After Barcelona sealed a hard-fought 3 points against Athletic Bilbao, they now go up against Celta De Vigo away from home in what promises to be a close encounter. To emerge successfully, Barcelona should use the following line-up against Celta Vigo:
Marc-André ter Stegen
The upcoming clash would be a big test for Ter Stegen, however, the German has consistently maintained composure in goal and has recorded a remarkable 5 clean-sheets in a row. Once again, he would be an unquestionable pick for the Blaugranas, who’d be looking to expand this uncommon record.
Considering Gerard Piqué has played every game so far and is likely to be suffering from fatigue, rest for the veteran would by no means hurt Barcelona. The Azulgranas face Atletico Madrid next and would require Gerard to be at his daunting best. After a surprisingly successful debut against Mallorca, the young Uruguayan, Ronald Aruaújo, could help marshall Barcelona’s backline in Piqué’s absence.
Although French international Clément Lenglet has also received his fair share of minutes, due to the fact that he was suspended in his first game, the 25-year-old would still have some gas left in him to start the immense fixture against Celta De Vigo. Added to that, he has looked in terrific form as of late, not showing any signs of exertion or weariness.
Sergi Roberto’s successive exclusions mean Nelson would once again be given the task of handling the right-hand side. Despite often being linked to a move away from the Camp Nou, the Portuguese has undeniably been a crucial figure at the back, not only displaying tremendous awareness but also improving his decision making moving upfield. Semedo’s spot seems to be guaranteed.
After putting in continuous valuable performances, Setién would consider Jordi Alba’s inclusion as a no-brainer. The Spaniard has been lively, energetic, and influential on the field. If Barça intends to pose a threat in attack and seek another clean sheet, an Alba masterclass would surely be required.
Currently suspended for the game, Sergio Busquets will be unable to feature in this high magnitude encounter. Nonetheless, this provides the veteran to get some much-needed rest and Ivan Rakitic to feature in the starting XI. Since Frenkie De Jong is also absent from the squad list, Rakitic’s services from the base of midfield would most likely be seen in action. The Croatian had an applaudable display a couple of days ago and will be anxious to continue proving doubters wrong.
Given the fact that Arthur Melo has been involved in a potential transfer to Juventus, starting him might not be ideal for the club. The Brazilian may not be in the right frame of my mind, and also has been poor in accordance to his standards, which undoubtedly paves way for the Chilean, Arturo Vidal. His energy and dynamism could, as always, give the Catalans a much-needed edge.
The inclusion of Riqui Puig in a game of this stature would typically be considered as a gamble, but after the youngster’s mesmeric performance at the Camp Nou recently, he’d be a vital addition. Along with bringing energy, enthusiasm, and desire on the field, he is remarkably calm with the ball at his feet, which makes him a strong contender to be part of the Barcelona – Celta Vigo line-up.
Barcelona Captain is yet to unleash the beast hidden inside of him but has been crucial in all previous conflicts, contributing heavily to the scoreline. For Barcelona to emerge victoriously, Lionel would be yet another no-brainer for Quique Setién’s side.
With Luis Suárez and Griezmann unable to make a prominent impact upfront, only one man’s addition makes sense, and that is Martin Braithwaite. The Dane forward was illustrious on his return to football and has been working tirelessly to earn a spot in the line-up. Along with his work ethic, his knack for scoring goals would help Barcelona seal the win.
To summarize Ansu Fati’s performances this season, one could easily refer to three words: Flexibility, eagerness, and assurance. The 17-year-old boy has been a vital member of the first team this season, especially in these last couple of weeks. He produced a game-changing performance against Leganes and brought an instant improvement to the game after being substituted against Athletic Club, providing width and taking on defenders with persistence. Griezmann’s grieving performances at left-wing should easily allow the youngster to start this fixture.
Three talking points from Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
In the final edition of El Clásico in the 2020/21 domestic campaign, Barcelona incurred their fifth defeat of the league campaign. It was end-to-end stuff in the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, as an exceptional first-half performance from the hosts was followed up by a tantalizing second from Barça.
This game had everything someone could ask for in a Clásico. There was controversy, passion, goals and for the first time in a few years, a red card was the cherry on the top. These are Barca Universal’s takeaways from the game in the capital.
Real Madrid’s efficiency on show
With four shots on target, 1.58 Expected Goals, and two goals to their name, Real Madrid put to show their sheer efficacy in front of goal, as well as in defence. For the first half at least, Zinédine Zidane’s men were always at the right place, at the right time making all the right movements and to devastating effect.
Los Blancos‘ philosophy is one of winning, and doing so regardless of how the victory is earned. Contrary to the Catalans, who not only need to win, but also do it a certain way, Los Merengues are more than capable of abandoning their usually proactive approach to games in favour of a more reactive one. The fact that they are not bound to a specific ideology makes winning matches one of the simplest of tasks.
They held the ball for only 32% of the game, which goes completely against what a majority would expect them to. At the end of the day, however, possession matters significantly less than what one does with it. With every lapse in concentration from the Garnet and Blue, Madrid had enough men forward, and well enough positioned, to hit them where it hurt.
Despite the relatively low xG, they had enough big chances to even lead 4-0 come the halftime whistle. When it came to defending, their tight-knit defence, in stark contrast to that of their rivals, barely broke a sweat. They imposed an impenetrable low block, and applied a collective press to force as many errors as they could.
In addition to this, Zidane has the luxury of having a starting eleven of devastatingly versatile footballers in his arsenal. Fede Valverde for instance was as much a right-back as he was a central midfielder and a winger. He executed each role to pristine perfection, and so did his peers to ensure all 3 points, and bragging rights stayed in Madrid.
Excellent mentality shift
Following such a harrowing performance in the first half, few, if any, could have expected Barcelona to mount a comeback. Had this been any other team, that would have been possible, but given Real Madrid’s first-half performance, this was all but envisageable.
Indeed, the Catalans did fail to get any points from the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, however, the sheer mentality they showed in the second half was a sight for sore eyes. Ronald Koeman made the necessary adjustments to the side, reverting to the 4-3-3 and with it, they wrought trouble in the Madrid backline.
Lionel Messi celebrating the goal. pic.twitter.com/ZX1HzWSqAR— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 10, 2021
If in the first half Barça seemed caged in endless cycles of worthless possession, then in the second they made thorough use of it. The Blaugrana created eleven chances for themselves in the second period, and while doing this, they in turn limited Los Blancos to just a single shot on goal for the entirety of the half; a complete turnover from their performance in the opening 45 minutes.
It was nail-biting stuff up until the final second of the game, as Ilaix Moriba’s volleyed effort struck the underside of the crossbar. Given the overall performance from both sides, a draw would have been a considerably fairer result, but even in defeat with this version of Barça, the players and fans know that they can keep their heads held high.
A game of fine margins
Games of the magnitude of El Clásico will forever be decided by the most minute of details and the same was the case here.
The first significant one was the frame of the goal. In the first half, following the umpteenth counter attack from Real Madrid, Fede Valverde, who up until then was having yet another phenomenal showing against Barcelona, struck the frame of the post with a shot that crucially bounced underneath Sergio Busquets.
In the second half, Ronald Araújo nearly scored an own goal, but with Ter Stegen rooted to the spot, the ball rolled delicately onto the post and out for a corner. In the final minute of the match, and with Madrid fighting for their lives, Ilaix Moriba struck the underside of the crossbar to end this sensational tie on an emotional high.
Jordi Alba has often been criticized for being just as much a blessing offensively as he is a curse defensively. In the build-up to the hosts’ opener, he had one task to fulfill: mark his opposing fullback. This is one he absolutely failed, as he drifted too far inside, and by the time he had noticed his error, Lucas Vázquez already had Karim Benzema in his sights. Too little, too late.
The final significant detail was in the goal that won Los Blancos the game. After what many consider a poorly given free-kick from the referee’s standpoint, Toni Kroos surely could not believe his eyes when he saw the sheer state of Barça’s wall. Marc André Ter Stegen’s poor leadership of his defenders left him utterly vulnerable, and his German counterpart spared him no blushes, slotting it home to seal the victory for his side.