by Zack Lambert
June 26, 2020
Barcelona at Celta de Vigo
Spread: Celta (+1); O/U: 3
Moneyline: Barcelona -170, Celta +450, Draw +305
Time/Location: 11:00 ET, Estadio de Balaídos, Vigo, Spain
The race for La Liga’s crown could not be much tighter at the moment as the country’s heavyweights, Barcelona and Real Madrid, are separated not by a single point, but by a single goal. That’s right, either team is one goal away from being in a dead tie coming around the final turn, and we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Barcelona have played stellar football since the season recommenced and have yet to concede in those four matches.
Even without Luis Suárez for a crucial portion of the season Barcelona have stayed right at the top thanks to their always stellar attacking and midfield play. Lionel Messi has dazzled yet again and the likes of Arturo Vidal, Antoinne Griezmann, and Ansu Fati have contributed in the absence of Suárez in a way that makes Barcelona the top scoring team on the Iberian Peninsula. In the midfield, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong have made life much easier as their defending and distributing prowesses allow the forwards to cheat upfield.
However there still is turmoil in Catalonia as Barcelona have once again made waves among their team. Earlier in the season it was publicly disrespecting Ernesto Valverde by offering the job to Xavi, but now it’s swapping Arthur Melo for Miralem Pjanić. The Barcelona players are reportedly unhappy with the deal and it’s easy to see why. Melo has shown he’s deserving to wear the badge this season and he’s just 23 years old. His best years are ahead of him while Pjanić, seven years his senior, only totes a dependable track record. This deal clearly states that Arthur isn’t part of the future plans, meaning Busquets has a long future planned and de Jong and even Riqui Puig are valued higher than the Brazilian.
Celta Vigo (DLDWW)
Celta have been a wildly interesting team this season. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve played good football considering they’re floundering at 16th in the league, but they have been a curious case study. Only six teams in La Liga have allowed less goals than Celta’s 35, an astoundingly low number for a team in their position. However, the larger opponent to Celta’s success than their actual opponents is generally their own attack. In 31 appearances Celta have netted just 29 goals, seven of which have come in the past two matches, better than just three teams in the competition.
Iago Aspas has been the most important player for Celta this season as he’s played a hand in 13 of the team’s rare goals. The 32 year old has played in every match but one for the team and logged the most minutes on the season. Without him they would likely be dead last in the competition. Rafinha and Denis Suárez have also been attacking staples in the untraditional 3-4-2-1. It goes without saying that the stellar defending has saved Celta’s season this far and it will likely fall onto their shoulders again in this final stretch of games. A few transfers need to be made for the attack, but until that’s possible the defense is on their own.
Analysis and Pick
A lot of what I unfolded above points to a win from Barcelona and I believe we’d be silly to go with anything other than that. However, I just want to lay out some stats for everyone that could raise an eyebrow:
Celta have won their past two league games with a combined score of 7-0.
Barcelona have a clean sheet in their last five matches while Celta have six in their last seven.
There have been under 2.5 goals in six of Celta’s last seven games.
There have been under 2.5 goals in Barcelona’s last five matches.
Celta are undefeated against Barcelona in their last five home matches in all competitions.
So yeah, all those stats are a bit ominous when you’re directing people to bet on the opposite, but we have to look at this match with what’s on the line. Barcelona have to win to keep pace with Real Madrid, and with a front line of Messi, Suárez, and Griezmann, I don’t believe Barcelona will be contained. Don’t bother with the total here as it should strike three exactly. Take Barcelona to win the match 2-1, but keep an eye on the lines as there’s going to be a lot of action and movement in the hours before kickoff.