After a 5 year stint in La Liga Adelante, Celta de Vigo is back in La Liga Primera and eager to make a statement. They return to Camp Nou tonight (early game starting at 6pm CET), and are keen to take at least a point home with them.
At least, that’s what Javi Varas says.
Remember Javi? He played Goalkeeper for Sevilla last season – in that scoreless game at Camp Nou where he had a blinder of a match; denied Barça chances from all angles including a Messi penalty; stopped 7 shots on goal, and earned the admiration of Pep, who said, “you have to praise Javi for his performance – you’ve seen tonight that keepers also play!”
Javi was later interviewed on Barça TV’s “Barça ADN” (Barça DNA) program, where he commented that although the game was his biggest in terms of media coverage, his best game (in his memory) was winning the Copa del Rey, when Sevilla played Atlético de Madrid in the 2010 Final at Camp Nou.
Celta and Barça have a few ties in players both past and present, as well as in their coaches.
~ Tito played for Celta between 1992 and 1995.
~ Mazinho – Thiago and Rafinha’s old man – played for Celta between 1996 and 2000.
~ After leaving Betis, Pinto joined Celta for 10 years between 1998 and 2008, and was team captain. In the 2005/06 season, Pinto won the Zamora Trophy after letting in only 29 goals in 37 games for a ratio of 0.78.
~ Vigo’s Manager, Paco Herrera (Barcelona-born), was Sports Director of Club Deportivo Badajoz when, in 1995, he signed Tito Vilanova (away from Celta) to play for the Second Division team.
~ Current Celta player, Toni, played for Barcelona Youth Teams between 2002 and 2005.
Celta de Vigo has the distinction of having 2 of the longest sponsorship deals in Spanish Football history. Citroën (Galicia’s biggest employer) has been the official shirt sponsor since 1985. Umbro (also local) supplied the kit for 24 years from 1986 – 2010 until the deal was terminated when Li Ning came onboard as the kit manufacturer.
Celta’s away record this season is not good – 4 losses from 4 games with 3 goals scored and 8 against. Overall they have played 9 games: won 3, drawn 1 and lost 5 to sit mid-table in 13th place.
In recent games over the past week, Celta has experienced some difficult times. The Galician Derby match against Deportivo de La Coruña last weekend was a torrid affair which ended in a 1-1 draw. The card-happy referee was keen to flash his red and yellow, and Celta’s Cabral received 2 Yellows in 3 minutes and was red carded from the pitch in the 50th minute. He misses tonight’s game.
In the mid-week CdR match, Celta lost to Almeria 0-2, and CB Samuel was injured in that game and is expected to miss several weeks with meniscus damage to a knee. Mid-fielder, Natxo Insa, is also injured and will be missing from tonight’s line-up.
With key defenders Samuel, Cabral and Natxo missing, Celta will be a bit shy of defensive players but don’t expect them to lie down because of it.
The team consists of more than a few home-grown players, and a mix of Internationals. Notable Spanish players include a couple of youth players – Jonathan Castro Otto (playing in the Spanish U19 squad) and Hugo Mallo (playing in the U21 squad).
Internationals include Danish winger Michael Krohn-Dehli, Gabonese Lévy Clément Madinda, Argentine Augusto Fernández and Venezuelan Andrés José Túñez Arceo. Krohn-Dehli, Madinda and Augusto have all been called up for International Duty in the next friendlies to be played mid-November.
Perhaps the most well-known of their international stars is Park Chu-Young. After Germany’s Lukas Podolski signed to Arsenal at the beginning of the season and took the #9 shirt from Park’s back, the South Korean player was loaned to Celta. He’s most likely ruing that day in August 2011 when he disappeared from his French hotel room, mid-way through completing medicals for French club Lille, to jump the English Channel and sign for Arsenal. Look where it got you, Park.
With South Korean film crews following his every move, Park scored soon after being subbed in for his debut game earlier this season. The South Korean woman reporter cried. Since then, he’s been unable to find the net, but playing against Barça does tend to bring out the best (and worst?) in players.
What of Barça?
Messi will be presenting his Golden Shoe Trophy and Xavi will be showing off his Prince of Asturias Award that he co-shares with Iker Casillas. Xavi is also donating the €25,000 that he got for the Award to a children’s charity in Terrassa. What a guy.
Tonight, there’s a new daddy in the ranks. Messi will be very keen to score and dedicate a goal to #1 son, Thiago Messi, who will be about 24h hours old when his Papa takes to the pitch.
I expect that Vilanova will put out a strong line-up which will include Pinto in goal, for nostalgia’s sake. ;.)
The team will be looking for a win to make this the best-ever start to a season for the club.
Game starts in about an hour – click here for the time in your part of the world: FC Barcelona vs. Celta de Vigo