When The Celts Come Marching In

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

Streams for the match are usually found here, here and here

Força Barça!



  1. Messi down, oh no. Lets hope he doesn’t pay the price for wanting to dedicate a goal to his son

  2. Messi definitely hyperextended his knee when he landed on it.

    Even though he’s back in the match, I’m concerned there’ll be after effects.

  3. @barcastuff: Barcelona are unbeaten with goal difference 84-9 when they start with Messi-Pedro-Villa #fcblive Last 25 Liga matches [via @infostradalive]

    Wow! Maybe heading back to that form once we get our CBs back.

  4. Seriously, Messi, take a god damn paternity leave?

    What’s the point of playing if you lack sleep, didn’t train and have no energy? You’ll run a higher risk of getting injured. And the worst part is, you’re taking a spot of someone who could’ve at least tried harder. And the worst of the worst was you nearly injured yourself.

    It clearly didn’t work until the first half, first hour then take him out! Why wait any longer?!

  5. Alba’s goal was the same off-side play as his goal vs. Belarus, except it was Villa who back-heeled it to him tonight, not Pedro.

  6. Shame about Adriano’s injury. He really hit his stride this season, even with amazing competition we have at fullback. It seems Tito really likes him for tactical awareness and willingness to do whatever the team needs, in both attack and defense. Hope he’s back soon.

    Messi should not have seen the pitch today. Apparently he’s Ok, but some time off to come to grips with being a father seems to be in order (and goalscoring records can wait) 🙂

  7. Villa was fantastic today .
    Our defense was very porous till Bartra came in .
    Messi was not his usual self , I think we came very close to pay for playing our best player when he is very tired .
    Iniesta is magical and I hope we can have an Alba – Abidal Hybrid 🙂

    1. To be fair, we went back to a conventional 4 man back line when Alves and Bartra came in, and then when Cesc went off, Busquets shifted into midfield.

      It wasn’t just because Bartra came on, although he did a great job.

    2. I think that having a natural CB among the back two makes our defense much stronger .
      at least one of the back two is moving properly .

  8. …aaannnnd we are all alone in 1st place. congrats to valencia, the first team to beat atletico this year.

  9. Nice to feel as if the team carried Messi for a change. This game didn’t feel as if everyone was looking for Messi.

    Having said that, what does a Messi have to do to get a game off?

    I’m loving how confident and sharp Villa and Pedro look.

    1. Yes, Villa was very active today and positioned himself in places he usually avoids.
      His goal is a good example. He was deep in Messi territory. In fact, Messi was totally free and waiting there for the pass.

    2. Yes, even his backheels were to open spaces and not in dangerous places that could expose the teams defensively.

    3. That’s more what I meant – his back heel passes were very effective and contributed to his overall good game.

  10. I like Mascherano, and I am an Argentina fan as well, but his positioning is a real problem. The Celta goal, and most of their goal scoring opportunity came after Masch chased a player in midfield instead of staying back. Watch the reply. It´s very obvious.

    1. Nah, that’s what’s known as an open goal and in football games I was useless at those. 🙂

  11. Some thoughts –

    1. It’s fantastic that the goal scoring burden is being shared more equally now. i just hope it does not give rise to a cranky messi.

    2. yesterday, messi was probably at his worst, from a football and attitude standpoint. at the risk of reading too much into things, goal scoring must not become an obsession for him.

    3. Villa is officially back. He was razor sharp yesterday and our left has become more dangerous than the right as it stands with villa, alba combining much better than messi – alves.

    4. us leaking goals is a real concern. people may write it off pointing to the crazy defensive injury roster, but even in times of adversity pep seemed to manage the defensive problems better. just food for thought, we have conceded 12 goals in 10 games. in 2010-11, we conceded 21 goals during the whole season (38 games).

    5. adriano…why? just when you were starting to look like the alves of old.

    6. still we’re unbeaten which is great. but how will these tactics work against quality opposition, say in cl, against teams with better defense and sharper attack.

    7. With the general pattern of Tito’s Barca evolving towards a more direct approach, lesser possession, lesser pressing, deeper defending, what will it take for this team to stamp the overwhelming perception of superiority? or is Tito just content with the team eventually scoring more goals than the opposition ala 5-4 vs deportivo?

    1. 6. have you seen the upcoming calendar? nothing too scary on there for a couple months. i like us to win at scotland, which basically clinches 1st place in the group. we wont play elimination rounds in CL until february. we play atletico on December 16, hopefully we will have recovered pique and or puyol by then. thiago should be back too, but who knows.

  12. Doesn’t the management or the coaching staff advice our players to stop damaging the club’s reputation? Please stop with the imaginary card waiving. I was hella pissed at 2am after seeing Pedro waving the imaginary card. Just let the referee do his god damn job.

    It was obviously a yellow card so let him handle it. There is no need to show to the whole world and give them another reason to hate our club.

  13. I really loved how Adriano started over Alves. Great job Tito! I actually think he would do as good or better than Masch alongside Pique when he returns. Barca has seen only 1 or 2 quality goals against them all the rest being outright blunders or bad positioning. Masch handed another unforced gift to Celta who couldn’t finish. A better team would have. Bartra still is a couple of years away from having the physicality of a starter in big games. Song should start with Pique at center and Masch DM against Celtic. If Song is the answer for CB it’s time to show it. I just can’t stand the idea of this team going out because of a loose defense.

  14. Messi had 1 bad game and alba-villa works beta than alves-messi? C’mon get real……..when will y’all realize sMash is now a CB?, even with pique puyol back i dnt see him moving uptown or bench ward.

    Honestly, i just want puyol to retire and soon too, the backline needs changing, pique and sMash should be headlining that department…

    Plus pinto got a Zamora? Wow! Some achievement eh?.

    1. Puyol retire? C’mon. That’s a very harsh statement. He hasn’t even been playing the last 2 years because of injury. When he does, he bosses the backline and has everyone on song! Pun intended. Puyol is our leader, our symbol of never stop trying, never give up, never lose focus! I hope Puyol can play a couple more years. I know as well as any of us that he’s aging rapidly. Playing that position doesn’t allow forgiveness on the body and mind. He’s a warrior and one of my hero’s. Visca Puyol, Visca Barca!

    2. I agree with your comment to a certain extent (Puyol bit).
      Some people are getting carried away with Montoya, Adriano, Alba-Villa etc.

      Don’t let years of the amazing work of their predecessors get overshadowed by a couple of good matches by their replacements.

    3. From my point of view, the longer Puyol plays on the better. Apart from the fact that he is by some way our best defender in terms of positioning, leadership and organisation of the ackline and man marking ability it would give us time to find a good replacement for him rather than making do or rushing into a mistake.

      However, if you think Mascherano has been impressive as a CB then we’ll just agree to differ- and see who is keeping the bench warm when the two actual CBs are back.

  15. Time and again one or another CB is caught out 20 plus yards behind the counter. With Barcas outside backs playing into the attack and the quality of our midfield teams really have no alternative but to play deep balls out wide and then back in. Puyol is the master at covering, the right mix of size speed and paranoia. Arsenal, Inter, Chelsea, Madrid, Valencia have all made Barca pay in championships in recent years (well not Arsenal but it took 4 goals by Messi) Yaya was the godsend in the golden year. Can we please sell Affelay for 20 mill and get a real CB?

    1. Point taken. But I don’t understand how another CB is going to help (assuming one with the right qualities is on the market, which I doubt). The realities are:
      1. Barcelona ALWAYS has the onus to win. Draws are effectively losses;
      2. Therefore, it must always attack, even against a parked bus.
      3. It attacks the parked bus by trying to outnumber the opposition in the penalty area;
      4. That will always leave barca vulnerable at the back (no matter who we buy at CB).

      Indeed, the best solution, methinks, is to make Barca’s forwards press even harder and cut off the counter-attacking supply at its source.

  16. nzm,

    Thanks so much for this post! You always come up with the most interesting tid bits of information. The Celta/Barca commonalities were really great. I am not old enough to remember Tito playing for them or even Mazinho. Thanks so much for those cherries on top!

    1. Thanks! The history’s all there, scattered around the internet – I just piece it all together. 🙂 Does take some time, though.

  17. Another positive from the match was when the crowd chanted Messi’s name after he missed his 2nd chance. Beautiful. Just like whenever he misses a penalty.

  18. Damn !

    At the end of last week I had a school event rescheduled for Wednesday so have had to give away my ticket for the game in Glasgow. At least it finishes by 7.30pm so ill be home to watch on the TV. Shame , as there are few events in this world more stirring than European night at Parkhead. First twenty minutes won’t be for the faint hearted.

    Mind you, the ticket was in hospitality. I’d have had to keep quiet.

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