Match Preview: Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid – 2021/22

By: Mohammed Sahel

A trip to Balaidos kicks off the final nine games of Real Madrid’s LaLiga campaign. Despite the heavy defeat at the hands of Barcelona last time out, the LaLiga title is said to be ‘in the bag’ or in other words, secure. With a comfortable lead at the top, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needn’t play at their best intensity, but they still must win these final few games. 

Eduardo Coudet’s Celta won’t be delighted to have the league leaders visit at this stage of the season. They lie in 11th, and have dropped down from a respectable 8th position in these past few months. All thanks to their poor run of recent form, having won just once in their last six games.

What to Expect: 

This is, as ever, a Celta team highly dependent on the heroics of their man up front. Iago Aspas is now 34, and having saved the Galicians from relegation some three seasons ago, he continues to pull off miracles of around that size time and again. It is likely he won’t be moving on but with dependency on his goals and his creativity, Celta fall short on team ethic.

Coudet’s roster isn’t one particularly gifted with a variety of talent. Nolito spends the final seasons of his career playing an unconventional wide midfielder role. Denis Suarez was once considered an exquisitely creative midfielder and is perhaps their best player at the moment, with a straightforward player in Brais Méndez to accompany. 

Celta like playing with one defensive midfielder to stay deep (usually Fran Beltrán) with two or three other midfielders/supporting forwards ahead. This makes for a Y-shape in midfield which is very interesting, as their wide midfielders typically stay quite narrow and the full-backs drive along the wings (both Kevin Vazquez and Javi Galán are well experienced and quite assertive).

Real Madrid will face a team that’s grown into Coudet’s unusual but effective philosophy. Celta Vigo have grown increasingly confident at keeping the ball and having the opponent chase as the season’s progressed. Although tonight, they may have to play ‘chase-ball’ against Real, who are out to set the record straight and get back to winning ways. The home team too, haven’t enjoyed the greatest of runs.

Team News: 

Karim Benzema should be fit and available for selection tonight, and so should the rest of Real Madrid’s usual starting eleven. Eden Hazard underwent ankle surgery last week and will remain sidelined, in a season which simply never kicked off for the Belgian. Jovic also misses out with an ankle problem as well as Isco who’s still suffering from back pain.

The fans will look forward to some rotation, but shouldn’t expect an awful lot. Davide Ancelotti, Carlo’s assistant, will be in-charge with his father having tested positive for Covid.

Celta’s captain, Hugo Mallo, is the home team’s only absentee.

Expected Line-ups: 

Real Madrid:


Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Mendy

Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos

Rodrygo — Benzema — Vinícius

Celta Vigo:


Vazquez — Aidoo — Araujo — Galán 

Fran Beltrán

Brais Méndez — Denis Suárez — Nolito

Iago Aspas — Thiago Galhardo

Player to Watch: 

Real Madrid: Federico Valverde. It’s rather unlikely the Uruguayan will start over Toni Kroos today but off the bench however, he is the player who’s expected to cause the most problems. In Uruguay’s recent World Cup qualifying match, El Pajarito was their star man, even grabbing a great goal in the final minutes of that game. He is just the penetrative presence this Real Madrid side need in midfield. One Los Blancos desperately lacked when Barça eased through them at the Bernabéu.

Celta Vigo: Iago Aspas. Celta’s one and only, club legend and record breaker. Aspas bagged 14 goals in each of his last two seasons and 20 in the one before where he returned from injury to salvage them a place in the first division and rescue Celta from the jaws of relegation. This season, he already has 13 goals to his name albeit with a considerably worse creative record.

Naturally, Aspas’ playmaking abilities have subsided and he’s more of an out and out centre forward now. Simply man-marking him won’t be enough. His movement off the ball is elite, maybe even comparable to what Madrid faced against Aubameyang two weeks back. Aspas no longer wishes to leave Celta or to make a name for himself elsewhere, or to play for the national team. At 34, he is likely to end his career at Balaidos, pulling more rabbits out of his magical hat.


Celta Vigo 1-2 Real Madrid. 

I believe this game will be closer than what most might expect. Both teams being fresh from the international break, may take time to get into their usual rhythm. As ever, Real Madrid must go in with their heads up, looking to play through the pressure and not over or around it. Celta’s strategies however unusual, are predictable. It won’t be a straightforward game nevertheless.

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