Coming back from the last international break I was full of optimism. We had played some really good football in the two or three matches leading in, and I was sure Unai Emery had put his submarine on its best point of sailing (sorry for the VERY mixed boat metaphor) and we would be good to go from there on out. Boy, I was wrong. We were miserable for most of the interval between the two breaks and only a narrow win against Getafe saved us from being in an utter spiral going into this past one.
Fortunately, there haven’t been too many of our players away on international duty at all, and hopefully that has allowed the team to get back on the same page to produce better form. We are going to need it. After traveling to Celta Vigo we get Manchester United and FC Barcelona, one immensely talented yet underperforming, the other very broken as a squad yet likely to be benefitting from a new manager bump in energy. Then our Copa Del Rey run starts against Victoria CF
Celta has beaten us four of the last six times we’ve played them in La Liga, but oddly enough have only beaten us one out of the last nine times they’ve faced us at home. All of Celta’s goals at home in the league this year have come after halftime, and half of them came in their last match where they stormed back to draw Barca.
Iago Aspas is the obvious danger man, and it looks like he may be finally rounding into form for them. I feel rather strongly that we are better than this team but they are certainly good enough to cause us major issues in their home ground.
We’ve seen to new contracts for several players in recent weeks, most noticeably (to me) Yeremy Pino, who has a bumper new high release clause to go with better pay. We ought to be getting healthier by the day, and as we head into this vital run of matches we ought to be able to put our best foot forward. What I don’t know, of course, is how Unai Emery will react with a match against Manchester United coming up on Tuesday. Our Champions League Group is balanced on the edge of a knife, and we really must take something from that match. It’s possible we could see some kind of rotation against Celta despite the fact that doing so would be incredibly dangerous.
Gerard likely won’t play in this one but he should be back very soon, and Juan Foyth should find his way back into the right back slot.
Our prediction model has Celta being heavy favorites this week. Unless the international break really put fresh air in our sails (there with that mixed metaphor for a submarine, again), I see this as being one of those matches where Unai Emery finesses a win into a draw. Lead at halftime, concede in the second half, 1-1.