Villarreal host Celta Vigo at the Ceramica on Saturday, fresh off their goalfest in the Copa del Rey. Hopefully the Submarine can continue their offensive success against a Vigo side that scores a lot (third in the league in goals scored) but also gives up a lot (fourth from bottom).
Win this, and we move further away from the drop zone and toward the middle of a crowded table, with our next match in the league at the bottom-dweller Huesca. But with anything less, it’s going to look increasingly like we are one of four, five or maybe six teams “fighting” (if that’s the word) for three relegation spots. And our record in those sorts of fights has not been good.
Our opponents: Celta Vigo were founded in 1923, same as Villarreal, but have a much longer history in the league. Like Villarreal, they have never won a major trophy—they’ve been the losing side in three Copa finals and a Europa League semifinal—but they have had some excellent seasons in the league. Between 1997 and 2003 Celta never finished worse than seventh, and their fourth-place finish in 2002-03 was their best ever. However, after that they were relegated, went through a lot of financial problems, but over the last five years have been a competitive side in La Liga again.
Celta’s success in recent years can be linked with the emergence of Iago Aspas, who has scored 132 goals in eight years for the Galicians. He didn’t make it at Liverpool, but he’s done just fine in Vigo. This year’s emergent star is Maxi Gomez; the Uruguayan has seven goals and four assists for Os Celeste so far. The 22 year-old was signed from Defensor Sporting for only €4m, and it’s safe to say the vultures are circling—rumors are he may not be at Celta for much longer, with Atletico Madrid interested in signing him.
No big injury worries and no suspensions for the Sky Blues; new coach Miguel Cardoso has brought his entire squad and will pick his 18 on the day. They lost to Real Sociedad midweek in the cup so will hope to pick up something from this match to take home. Celta have only one away win so far and two draws, but then Villarreal’s home form has been poor too, so this should be a wide-open fixture.
Villarreal: The Submarine hasn’t announced the squad for Saturday either, but have to be coming in on a bit of a high after the 8-0 demolition of Almeria. Looking at who didn’t start, you’d have to figure Sergio Asenjo, Santy Caseres, Mario, Alfonso Pedraza, Samu Chukwueze and Gerard Moreno should all start. With only five goals at home and one win in seven league matches, now would be a good time to keep the goals flowing, methinks!!
All-time record: This has been a series where home advantage has meant a lot. Villarreal are 10-5-9 against Celta in the league, but seven of those wins have been at home (7-2-3). Villarreal have won big, too—two 4-1 wins (2014 and 2018) and a 5-0 (2016).
Celta’s last win in Vila-real was in 2015, a 2-1 win thanks to a 90th minute goal by Nolito. Last season Villarreal got a first-half hat-trick from Carlos Bacca and a late goal from Samu Castillejo for one of those 4-1 wins.
Prediction: Celta are just three points ahead of us, and if we could pull off another three-goal win we’d draw even with them. I am not expecting that, but I will go for a win: Villarreal 3-2 Celta. Just because.