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May 4, 2019 at 7.45pm UK
Celta Vigo
2-0
Barcelona
Gomez (67'), Aspas (88' pen.)
FT(HT: 0-0)

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Preview: Celta Vigo vs. Barcelona - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Celta Vigo and champions Barcelona, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

Barcelona play their first La Liga match since being crowned champions when they make the trip to Celta Vigo on Saturday evening.

The Catalan giants wrapped up top spot with plenty of time to spare last weekend to remain on course for a treble, whereas Celta still have a lot to play for as they are not assured of safety.


Celta Vigo

Stanislav Lobotka in action for Celta Vigo in October 2017© Reuters

A 2-0 loss to Barca in the reverse fixture kickstarted a terrible run of form for Celta as they lost 10 out of 12 matches between December 22 and March 16, culminating in a 2-0 reverse at the hands of Real Madrid in Zinedine Zidane's first match back in charge.

The Celts have managed to find their feet at the business end of the season, though, thanks to a far more positive run of one defeat in their last seven games, with that solitary loss coming against Atletico Madrid three weeks ago.

Back-to-back away draws against Espanyol and Leganes leaves Fran Escriba's men 15th in the table and just two points above Real Valladolid in the final relegation spot.

With a meeting against 19th-placed Rayo Vallecano to come on the final day, Celta could yet be demoted to the second tier for the first time since 2012.

Escriba will be targeting three more points from the three remaining matches, with a trip to Athletic Bilbao sandwiched between games against Barca and Rayo.

Celta have won their last three home league matches, which is their best streak since February 2017, beating Villarreal, Real Sociedad and Girona at Balaidos since the end of March.

Their home ground has also become a fortress of sorts when coming up against Barca, who are winless in their last three league visits there, drawing once and losing twice.

Celta have conceded 13 goals in the 15 minutes leading up to half time in La Liga this season, more than any other side, but there have been more positives than negatives over the past couple of months.

Escriba's side have their work cut out on Saturday, but they boast a good recent record at home to Barca and a shock result could go a long way to retaining their top-flight status for another year.

Recent form in La Liga: DWLWDD


Barcelona

Lionel Messi lifts the La Liga trophy on April 27, 2019© Reuters

Given their poor recent record at Balaidos, Ernesto Valverde will be pleased that his side have wrapped up the title with three matches to spare.

Barca required star man Lionel Messi to come off the bench and get the job done in last weekend's home meeting with Levante, which took them to 83 points for the season, nine more than Atletico Madrid against whom they have a superior head-to-head record.

The Catalan giants have now won the La Liga title in five of the last seven seasons and eight of the last 11, and they also remain on course to retain the Copa del Rey crown for a fourth time in a row as they take on Valencia at the end of the month.

A domestic double has become par for the course these days, though - going all the way in the Champions League for the first time since 2015 is what really matters to Valverde and his players over the next four weeks.

Barcelona already have one foot in the final thanks to their 3-0 win over Liverpool in Wednesday's first leg. The three-goal scoreline flattered the Spanish champions, though, and their opponents - perhaps more than any other side on the continent - know how to produce magic comebacks.

There was also the famous collapse at the hands of Roma a little over 12 months ago, so Valverde will not be taking anything for granted. Changes can be expected for Saturday's trip to Galicia, then, and the games against Getafe and Eibar to see out the La Liga season are also dead-rubbers.

Valverde will know the importance of momentum, however, and his men certainly have that on their side thanks to five wins on the spin in all competitions and a run of 23 matches without defeat since January.

Fourteen of those matches have come on their travels, keeping a clean sheet in exactly half of those. As we have become used to in recent times, though, Barcelona cannot take anything for granted at Balaidos.

Recent form in La Liga: DWDWWW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWWW


Team News

Malcom in action for Barcelona on January 23, 2019© Reuters

Valverde was always likely to make changes on Saturday, but two of those will be enforced anyway as midfield regulars Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets are suspended.

Malcom, Carles Alena and Jean-Clair Todibo are all expected to profit from the squad rotation, while Riqui Puig and Moussa Wague may also be used.

Barca used a three-man defence in their goalless draw against Huesca last month when they last made mass changes, and it may well be a case of going with the same XI that started that match.

As for Celta, they may be without Iago Aspas as the striker suffered a shoulder injury against Leganes.

That would be a massive blow for the hosts as Aspas has been involved in nine of their last 10 goals (five goals of his own and four assists).

Elsewhere, Okay Yokuslu is back from suspension and should be used in the middle, but David Junca and Emre Mor are carrying knocks.

Celta Vigo possible starting lineup:
Blanco; Mallo, Costas, Hoedt, Olaza; Mendez, Lobotka, Yokuslu, Boufal; Aspas, Gomez

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Cillessen; Umtiti, Murillo, Vermaelen; Wague, Puig, Todibo, Alena, Malcom; Dembele, Boateng


Head To Head

Barca drew 2-2 in this corresponding fixture last season, following 4-3 and 4-1 defeats in their previous two visits to this stadium.

Valverde's men won the most recent fixture between these sides 2-0 at Camp Nou in December thanks to goals from Ousmane Dembele and Messi.

Barcelona boss Valverde is unbeaten in his 16 managerial La Liga games against Celta, winning 11 and drawing five.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Celta Vigo 1-1 Barcelona

Celta have lost just one game across the last seven matchdays, picking up 12 points in the process. Barca, even if they heavily rotate, are favourites to come away from this match with all three points, but we are backing the hosts to maintain their solid run of form by ending their opponents' winning streak.


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