With a top-four finish now guaranteed, Barcelona continue their La Liga campaign with the visit of Celta Vigo to Camp Nou on Tuesday evening. The Blaugrana made sure of Champions League qualification by beating Real Betis 2-1 at the weekend, while the visitors cruised past Alaves 4-0 Barcelona giving Copa del Rey winners Real Betis a guard of honour was certainly a collector’s item, but Xavi’s side focused on the task at hand when the first whistle blew and guaranteed themselves a place in the 2021-22 Champions League in dramatic fashion at the Benito Villamarin.
Ansu Fati came off the bench to strike the opening goal in the second half before ex-Blaugrana defender Marc Bartra restored parity through his shoulder, but a goal worthy of sealing Champions League qualification came via the left foot of Jordi Alba in the 94th minute. The left-back’s exquisite volley confirmed Barcelona’s place in the big time after a marked turnaround in fortunes under Xavi, who has not been without his problems in recent weeks but will see his team end the gameweek in second place – four points clear of Sevilla with three games left.
It is still mathematically possible for Sevilla and Atletico Madrid to bump Barcelona down to fourth, but the pressure is now off the Blaugrana’s shoulders for their final few games of the term with Celta, Getafe and Villarreal, and preparations can soon begin for a busy summer of acquisitions. Victory over Mallorca at Camp Nou on May 1 saw Barcelona end a three-game losing streak on their own turf in all competitions, but Xavi’s side have now gone four games without a clean sheet at their Catalan base, and their upcoming opponents were in a rampant mood at the weekend.
Rocked by the news of Santi Mina’s four-year prison sentence after being convicted of sexual abuse, Celta Vigo did not allow the shocking off-field events to distract them as they more or less condemned basement side Alaves to relegation with a four-goal thumping. Captain Iago Aspas continued his fine goalscoring form with his 16th and 17th strikes of the season in that game after Thiago Galhardo had taken just six minutes to break the deadlock, and a Ximo Navarro own goal and red card embodied Alaves’ disastrous day at Balaidos.
A top-half finish is by no means out of the question for Eduardo Coudet’s side, who currently find themselves 11th in the standings after Rayo Vallecano failed to take all three points home from their trip to Getafe on Sunday afternoon. Having won just one of their last seven before Alaves paid a visit to their headquarters, a four-goal thrashing was the perfect tonic for Celta Vigo amid their troubling week, but they travel to Camp Nou having only picked up one win from their last nine away games on the road in all tournaments.
However, Coudet’s side produced a phenomenal comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Barcelona earlier in the season, and Coudet’s side also won 2-1 at Camp Nou last term, so the opportunity to prolong the Blaugrana’s recent misery on Catalan turf this week is certainly a realistic one. Barcelona have lost Sergio Busquets to suspension for Tuesday’s game after he picked up his 10th yellow card of the season in the win over Betis – not ideal with Nico Gonzalez, Sergi Roberto and Pedri all out for the season with injuries.
Gerard Pique and Sergino Dest also remain on the sidelines, and Xavi will hope to have Marc-Andre ter Stegen back at his disposal after the German goalkeeper missed out at the weekend due to a stomach bug, but Neto did come up with some vital saves on the night. Riqui Puig is seemingly set to come into the midfield with Busquets on the naughty step, while Memphis Depay failed to impress in attack at the weekend and will surely make way for the returning Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Despite his opener against Betis, Fati may continue to build up his fitness from the bench, allowing Ferran Torres to link up with Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele in the final third.
In contrast, Celta Vigo’s treatment room is not very well-stocked at the minute, with Hugo Mallo expected to miss out as he works his way back from a patella fracture. The visitors have been dealt two further blows ahead of this game, though, with Nolito out to due to an adductor tear and Carlos Dominguez nursing a sprained ankle. While Coudet will take the quick turnaround into account, the Celta boss will be loath to alter the XI that put Alaves to the sword at the weekend, with Renato Tapia ready to make an impact from the bench again.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Alves, R. Araujo, Garcia, Alba; Gavi, De Jong, Puig; Dembele, Aubameyang, Torres
Celta Vigo possible starting lineup:
Dituro; Vazquez, N. Araujo, Aidoo, Galan; Beltran; Mendez, Suarez, Cervi; Aspas, Galhardo