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Will we even play this game? A chat with Celta USA

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Hopefully this virus will just go away.

Villarreal v Celta De Vigo - La Liga Photo by Maria Jose Segovia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We are joined by Ian Morris from @CeltaUSA to talk about a game that may not even happen. If you’re like me and you like all things La Liga (especially the league outside the top two) give him a follow.

Shortly after this is published, La Liga should be making an announcement about what they are going to do about matches as they relate to the coronavirus epidemic. Right now their stance is to play the games in empty stadiums, which frankly is abysmal. Here’s the conversation we had with Ian.

Football is first and foremost for the fans, so what’s your reaction to the decision by La Liga to play games behind close doors?

I think that the decision by La Liga and president Javier Tebas was made without taking fans or the sanctity of the competition into account. It would have been much better to suspend the league temporarily, as has been done in Italy’s Serie A, to wait to gauge the situation. It hurts home teams, especially those who rely on the energy of its home crowd in a crucial situation like Celta, to have these measures in place. Why not “wait and see” and press pause on the competition instead of adopting rash measures?

Editors note: The day this will be published La Liga is meeting to decide whether to suspend games entirely.

Beating Sevilla, drawing Real Madrid and Getafe, you guys are on a pretty good run of form, what’s been the difference?

Celta has played much better since the calendar turned to 2020, only losing once at Valencia. The main key to the team’s improvement has been the defense’s improvement and the emergence of Rafinha. Oscar Garcia has still yet to unlock Celta’s offensive potential, but Rafinha has provided a much-needed touch of creativity since really finding his stride in the second half of the year. Garcia has also done a great job of getting the team to be quite rock-solid in the back. Winter addition Jeison Murillo has teamed up with Nestor Araujo and Joseph Aidoo to form a trio of center-backs that have been essentially flawless since they began playing together. I think that’s why we’ve seen Celta get good results against teams like Sevilla, Real Madrid, and Getafe.

Editor’s note: I’m terrified that our too often exposed back line will be the perfect opportunity for Oscar Garcia to ‘unlock Celta’s offensive potential’.

A point clear of the relegation zone with eleven matches to play, how confident are you that Celta will still be in La Liga next season?

Considering Celta’s place in the table, just one point above Mallorca and the drop, it’s hard to feel certain that we’ll be playing in La Liga next season. With that said, I give Celta good odds to stay up. There are now six teams involved in the race to go down, and Celta probably has the best roster out of all of those teams. The team has radically changed since Oscar Garcia’s appointment, and I think the defense, underrated keeper Ruben Blanco, and Iago Aspas will do enough to keep us up for next season, though it might come down to the wire.

Editor’s note: Like Villarreal, Celta is entirely too talented to be where they are in the table. Fortunately for them, I think they’ve got the manager situation figured out. Must be nice.

You lived in Tennessee in the United States before moving to Spain, what’s the difference between supporting your team from across the ocean vs being there locally?

I wasn’t a soccer fan until moving to Vigo three and a half years ago, when I became a Celta fan in the midst of a magical season that saw the club reach the semi-finals of the Europa League and Copa del Rey. I only go home once or twice per year, and those trips tend to not coincide with many games. However, when they do, it’s definitely weird when I have to wake up at 7 am to watch games that seem like they’re being played on a different planet. Being in Vigo and Spain definitely makes it easier to follow Celta and the league in general, and I think that La Liga is failing at providing English speakers good content and access to matches.

Editor’s note: AND THAT’S WHY PLACES LIKE VILLARREAL USA EXIST!

You posted on Twitter about the wage disparity between the top two and the rest of the league, what do you think is the solution for this disparity and how are smaller clubs like us supposed to keep up with the top 2-3 clubs in Spain?

Spanish football is hugely unequal, with teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid earning exorbitant amounts of money and being allowed to spend more than six times what clubs like Celta and Villarreal can spend on their squads. Some of that difference can’t be changed; the “big two” are international brands with huge fanbases. However, one way to slightly even the playing field would be a more equitable distribution of television money, the main source of income for the smaller teams in the league. The playing field will never be “even,” but a TV revenue sharing model like the Premier League’s would be a huge help in keeping things more even between clubs.

Editor’s note: Allen when you read this we need to get this man on a podcast because I’d love to talk about this topic in detail.

Iago Aspas is like Superman for you guys, tell me a little about what he means to the club, and should Aspas be included in the Euro 2020 squad for Spain?

Iago Aspas is a hometown boy from just across the bay in a small town called Moaña. He grew up loving Celta and playing in the team’s academy, and he exemplifies the Galician roots and underdog mentality that our fanbase has. From saving the team from relegation to Spain’s third tier in 2009 to his back-to-back-to-back Zarra Trophies, he has cemented himself as the most important figure in Celta’s history. He’s not just a player for the club: he plays with the passion and love for the club and badge that any given fan at Balaidos has as well.

I’m biased, but I think that he deserves a spot on Spain’s squad for the Euro 2020 tournament. His production in recent years is hard to argue with, even if he has slightly slowed down this season. He’s a rare combination of skill, smarts, and a knack for the net, and in a Spanish landscape that has a lot of question marks at the position, he’s as close to a sure thing as it comes.

Editor’s note: I’m biased too, and I’d rather have Paco or Gerard to this year’s version of Aspas.

What’s the score going to be?

I expect a back-and-forth game against a Villarreal team that will look to use its speed and offensive talent to break past Celta’s tough back line. They’ll probably get at least a goal, but I expect a rested Iago Aspas to have a big game and propel us to a 2-1 Celta victory.

Editor’s note: I kind of agree. Ugh.

Concluding thoughts

I’m pulling for Celta to beat relegation. I don’t particularly want to help them do that this weekend. I’m really torn in general about this game. Even as someone who would be watching it on TV regardless, I really don’t want them to play in an empty stadium. That said, like everyone I’m sure it would feel so strange to be in March and not have football going on. Worldwide health is far more important, obviously, but little things like weekend football provide a sense of normalcy that offer folks reassurance when uncertainty fills so many other areas of life.