Season preview: Celta Vigo

Season preview: Celta Vigo
© AP Photos
Sports Mole discusses whether Celta Vigo could find themselves in another La Liga relegation scrap at the end of next season.

Celta Vigo came within a whisker of dropping out of La Liga last season, but they managed to remain in the division by a single point.

They have lost top scorer Iago Aspas to Liverpool this summer, but Luis Enrique has made a number of smart signings thus far.

Here, Sports Mole assesses whether the club could find themselves in a relegation battle come the latter stages of the season.

In: Nolito (Benfica), Andreu Fontas (Barcelona), Charles (Almeria), Rafinha (Barcelona – Loan)

Out: Iago Aspas (Liverpool), Roberto Lago (Getafe), Natxo Insa (Released), Dani Abalo (Razgrad), Enrique de Lucas (Released), Cristian Bustos (Sporting Gijon – Loan), Jota (Eibar – Loan)

Last season: 17th

Manager: Luis Enrique

Three key players:

Charles Dias de Oliveira at his Celta Vigo unveiling on June 27, 2013© Getty Images
Charles: It would be unfair to say that Aspas carried Celta last season, but he did find the back of the net on 12 occasions in the league. That said, goals are no stranger to Charles, who struck 27 times in the Segunda Division for Almeria last season. It had been expected that he would lead the club into the new season, but the Brazilian sought pastures new. At 29, the striker is hardly new on the scene, but he has a very impressive rate of goals. He joined Cordoba from Pontevedra in 2010, scoring 21 league goals in 66 games before moving to Almeria in 2012, where he struck 32 league goals in just 44 games. Charles is yet to prove himself at the top level, but if he starts well, he could prove to be some acquisition for his new club.

Barcelona's Rafinha in action against Benfica in the Champions League on December 5, 2012© Getty Images
Rafinha: The Spaniard has been a key member of the Barcelona B side in recent seasons, notching 20 goals in 84 games for the club, including 11 in 36 games last season. At the age of 20, he still has time to break into the first team at the Camp Nou, while there is no question that he has the talent. A number of clubs were sniffing around this summer, but Celta pulled off some coup by convincing the midfielder to join the club on loan. Rafinha has some pedigree, with his father Mazinho a World Cup winner with Brazil in 1994, while his brother is Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago. Celta really struggled to find the back of the net last season, but the signing of Rafinha will certainly give them more potency in the final third.

Celta's Borja Oubina in action against Barcelona on March 30, 2013© AP Photos
Borja Oubina: Aside from a brief loan spell with Birmingham City in 2007, Oubina has been with Celta since 1994, making his B team debut in 2001 before breaking into the first team three years later. The ball-winning midfielder did come close to departing the club in 2007 following their relegation from Spain's top division, but a reported move to Benfica broke down at the final moment. He has since committed his long-term future to the club and is due to skipper Celta in the new season. The 31-year-old will not provide much of a goal-threat next season, finding the back of the net on just six occasions in 181 league games, but he will provide a presence in the middle of midfield. Celta have acquired some exciting attacking talent this summer, but Oubina will once more be the first name on the teamsheet in the new campaign.

First game: Espanyol (H), Aug 19

Sports Mole says: After spending five consecutive seasons in the second division of Spanish football from 2007 until 2012, Celta secured their La Liga status in the 2011-2012 campaign. They started last season in impressive fashion, but the transition to La Liga soon proved to be problematic as they found themselves in a relegation battle for the second part of the season. They did manage to pull clear, but by just the single point on the final weekend of the season. The loss of Aspas is a big blow, but it came as no surprise when the striker departed for the Premier League this summer. Arguably, Celta have a stronger squad this time around, however, which should stand them in good stead as they prepare for another battle at the bottom end of the table.

Predicted finish: 15th

Barcelona's forward Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against AC Milan in the Champions League last 16 clash on March 12, 2013
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