Evening all! Sports Mole
's live La Liga coverage continues from the Balaidos as Celta Vigo
welcome runaway league leaders Barcelona
. Victory for the away side tonight would move them 14 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid at the top of the table, and only a miracle is going to prevent the Catalan giants from reclaiming the Spanish title this season. Stay tuned for the action!
Barcelona thumped Celta 5-0 at Camp Nou when they locked horns in the Copa del Rey back in January, but Celta are actually unbeaten in their last three home matches against Barcelona. In fact, the Sky Blues have been victorious in their last two home league fixtures with the Spanish giants – including a 4-3 success in the corresponding clash last season. Let's hope for another cracker here.
Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from Vigo. Both teams were in La Liga action at the weekend – Celta losing 1-0 at Leganes while Barcelona beat Valencia 2-1 at Camp Nou. Any changes? Let's run through the two XIs here...
CELTA: Alvarez; Wass, S.Gomez, Roncaglia, Jonny; Lobotka, Mendez, Jozabed; Aspas, M.Gomez, Sisto
BARCA: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Mina, Vermaelen, Digne; Gomes, Paulinho, D.Suarez; Dembele, Alcacer, Coutinho
Celta boss Unzue has shuffled his pack following the 1-0 defeat at Leganes last time out, with Maxi Gomez, Jozabed and Facundo Roncaglia coming into the team. Iago Aspas
and Pione Sisto also start in what is a very attacking team, with Daniel Wass seemingly dropping into the right-back position.
As for Barcelona, only Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Paulinho and Philippe Coutinho remain from the team that started against Valencia at the weekend. Yerry Mina features for just the second time in La Liga, while Thomas Vermaelen and Lucas Digne also come into the XI. Further forward, Ousmane Dembele will support Paco Alcacer as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both start on the bench for the league leaders.
So there we have it. The teams are in, and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff at the Balaidos. I shall speak about the hosts a little bit later, but let's start with Barcelona. The Catalan giants set a new La Liga unbeaten record at the weekend when they beat Valencia 2-1 on home soil.
Indeed, Barcelona had moved level with Real Sociedad's 38-match unbeaten run when they beat Leganes on April 7, before moving out on their own at the weekend. It has been an incredible campaign for the Catalan giants, with 25 wins and seven draws from 32 fixtures bring them 82 points.
Barcelona are going to reclaim the La Liga title this season in very impressive fashion, while they have the small matter of the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla to come this weekend. A domestic double would be seen as a positive campaign no question, but there is no getting away from the fact that Ernesto Valverde's side really should be in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Indeed, the Catalan outfit took a 4-1 lead into the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Roma, but lost 3-0 in the return match in Rome to exit the competition in incredible fashion. It has been a difficult few years for Barcelona in European football, and there is no question that the club will still be thinking about what occurred in Rome on April 10.
As mentioned, Barcelona will face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final this weekend before travelling to Deportivo La Coruna in the league on April 29. They will then welcome Real Madrid to Camp Nou on May 5, before hosting Villarreal and travelling to Levante in their next two. Barcelona's final league game of the season, meanwhile, is at home to Real Sociedad on May 19.
As for Celta, a total of 43 points from 32 league matches has left them in ninth position in the table. They have recorded 12 wins, seven draws and 13 defeats up to this point, with seven of those victories coming on home soil, where they have only suffered three defeats thus far this season.
Celta finished 13th in La Liga last season, which was actually their lowest finish since the 2012-13 season. Indeed, they posted ninth, eighth and sixth between 2013 and 2016, and will be looking to cement a spot in the top half of the table in the final weeks of this campaign.
Celta are actually only four points off seventh-placed Sevilla, who they beat 4-0 at the Balaidos on April 7. Unzue's side have only won one of their last five in the league, however, and they have a tough few matches with Barcelona, Valencia, Villarreal and Real Madrid to come over the next few weeks.
Here we go then; both sets of players are in the tunnel ahead of kickoff in Vigo. It is a much-changed Barcelona against a Celta side that has had some very good recent results against the Catalan outfit. Stay tuned for what should be a very interesting game of football from the Balaidos!
KICKOFF! Celta kick things off here...
... not a full house inside the stadium, but there is a good atmosphere, and Celta will be looking to feed off their supporters tonight. Quite a low-key first couple of minutes to this contest.
Wass finds himself free inside the Celta box, but the Denmark international is in an offside position. The home side are on the front foot at the moment as they pass in the probe in the final third of the field. You do get the feeling that Dembele needs to shine for Barcelona in this match.
CHANCE! Big chance for the away side as Digne picks out the head of Paulinho with a super cross, but the midfielder can only place the ball wide of the post. Good move there.
Barcelona again make ground in a wide position - this time down the right - but Semedo can only deliver behind for a Celta goal kick. Good pressure from the visitors in the last few moments.
CHANCE! Wonderful passing move from Barcelona as Coutinho combines with Denis Suarez inside the Celta box, but the latter sends his effort just wide of the far post!
We have not seen too much from Alcacer in the first 11 minutes of this match, with the Barcelona forward struggling to get involved. Coutinho and Denis Suarez have been bright for the away side.
SAVE! Huge chance for the home side as Maxi Gomez meets a low cross from Aspas, but Ter Stegen is on hand to make the save. Excellent stuff from the German there!
SAVE! Alvarez keeps out a powerful drive from Alcacer!
Dembele has one deflected just wide of the far post as chances continue to arrive here.
It has been a very entertaining first 14 minutes, with both teams having moments in the final third of the field. You do get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - could be crucial here.
Smart defending from Mina as the Barcelona centre-back comes across to challenge Jozabed, who had threatened to break into a dangerous position. Still goalless, but the tempo is high in Vigo.
Half-chance for the home side as Jonny finds some space outside the Barcelona box, but the left-back's effort was always too high. Not too much from the visitors in the last few minutes here.
Wass breaks into the Barcelona box once again, but the Denmark international just cannot meet a super pass from Sisto. Celta are the team on the front foot with 20 minutes on the clock.
Barcelona will do really well to win tonight without the services of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The visitors have had chances in the first 23 minutes, but Celta are on the front foot at the moment, and Aspas is causing Mina and Vermaelen all sorts of problems with his clever movement here.
Coutinho fails to find Digne in the final third as another Barcelona attack comes to an end. Not too much happening for the visitors at the moment, with Celta very comfortable all over the park.
Super piece of defending from Jonny as the Celta defender blocks a strike from Paulinho.
POST! Paulinho hits the Celta post with a towering header from a corner!
CLOSE! Celta go straight down the other end, and Mendez just curls the ball wide of the far post. Super counter-attack from the home side, who should be ahead here.
There have been plenty of chances in the first 28 minutes here, but we are still goalless.
Mina manages to block a strike from Gomez as Celta continue to force the issue.
Little under 15 minutes of the first period remaining, and Celta are having a lot of joy in the wide positions at the moment. Aspas has been class for the home side as he continues to feed his teammates in forward positions. Aspas surely is a certainty to make the Spain squad this summer.
Mendez brings a decent save from Ter Stegen from an advanced area.
It will be very interesting to see whether Valverde calls for Messi or Luis Suarez tonight, especially if it remains goalless for a long period. We have not seen too much from Alcacer in this first period, while Coutinho and Dembele need to do much more for the Catalan side in this match.
SAVE! Ter Stegen makes a flying save to keep out a Mendez effort!
It might be goalless, but it has been anything but a poor first period. Barcelona have had their moments in the final third, but Celta have certainly been the more productive in the final third.
GOAL! Celta 0-1 Barcelona (Dembele)
What a super goal that is! Barcelona make the breakthrough in the 36th minute as a break from the visitors ends with Dembele striking a half-volley into the corner of the net. Wonderful final!
Possession football from Barcelona in the last few minutes, and it does seem that the goal has harmed Celta, who have been so impressive for long spells of this first half of action.
CHANCE! Coutinho finds Paulinho with a wonderful cross, but before the Brazilian can shoot, Jonny is on hand to clear under his own crossbar. Big chance for a second goal there.
Coutinho fires over the Celta crossbar as half-chances continue to arrive.
Denis Suarez looks for Coutinho with a fine pass inside the Celta box, but Alvarez manages to claim. The home side look to break through Maxi Gomez, but Digne is back to make the challenge.
Barcelona continue to keep the ball as we approach the half-time whistle in Vigo.
GOAL! Celta 1-1 Barcelona (Jonny)
Celta level the scores in the final moments of the first half as Maxi Gomez delivers a stunning cross into the Barcelona box, and Jonny simply cannot miss from close range!
HALF-TIME: Celta 1-1 Barcelona
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with the two teams level at 1-1. Dembele had sent Barcelona into the lead with a wonderful half-volley, but Celta levelled late in the first half through Jonny. It has been a very entertaining first 45 minutes of football in Vigo.
STATISTICS! Barcelona had more of the ball in the first period (59%), while the visitors managed nine attempts - four of which were on target. Celta were also productive in the final third, with the home side having four shots on target from eight attempts. No yellow cards to report in the first half here.
BENCH WATCH! Celta boss Unzue has a number of couple of attacking options on his bench tonight, with Boye and Mor among those available. Barcelona, meanwhile, have the likes of Messi, Luis Suarez and Aleix Vidal on their bench. Will we see Messi and Suarez in the second 45 minutes?
RESTART! Barcelona resume the action here...
... no changes from either side at the break, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both managers will have alterations in mind as the second period gathers pace here.
Stop in play here as Digne receives some treatment following an aerial challenge.
Sisto has had a brilliant season for Celta, and the attacker has been excellent in the first 50 minutes of this match. Semedo is having a really tough match up against the Denmark international here.
Aspas looks to release Sisto in a wide position, but the attacker cannot keep his feet due to the dampness on the field. Celta are certainly the more productive of the two teams at the moment.
SAVE! Alvarez does well to keep out a strike from Denis Suarez.
SAVE! Alvarez does well to keep out a strike from Denis Suarez.
CLOSE! Jozabed just misses the Barcelona post with a curling effort.
Maxi Gomez goes down inside the Barcelona box under a challenge from Digne, but the referee is not interested. Celta are the team on the front foot with 56 minutes on the clock here.
Messi could well be entering the field sooner rather than later as Celta continue to force the issue. Again Maxi Gomez finds space in a wide position, but there are no takers on the striker's cross.
BOOKING! Aspas (Celta) is booked following an altercation with Mina.
Mess is indeed ready to enter the field for the away side here.
BARCELONA SUBS! Messi and Roberto replace Coutinho and Gomes here.
Alvarez keeps out a strike from Dembele as Barcelona start to move the ball quicker here.
Digne finds all sorts of space inside the Celta box following a super pass from Messi, but the ball is too far ahead of Paulinho, with Alvarez out to claim. Good pressure from Barcelona at the moment.
GOAL! Celta 1-2 Barcelona (Paulinho)
Barcelona take the lead in the 64th minute as Paulinho, who has been a threat all night, turns a low Semedo cross into the bottom corner of the net. Big moment for the league leaders here!
Little over 20 minutes of football remaining, and Barcelona are keeping the ball in Vigo.
Ter Stegen keeps out a strike from Maxi Gomez, although the striker was in an offside position.
Not too much of an atmosphere inside the stadium at the moment, and Celta really need their fans to raise the atmosphere. Messi has just curled one over the home side's crossbar from distance.
RED CARD! ROBERTO!
Roberto is handed a straight red card for a last-man pull on the shirt of Aspas!
CLOSE! The resulting free kick from Aspas just misses the crossbar!
CELTA SUB! Radoja replaces Jozabed for the home side.
Celta now have a free kick in a wide area as Digne handles a cross from Wass...
... Mina rises highest to head clear!
Vidal is getting ready to enter the field for Barcelona here.
Sisto fires over the Barcelona crossbar from an advanced position.
BARCELONA SUB! Vidal replaces Dembele for the away side.
BOOKING! Wass (Celta) is booked for a rash challenge on Digne.
CELTA SUB! Sisto is replaced by Mor for the home side.
CHANCE! Mor hits the side-netting from a wide angle!
Radoja fires into the body of Ter Stegen as Celta continue to force the issue. Barcelona are coming under some serious pressure as we approach the final stages of this league contest.
GOAL! Celta 2-2 Barcelona (Aspas)
Celta level the scores in the 82nd minute as Aspas turns a low Mor cross into the bottom corner. Ter Stegen might have actually punched the ball onto the foot of Aspas, who welcomed the gift!
CELTA SUB! Boye replaces Mendez for the home side.
Mina heads a Mor cross over his own crossbar as Celta continue to force the issue here.
BOOKING! Jonny (Celta) is booked for a late challenge on Vidal.
CHANCE! Huge chance for Celta to win it as Aspas releases Boye inside the Barcelona box, but Ter Stegen is out to make the save before Digne clears. What a moment!
We are into the first of three additional minutes here.
Time is running out for Celta if they are to grab a third. They have just passed up a huge chance, and surely will not get another one as Barcelona look to make it 40 league games unbeaten.
FULL-TIME: Celta 2-2 Barcelona
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period in Vigo to a close with the two teams level at 2-2. Barcelona's unbeaten league record stretches to 40 matches! Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live minute-by-minute coverage once again. Until next time!