Just over a month into the new season, Barcelona are already staring a hectic schedule in the eye. They have played two games in the past seven days and now face Celta Vigo at home tonight.
The Catalans enter the clash on the back of two convincing 5-0 wins and are high on confidence. Meanwhile, Rafael Benitez’s men have not had much luck this campaign.
Celta have won just one of their first five league games of the season with three losses to their name. They currently sit 16th on the league standings with just four points to their name.
The clash at Montjuic will thus be between a team under pressure to win and a side hoping to keep a streak of momentum going.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Celta Vigo.
Full-house in defence
Barcelona’s defensive record was the talking point after the team’s La Liga win last season. They equalled the league’s best-ever clean-sheet numbers, and it was clear that the centre-backs had a massive role to play in the same.
This season, Barcelona have the same defensive options to work with, and more. The already strong roster of Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde was further strengthened by the arrival of Inigo Martinez and is perhaps one of Europe’s best centre-back departments.
Xavi has not faced much of a dilemma in defence thus far, especially after Araujo went off injured and Martinez was deemed unfit to play in the opening games.
The game against Celta Vigo will finally see the coach put up against the question that will plague him all season.
Araujo is Barcelona’s best, and most reliable option in defence and has been given the green light ahead of the game at Montjuic. Yet, both Christensen and Kounde have been spectacular in their own right in recent weeks, barely laying a foot wrong.
The Uruguayan may start on the bench tonight, but it will be interesting to see how the manager handles the minutes of the other central defenders from here on.
Objective clean sheet
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has lived a rejuvenated life under Xavi Hernandez and is now at the peak of his powers. Last season, the German international won the prestigious Zamora trophy after equalling La Liga’s record for the most clean sheets.
However, if there is one team against whom Barcelona have consistently struggled, it is Celta Vigo. Iago Aspas, the Galicians’ captain, also happens to be the Barça goalkeeper’s nemesis.
Celta are the team who have beaten the Catalans the second-most frequently over the past decade, only after Real Madrid.
They have scored 27 goals against the Azulgranas in the past 18 meetings and have allowed Barcelona to register a clean sheet on only five of those occasions.
Aspas, meanwhile, has a more personal vendetta against ter Stegen. The Spanish striker has scored a staggering nine goals against the Barcelona goalkeeper and is the player who has put the ball past him the most number of times.
A clean sheet on Saturday will thus go a long way in boosting the Catalans’ morale, especially on the defensive aspect. Xavi’s men are currently on a streak of two games without conceding a goal, and it is imperative that they keep the momentum going.
A day off for the number 9?
Robert Lewandowski is one of the first names in Xavi Hernandez’s starting lineup. The Polish striker has no direct competition and is essential for Barcelona to have the cutting edge in front of the goal.
This season, the Pole has been in fine form in the final third. His start to the campaign may not have been rosy to the eye, but he has racked up four goals and as many assists in just six games.
Lewandowski has not come off in any of Barcelona’s games so far and has been playing relentlessly. At 35 years of age, however, such strenuous schedules must be handled with caution.
Tonight’s game could give Xavi a good chance to give Lewy a day off. The manager has no dearth of well-performing forwards and can afford to hand his number nine a break.
If the manager opts to go down that route, Ferran Torres would be a great option to replace the marksman. The Spaniard has been in great touch in front of goal and has the required skillset to torment Celta’s defence with his runs between the lines.
Torres can be complemented by the likes of Joao Felix and Raphinha to his left and right respectively. Lamine Yamal makes a strong case too.