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La Liga: Can Barca Finally Break Their Celta Curse?


La Liga: Can Barca Finally Break Their Celta Curse?

Celta Vigo vs Barcelona

The race for the La Liga title remains as tight as ever. Real Madrid responded to Barcelona’s narrow 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao with a 2-0 win over Mallorca to nudge back ahead thanks to head-to-head record.

Barca will now get the chance to reclaim the lead over Real as they pay a visit to 16th-placed Celta Vigo. However, that will be much easier said than done.

Celta have been the Catalans’ bogey team in recent years, especially at the Balaidos, and would love nothing more than to put a dent in Barca’s title dreams.

Talking Points

Celta coming good of late

Celta Vigo were in poor form upon returning from the break in play. They suffered a heartbreaking home defeat to Villarreal, who scored in stoppage time to steal the win. They then drew away to a mediocre Real Valladolid side.

Including their last two matches before the break, Celta have now failed to score in their last four games. As a result, they remained in danger of getting relegated from La Liga.

However, they put an end to that goal drought in remarkable fashion as they thumped Alaves 6-0. Granted, they were aided by an early Alaves red card.

But then, they followed that up with a huge 1-0 win over a struggling Real Sociedad at San Sebastian to push themselves seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas should be full of confidence heading into this match after finding the net in consecutive matches, although both goals came from the penalty spot. The 32-year-old is having another fine season for Celta with 11 league goals.

Aspas has made a habit of scoring against Barcelona at the Balaidos over the past few years. He’s scored five goals in his last five home games against Barca.

Meanwhile, former Barcelona players Denis Suarez and Rafinha have also restarted the season well and will be eager to get back at their old club. Suarez supplied two assists in the 6-0 win over Alaves, while Rafinha scored two goals.

Barca still reliant on Messi

Barcelona have played their first four games since the restart in a similar fashion to how they’ve performed for most of the season. That is, highly reliant on Lionel Messi.

Messi has had a direct hand in five of their seven goals, with two goals and three assists. He scored one and set up two of their four goals in their first game back against Mallorca. He also somewhat unintentionally set up Ivan Rakitic’s winning goal against Athletic Bilbao.

But despite Messi’s brilliance and the return of both Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba, Barca have still not looked all that convincing going forward, especially in their last three games.

They could only muster 10 shots against relegation-threatened Leganes. They also failed to break down a tough Sevilla side en route to a goalless draw and had just four shots on target out of 18 against Bilbao.

Manager Quique Setien has been unable to fix Barca’s Messi-centric attack. But on a positive note, his heavy possession-based system has helped Barca keep four consecutive clean sheets.

However, it remains to be seen whether that improved defensive record will hold up away to Celta. Prior to the break in play, Barca’s La Liga 2020 results away from home were awful. They won just one of their last five away from the Camp Nou (two draws, two losses) and conceded two goals in each of those five games.

History

Just like most other teams in La Liga, Barcelona have had the better of their matchups against Celta Vigo through the years. They hold an 11-4 advantage in terms of wins, with three draws in their last 18 league meetings.

Messi scored a hat-trick to lead Barca to a 4-1 win over Celta at the Camp Nou in their first meeting this season.

However, Celta Vigo have become a constant thorn in Barca’s side for the past few years at home, so much so that they’ve gone unbeaten against the Catalans in their last four league meetings at the Balaidos (three wins, one draw).

They’ve scored at least two goals in each of those last four home games against Barca, which include a famous 4-1 win in 2015 and a 4-3 thriller in 2016.

Betting Tip

Celta Vigo Asian Handicap +1.00 @ 1.78

Despite the fact that Barcelona haven’t won at Balaidos in five years, the SBOBET odds still have them as overwhelming 1.66 favourites on the 1X2 market, with Celta priced at 4.90 to pick up another home win. A draw is 3.80.

There’s a lot to like about Celta, especially on the Asian Handicap market. Aside from the fact that they have some terrific recent history at home against Barca, they are catching the Catalans at a time where they are far from their best, particularly away from home.

Of course, the threat of Messi winning the game all by himself is a real one, but I’m confident an in-form Celta side can still cause Barca some problems. At the very least, they can hold Barca to a draw, which would be a big blow to the champions’ La Liga 2020 odds to retain their title.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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