Barça take on Real Club Celta de Vigo at Camp Nou tomorrow evening with the aim of staying top of La Liga for another week. After nine games we have an impressive record of eight wins and a draw which has seen us obtain an eight-point advantage over our traditional main rival Real Madrid. However, Atlético Madrid have made a tremendous start to the season to stay level on points with Barça, and every day they are looking more and more like serious title contenders.
It seems that any time now Leo Messi will become a father as his girlfriend Antonella entered hospital this morning. Messi missed training today to be at the birth and we’ll have to wait and see if he if he is included to play tomorrow. There seems to be an almost Messiah-like expectation in some parts for the birth, and while I don’t follow any of those ideas, there was a strange bright star hovering in the Barcelona sky last night! We’ll have to wait a few years though to see if little Thiago grows up to play anything like his Dad.
Whatever happens with Messi, Tito Vilanova will definitely still be without central defenders Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol, though both players are nearing the end of their recuperation. However, with Alves and Mascherano back, there will be fewer problems to form a defence than in recent games with Alba, Adriano, Bartrá, Montoya, Busquets and Song as possible alternatives. Montoya and Cesc Fabregas are the only two players who played all 180 minutes of the last two wins at Rayo and Alavés, and if Messi plays then Cesc may well be rested with an eye on Wednesday’s Champions League game at Celtic which would mean a return to Xavi and Iniesta in midfield. For the wide forward positions we should expect to see Pedro return on the right while again it will be a choice between David Villa, Alexis and Tello for the wide left position, with Villa probably better placed to start given his excellent scoring record so far this season.
Our opponents Celta have returned to the Primera División after five years playing in Segunda. The club splashed out spending a whopping €2 million in the summer to celebrate their promotion, the biggest chunk (€1.6 million) going on signing the Argentinian, Augusto Fernandez from Velez Sarsfield, however, their limited budget means they have to rely on various loaned players such as Arsenal’s South Korean Park Chu Young who made six appearances for the Gunners last season, and Sevilla’s keeper Javi Varas who you’ll no doubt remember stopped Messi’s last minute penalty in the 0-0 draw with Sevilla last season. Celta coach Paco Herrera will be without defenders Gustavo Cabral who was sent off in last week’s 1-1 draw with Deportivo, and the injured Samuel Llorca. Johnathan Vila is in line to come into central defence alongside Andres Tunez.
Celta are currently 13th in the table on 10 points but it should be noted that all those points have been won at home as they have lost all their away games so far, including a 2-0 defeat at Real Madrid two weeks ago. They played a very defensive game at the Bernabeu and I think we can expect the same tomorrow. However, Barça should win comfortably, and if Messi plays then I think we might expect something special. Last time the sides met in the league was back in 2007 when goals from Javier Saviola, Ronaldinho Gaucho and Ludovic Guily gave Barça a 3-1 victory.
Possible starting XIs:
Barça: Valdés; Alves, Bartrá, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa.
Celta: Javi Varas; Hugo Malla, Johnathan Vila, Andres Tunez, Roberto Lago; Borja Oubina, Christian Bustos, Alex Lopez; Augusto Fernandez, Iago Aspas, Michael Krohn-Dehli.
Prediction: Barça 4 Celta 0
Date: Saturday 3 November. Kick off: 6 pm local time