature in the middle of the park, and it was the La Masia graduate’s inclusion that came as a surprise.
The decision to bench Gavi was understandable given that the teenager has been overworked all season. However, deploying Garcia in midfield with Pablo Torre on the bench appeared unfair.
It is not the first time that Xavi has tried to use the centre-back as a pivot, but it is safe to say that the experiment failed at Balaidos.
Playing as the defensive midfielder, Garcia’s responsibility was to act as the first line of defence to stop any counters. The 22-year-old offered nothing on that front.
He was dribbled past with ease thrice in the first half with no defensive action to show. It was only after Xavi moved him back to a central defence that he brought something to the table.
If anything, last night’s fixture only emphasized why the coach sees the pivot position to be the top priority for the summer transfer window.
3. A season to remember
The defeat to Celta Vigo marked the end of Barcelona’s 2022-23 campaign. The season brought with it some of the highest highs the team has seen in recent years, but also some deep troughs that are still difficult to accept.
The Catalans’ run in La Liga, splendid defensive numbers, and never-say-never attitude helped them to one of their most special league titles. The three Clasico winning streak and the Supercopa de Espana are some of the other notable peaks.
Yet, it was not all a bed of roses for the Blaugranas. Their run in Europe in both tiers was deplorable in every sense of the world while the Copa de Rey feels like another missed opportunity.
Heading into the 2023-24 season, the manager’s priority will be to ensure a deep run in the Champions League. The summer transfer window, on that front, will be crucial.