Celta Vigo, who have been drawn against UEFA Europa League favourites Manchester United in the competition’s semi-finals stage, have endured a campaign somewhat similar to the Red Devils’. They have been below-par in their domestic league, the La Liga, but are among the four best teams in one of Europe’s major club competitions. Celta Vigo currently occupy 11th position in the La Liga table, have conceded the most number of goals among the top eleven teams, and scored less than they have conceded. However, this doesn’t mean that Manchester United should have an easy-going attitude against the Spanish club. The Célticos have defeated the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk and Genk en route to Europa League’s semis. They shocked Barcelona 4-3 in October while also knocking Real Madrid out of the Copa Del Rey, apart form breaking their record-breaking winning run earlier this season. Here’s an analysis on Celta Vigo’s key aspects which make them a dark horse in the competition.
Eduardo Berizzo was appointed as Barcelona-bound Luis Enrique’s successor at the start of 2014-15 season. Celta Vigo gave Berizzo the top job on the back of the Argentine’s outstanding record at former club O’Higgins, whom he guided to the finals of Chilean domestic cup competition and won them the Supercopa de Chile (Chilean Charity Shield equivalent). Berizzo’s teams operate on a high-pressing modus operandi, pressing the opponents up field and forcing mistakes as close to the opposition’s goal as possible. This is exactly what Jose Mourinho would find the most troublesome, as his team is most susceptible to such kind of play. He primarily deploys a 4-3-3 formation, but has also used the 4-2-3-1. He has been all for youth development, bringing in quite a few youth players. He also keeps rotating his front three in order to keep them as fresh as possible for each game and trouble opposition defences.
For any team which relies on a high-pressing game, the defence is a key aspect which needs to nullify the threat posed by the fact that the opponents can start a counter at any moment. Argentine centre-back Gustavo Cabral and Spanish pair of Andreu Fontas and Sergi Gomez are most the vital players for Celta Vigo at the heart of the defense. Though the defenders have let down Berizzo’s team quite often in the La Liga this season, the defence has been much stable in their Europa League campaign so far.
To maintain the high tempo created by Celta Vigo’s pressing game, the midfielders play a crucial role. Two of the three midfielders in the 4-3-3 formation often play in deep-lying positions to shield the defence when they are left exposed during attacks. Chile national Pablo Hernandez and Serbia’s Nemanja Radoja are deployed in these positions most of the times. However, one of their most important players is Denmark’s Daniel Wass. The 27-year-old Dane has registered five goals and seven assists so far this season, making him one of the most dangerous players for his team. He has a knack of finding goal-scoring positions in the final third, courtesy of his runs from the centre of the park, and was the chief architect in knocking Real Madrid out of the Copa Del Rey.
Berizzo has identified the front three in his 4-3-3 formation as the main source of goals and uses all of the attacking options at his disposal frequently. The likes of Spain’s Iago Aspas, Sweden’s John Guidetti, Italy’s Giuseppe Rossi and Belgium’s Theo Bongonda all contribute to scoring goals. Celta’s most crucial player is, arguably, Iago Aspas. The former Liverpool striker has netted 17 goals for his team this season and would feature heavily in Mourinho’s plans to prevent Manchester United from conceding.