Celta Vigo vs Barcelona: Celta Look to Evade Relegation with Miracle

BarcelonaCelta Vigo midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli will miss tonight’s clash against Barcelona after injuring his knee while on international duty. Sergio Alvarez, Hugo Mallo, Samuel Llorca, and Alex Lopez are all sidelined, while Andres Tunez and Iago Aspas are suspended.

Barcelona playmaker Xavi is struggling with his hamstring strain and will not travel to Galicia. Defender Jordi Alba (hamstring) and striker Pedro (calf) also picked up knocks while on Spain duty and join Carles Puyol (knee) and Adriano (thigh). On another note, the inspirational Abidal is back in the squad and is expected to get a few minutes.

Now, with Barcelona aiming to please on Tuesday night vs PSG in the Champions league, their minds (and players) won’t be all in it for Celta tonight. A list of injuries and suspensions lurk between both squads therefore it wont exactly be the best of encounters.

With Barcelona expected to rest the majority of their starters the game will definitely have a different tactical taste towards it. In the general sense, Celta tend to congest the mid and attempt to off-balance their opposition. Especially when playing the Atleticos, Real Madrids or even the Valencias; so in other words, on big occasions they tend to perform.

With Barcelona, it will be a bit different since it will be extremely hard to off-balance and quite honestly best a team that is probably the most fluid in the world when it comes to the midfield area. Celta will eye a tired, younger Barca (with Gerrard D, Tello, and Montoya all having a chance of starting) by presuming high-pressure and waiting for a misplaced pass or whatnot to strike. Starting with Celta;

Celta Vigo Probable Line-Up:

Varas, Johny, Cabral, Demidov, Lago, Oubiña, Insa, Fernández, Bermejo, Lucas, Park

Barcelona vs Celta VigoThe home-side will be looking to take advantage of Barca’s absences but need to be extremely disciplined in transitional play. They won’t necessarily man-mark the Catalans in the mid because their players tend to shift positions constantly, making it impossible. They’ll be aiming for an elite level of compactness, everywhere throughout the pitch.

This will probably be done by keeping masses of players inside the heart of the midfield and making it difficult for their opponents to find a link through. This is where their high-line comes into mind; they tried it vs Real Madrid and it was relatively successful for the majority of the game. They need to keep the back-line very high to keep Barca as further away as possible from the goal, because at any given moment, Messi (if he starts) could make a quick dribble and find himself in front of goal.

Furthermore, the gunner-man on loan needs to be at his positional best and make quick runs inside the box in case Barca are dispossessed in front of goal. Celta won’t really miss any of their injured players in much sense except in the shooting department as most of their injured players master out-the-box screamers. Other than that, they will be very balanced, poised and definitely motivated if they keep that compactness throughout the pitch. As for the Catalans;

Barcelona Probable Line-Up:

Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Montoya, Alcântara, Song, Fàbregas, Sanchez, Villa, Tello

Whether Tello/Sanchez start on the flanks or Tello/Gerrard D. it will be a very forward approach. With Celta expected to put on some high pressure and play with compactness, Cesc needs to be more forward to free himself from the mass amount of Celta players.

Barca expected to play Song as a 1-man-pivotal defensive midfielder. He should be vital for tonight because his long balls that used to be used to feed Van Persie back in Arsenal should be used tonight to support the wings. By feeding Tello and Sanchez/Gerrard on the flanks, Celta’s back-line will be forced to go backwards and at a certain pace because too much patience would lead to Barca’s gradual build-ups to turn into counters for the home-side.

Barcelona vs Celta VigoTello will need to penetrate the left wing as much as possible and attempt to break the high-line by holding the ball once received and waiting for Villa/Cesc to dig deep and construct a pass. Celta won’t be as offensive as Milan was in the San Siro a few weeks ago because their wingers aren’t as solid, but they will stick to their compactness for a longer period of time and aim to be more patient as they know Barcelona aren’t a joking matter.

Back-line is no issue whether Pique/Mascherano start or Pique/Bartra. Barca won’t exactly have 2 attacking full-backs for tonight with Montoya more of a solid, defensive full-back and with Alba currently suffering an injury, but Alves should do the job offensively. Moving on, Barcelona need to stretch the pitch, be pacy with their build-ups, keep Villa as a central striker, and be cautious with their passes.

This type of game is hard to predict because most of the starters aren’t going to be participating, especially for Barca, so it’ll be a different display from both sides. Nevertheless, Barcelona will stick to their philosophy and hold the ball as much as they can. Depending on how the first 10 minutes go, I see a tough game for the Catalans and unless they balance the flanks out, they’re likely to drop points tonight.

Prediction: Celta Vigo 1-3 Barcelona/Celta Vigo 0-2 Barcelona

Double prediction for tonight’s game but see the Catalans overcoming the compactness and winning by a 2+ goal deficit with both situations. Then again, this will depend on Barca’s form and how they handle the compactness, but at best, this is probably how it will end up.

Written by @ZeerFCB

About these ads

Premier League vs La Liga: Which League is the Best in the World?

Premier League vs La LigaLa Liga and the Premier League are, in most quarters, rightly recognised as the two strongest leagues in the world. Perhaps this is tough on Serie A, but it is no secret that most of the world’s stars occupy the two leagues in question.

It would be fair to say that, at this moment, the two best players in the world are Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Lionel Messi of Barcelona. Spain may have the best national squad in the world and the best players, but that doesn’t assure them a top spot in their domestic league. Most, if not all football fanatics, have similar comparisons, La Liga or the Premier League?

Now, for the most part, the majority of EPL lovers would argue that the Liga lacks any sense of competitiveness, and also accuse it of being a “2 team league,” regarding the fact that Barcelona and Real Madrid have quite often won the league and rarely ever given room for any other Spanish teams to even compete.

This topic being a never-ending discussion point between all football fans, and it should be an interesting and somewhat obligation issue for me to try to distinguish between the two. The two leagues are both a big 20-team story in their own rights. Like any other good story though, football always throws up fascinating sub-plots, and it is within these that I believe the true competitive nature of round-robin football can be found. ‘The Race for 4th’ and ‘The Race for 40 Points’ can be equally as enthralling, but both have the potential to be just as equally predictable.

Given that the two leagues are almost identical in format and structure, sharing similar European qualification standards and the same rules regarding relegation (albeit the Premier League uses goal-difference to separate sides on level points whereas La Liga uses the head-to-head results). I have decided that the best measure of this is to look at how close teams finish to one another on points throughout the league. A smaller gap between teams suggests a higher level of competitiveness. I guess the logical place to start is at the top.

EPL vs La Liga: Head-to-Head

Having examined the final top-four from the two respective leagues since 2005, I have constructed the table below to show the points difference between each position. This includes the gaps between 1st through to 4th and an overall gap covering the section, as well as an average points difference over the last seven seasons.

As expected, the gap between 1st and 2nd is a lot smaller than the gap between 2nd and 3rd in both leagues. As a season goes on, more and more teams tend to fall away from the title-chase and there are often only two teams left who go into the final few games with a chance of winning the title. The average gap between 2nd and 3rd in Spain, however, is staggering. Whilst between 2005 and 2009, the two leagues were both relatively competitive in terms of the number of teams challenging for top-spot, since 2010, La Liga’s top-two have broken away to such an extent, that the average points difference between 2nd and 3rd is more than double the gap between the champions and the runners-up themselves. There is, however, a smaller gap between 3rd and 4th in Spain. But in terms of overall competitiveness at the summit, the Premier League wins hands down thanks also to a much smaller gap between the top and bottom of the section overall.

Robin van PersieFor all the Liga fans just inches away from closing the link, recommend you wait and continue reading. At the time being, La Liga is a zoo of talent with both the world’s best Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi taking their place in this promiscuous jungle. I have also recognized  that by a landslide, the Premier League delivers more goals on a weekly and seasonal basis than La Liga. Could this be because the Premier League posses the best strikers? Is it that the likes of Falcao, Ronaldo, Benzema, or even the great Lionel Messi are just not good enough for teams like Levante and Osasuna?

The answer to this question has to be seen through a different eye. The tactical one. Now I’m no Jose Mourinho, but its been shown and quoted by many players who have transferred from the Premeir League to La Liga and visa-versa, that in the Premier League, you simply do not have to wait for the second half for an open game. Unlike La Liga, which in majority, always kicks off games with a nervy and tight back-line and forwards that are as shy as a pre-pubicent girl. Contrary to popular belief, La Liga has shown itself to be tactically superior to the Premier League in the sense that even teams that counter attack, always have a time and place, in addition to adding a lot of pressure and closing their spaces to make it harder for the opposition, and unfortunately, that tends to be a rarity in England.

Recent games like the 8-0 hammering that Chelsea handed Aston Villa a couple of weeks back, or the 7-3 gunner goal-marathon. These scorelines, in the eye of an average football fan, would be enjoyable and entertaining, but as many other conceded goals, they happen because of a fault, and oh are those faults many.

Teams in the Premier League continually show us that they fail at shifting positions. Center backs frequently caught off-guard and there’s no sense of connection between the back-line and the midfield  Not to mention the seas of space between each player, that usually makes it easy for both teams to get space without even trying. Modern day football is all about space-making, and without that, there’s no tactical brilliance to any goal, even if it was shot in a beautiful way, it still would be looked at as a fault.

That pretty much sums up the whole La Liga-EPL dilemma and gives my perspective of the issue. It’s hard to say which is better, and honestly, it’s better not to. Both leagues are considered the best in the world, and it wouldn’t be right ruling one off as boring or the other as tactically insuperior. Both enjoyed in their own way, and cherished by many.

Written by @ZeerFCB

Comparison of the Influence Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova Have Had on Barcelona

Pep Guardiola and Tito VilanovaNow, in the lights of these current occurrences, most spectators are calling the need for reevaluating Tito’s impact on the team and comparing it to that of Pep’s. Both current coach and ex-coach have shown the exact same philosophy, possession, tiki-taka, and lots of Dani crosses. With both coaches proving worthy of managing this team, it has gone to my attention that most fans are stating that Tito contains the less direct style of play and Pep was more of a slow build-up type of guy. That calls for some tactical chat, don’t you think? Starting off with the current Barca.

Ever since Abidal got diagnosed with cancer, the team has changed its wing action completely. Barcelona used to play the usual Dani-Pique-Puyol-Abidal, leaving one full back that hits the right wing and supports the attack, and one full-back to sit at the back and keep things tight. Now, the current Barca uses the same back-line, but with Alba playing the role of left-back instead of the unfit Abidal.

This full-back duo of Alba and Dani might sound all great, but it has its many disadvantages. Logically speaking, having two full-backs with a very offensive and attacking mindset play at the same team would really cause a stir, as a flank is always exploited. Some might recommend Busquets occasionally dropping at the back, but that would only work if Abidal was still present, since Alba is too offensive of a player to stay back.

This also meant that the center-backs cannot make any runs, since there will always be a player missing at the back, and since there isn’t a full-back, that makes it double the trouble. Don’t want to be vague about it, but tactics aren’t rocket science; sometimes they are more straightforward thank you think. Defense isn’t lacking names or individual players, it just simply does not work together and will never handle transitions well.

BarcelonaTito has worked well with absences though. A major point that goes to him is that he introduced the idea of allowing opponents the room to attack, therefore giving Barca more room to build up attacks and finding more space at the opponents back-line. That’s exactly why Tito is usually seen as the more direct coach, because he does allow the opponent more time on the ball but tries to be more effective in the final third. Although Tito hasn’t proven anything yet, he has shown that he can add to this team even when the squad is need of depth.

Now for Pep, it was always a different case. After the first 3 years of domestic and European glory, he went on to the fourth with the daring confidence that he could rotate as much as he possibly wanted to. At a time where Barcelona’s tactics started to get off as a bit predictable, he thrived to change the formations and try to squeeze the best out of an already close-to-perfect Barcelona. That included the (4-1-4-1) formation used at the 3-1 hammering in the Santiago, or the occasional (3-4-3) that was usually played against La Liga opponents in the Camp Nou.

It really gave a new perspective to the team of how to unlock and break back-lines without having to change the philosophy. All those formations had one thing in common, and that was its failure to handle transitions on one of the flanks. Barcelona started to get a bit defensively vulnerable and were forced to always score 2-3 goals (or sometimes even more!) to ensure a victory.

Regardless of the depressing side of that era, now to focus on the good. Even though Pep and Tito seem to work in an extremely similar way, they both have different viewpoints on how to break free from pressure and attack a compacted back-line. Tito, as mentioned previously, prefers letting the opponent play some football and attacking the team; this would usually give the team more free spaces to attack when the ball is intercepted, for example the (4-2-4) at the start of the season against Sociedad.

Tito VilanovaPep, on the other hand, never liked to give away the ball. Unlike his personality, he was extremely greedy with ball possession and liked to have as much of it as possible. Pep used triangular formations nearly every game and always tried to bring forth the concept of total football, or outnumbering your opponent all around the pitch. Pep used to make the players work in groups of threes, much like magnets; whenever Xavi got the ball he’d drag 2 others with him and slowly pass the ball deep into the oppositions area just to look for an opening.

That my friends, is how Pep tried to play his football, using compactness and making all the players stick very close together to create space. He never believed in putting a Real Madrid, and always thrived on putting the midfield in control of the defense and attack. As for the current form the team is in, it is in no way a surprise.

The team isn’t divided, nor collapsing, but it has no sort of tactical supervision preventing it from playing like it did last night or the week before against Milan. Any coach would have known that we needed to add in a winger to stretch out the pitch that night at the San Siro, but we didn’t have Tito and we could not blame Roura for something he tried his best at. After-all, Roura is no tactician and he is trying his best. It’s a phase the team needs to go through without their coach, but hoping for a good retaliation phase after Tito is back and hopefully for good this time.

Written by @ZeerFCB

Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano: Multiple Injuries See Barca Play Youngsters

Barcelona vs Rayo VallecanoThe weekend has passed, and the historic Milan-Barca game still comes in mind. Although the spirits might be up and running for the team and their fans, it was only a matter of time till some bad news struck them. Barcelona captain Carles Puyol could be sidelined for up to a month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday. Xavi (hamstring) and Victor Valdes (suspension) also sit out Sunday’s clash, but youngster Marc Bartra is available after overcoming a knee problem.

Now, since we’ve covered the bad news, it’s time to highlight some of the good points. After an unbelievable comeback the Catalans put through, it showed the team could easily take on a top-flight team in Europe with very little tactical supervision. Barcelona upped their game defensively (quite literally if you look at how high their back-line was) and continued to apply masses amount of pressure. Physically, Barcelona showed initiative and good, clean tackles were made.

With Rayo’s game coming to place tonight and the several injuries that have struck yet again, the team needs to compromise and rotate with their formation. Both squads, having played out a goal-fest in previous times with Barcelona scoring a little under 13 goals in their last two visits to the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecan. Currently speaking, both won and lost twice in their last 5 domestic games, showing that Rayo is in terms of form, prove to be relatively fit; Starting with the Catalans:

Predicted Barcelona Starting XI

Pinto, Montoya, Pique, Bartra, Correia, Thiago, Song, Fabregas, Sanchez, Messi, Tello

Barcelona vs Rayo VallecanoBarcelona, having been 10 points clear at the top of the table, could afford a bit of rotations every now and then, and judging by the amount of center-backs they possess at the moment, it’s pretty safe to say that Bartra starting is a huge possibility. Tello and Sanchez should be a good defensive and offensive duo that act as pillars for the flanks, both pacy and both relatively on form, especially with the Chilean scoring and assisting twice during his last two previous games.

Barcelona’s midfield will probably be looking for some Thiago and Cesc action, and Alex song to probably start off the game instead of the over-played Busquets, giving a good sense of rotation and somewhat assures it will definitely be a free-flowing game. As for the back-line, it will be interesting to see how it forms. Personally speaking, I would like to see some youngsters start. Montoya is defensively brilliant and hasn’t gotten much playing time recently, so it would be a good time to rest Dani Alves. Marc Bartra is to form a partnership in the heart of the defense alongside  Pique.

Predicted Rayo Vallecano Starting XI

Ruben, Tito, Galvez, Amat, Arbilla, Trashorras, Adrian, Bangoura, Dominguez, Piti, Delibasic

Rayo might on paper approach the game with a (4-2-3-1), but will definitely play a different formation when off the ball. Most likely a (5-4-1) in attempt to tighten up the spaces between the midfield and back-line, plus stall Barcelona from attacking the flanks, especially with Dani Alves and Alba probably missing out on the game, it will be interesting to see how the Rayo players presume throughout the full 90 minutes within very compact spaces.

Individually speaking, Rayo have their mad-men as well, Piti being the name. The winger has scored 11 goals in the league already and masters many positions. His flexibility will come in handy against a team as dominant as Barcelona. Tactically speaking, Rayo probably won’t start up the build-ups to their attacks via the midfield, they will try to blast those over-head kicks as much as possible and it’s Piti’s job to receive them, control the ball for a while, and wait for his players to go all out.

Summary

Rayo is no easy side, but judging by current forms and by taking the mental attributes into consideration, Barcelona will be out for a win from the start, and the youngsters will be out to prove their worth. I see the game kicking off to a tight start but once both teams get the hang of the playing field, 2-3 goals should be scored. Now, my predictions are rarely ever true, but I’ll go with an unusual one this time.

Prediction: Barcelona 3-0 Rayo Vallecano

Written by @ZeerFCB