19.45 BST, Sunday 29th October, La Rosaleda (Malaga, Spain)
It’s only Gameweek 10 but Malaga are beginning to look as though they are already down. For the side who were Champions League quarterfinalists only 4 years ago and solid mid-table candidates last time around, the decline has been steep and sudden. A 3-3 home draw against Athletic Bilbao remains their only avoidance of loss all season. Being knocked out by Numancia in the Copa will have added a further blow to their shredded confidence.
An impressive Europa League run to the semifinals last year was not backed up in the league for Celta Vigo who look to have returned to mid-table obscurity more recently. Until their narrow defeat against Athletico Madrid in the last round, they had been on a four match unbeaten run which is an encouraging response to losing three of their opening four fixtures. They should be looking to build some momentum this weekend and will hope to start looking up rather than down.
Last Time Out
Barcelona 2-0 Malaga (La Liga)
At the weekend, Malaga were lucky to get away with only a 2-0 loss away at Camp Nou. Despite creating a lot of chances from range, they failed to create anything of significance. A first senior goal from Gerard Deulofeu after only 2 minutes killed any confidence Malaga might have had and a second-half effort from Andres Iniesta capitalised on some woeful finishing from the away side.
Celta Vigo 0-1 Atletico Madrid (La Liga)
The Sky Blues were perhaps unlucky not to come away with anything against Atletico Madrid. They dominated their opponents with 68% possession and had 19 shots to Madrid’s 4. Unfortunately, though, they came up against Jan Oblak in masterful form and ultimately couldn’t translate their dominance into points.
Michel has his uphill task compounded by a string of injuries. Defenders Federico Ricca, Diego Gonzelez and Miguel Torres are all out with injury. Slovenian midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic is out with a muscle injury. Important forward Diego Rolan will be kept out as will keeper Roberto.
Celta Vigo Lineup
Juan Carlos Unzue has comparatively few injury concerns. Argentinian centre back Facundo Roncaglia is out with a hamstring injury and young goalkeeper Ruben Blanco’s recent hip injury will keep him off the side.
Key Battle: Roberto Rosales (Malaga) vs Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)
Venezuelan defender Roberto Rosales, 28, has been one of the few consistent performers for Celta Vigo this season. A side conceding so many goals needs experienced hands like Rosales to steady the ship. He will not be able to afford to put a foot wrong against a dynamic Celta Vigo attack.
One of the big wide threats facing Rosales is 30-year-old Iago Aspas. The Spaniard has followed on from his 19 league goals last season with some strong early season performances. 3 goals and an assist have resulted from his direct play. A real fan favourite, Aspas will hope to help kick-start Celta Vigo’s middling season.
Can Michel rally his troops?
Former Spanish international Michel has overseen a very poor start to his first full season in charge at La Rosaleda. Firmly rooted to the foot of the table and 6 points off safety the clock is already beginning to tick on Malaga’s top-flight status. The key to survival will be their ability to grind out results against sides lower down in the table. Recent losses against Atletico, Valencia, Sevilla and Barcelona are not the problem. It is the defeats to Eibar and Las Palmas that will really finish them off. If Michel is to keep his job then they must first get the basics right.
Were Celta Vigo a one season European wonder?
Celta Vigo will be keen to ensure that their memorable run last season in Europe was not a one-off. The fight for European places is particularly tight this season and to have any chance they will need to gather a bit more consistency. With only 4 points separating them from 6th placed Villarreal they are by no means out of the hunt. A really strong outing against Atletico in the last round gives hope that they may be able to make a prompt return to the top table.
Prediction: Malaga 0-3 Celta Vigo
Malaga lack any real direction and confidence at present and an attacking Celta Vigo side should be able to pass through their trip without too much trouble. Expect the front three of the away side to be particularly effective against an unsure home defence. Keeping the goals down will again be the primary aim of Michel’s struggling side.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?