Barcelona slip up against Celta Vigo offers Real Madrid and Atletico life-line

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Celta Vigo breathed life into La Liga‘s title race becoming the first team this season to take points off Barcelona at the Nou Camp in a thrilling 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Iago Aspas gave Celta an early lead, but an inspired display from Lionel Messi appeared to have earned Barca another three points as he immediately equalised and then helped tee up Luis Suarez to put the hosts 2-1 in front.

However, the excellent Aspas set up Maxi Gomez 20 minutes from time as Barca centre-back Samuel Umtiti suffered what could be a costly injury.

Barca’s slip-up is a boost for Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, who can close to within six points with victories over Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad respectively later on Saturday.

“We are Barcelona and we want to win every game, but it isn’t always possible,” Barca boss Ernesto Valverde told BeIN Sports Spain.

“Today we’ve drawn when we had more chances to win, but the league depends on a long season, not just one game.”

Celta have been a bogey side for Barca in recent years, beating the Catalans once in each of the past three seasons.

And a positive start from the Galicians on Celta boss Juan Carlos Unzue’s return to the Camp Nou, where he spent three years as Luis Enrique’s assistant, was rewarded 20 minutes in.

Aspas sprung Barca’s offside trap and crossed for the unmarked Gomez who was denied by an incredible save by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

However, the rebound fell for Aspas to slot home his ninth goal of the season.

“Barca had more chances but I think with the ones we had we put Ter Stegen to the test,” said Unzue.
“It is a good result for us and I think it is a deserved one.”

Celta’s lead lasted two minutes, though, as Messi latched onto Paulinho’s pass to fire low under Ruben Blanco for his first goal since late October.

Messi then took control of the game as Barca pressed to go ahead before half-time.

A sensational pass from the Argentine was smashed home by Suarez, only for the Uruguayan to be wrongly flagged offside.

Paulinho then had a huge chance at the start of the second period when he rounded Blanco only to fire into the side-netting.

It seemed a matter of time before Celta’s resistence was broken and Barca’s second duly arrived just after the hour when great work by Messi and Jordi Alba teed up Suarez for his first goal at the Camp Nou in nearly three months.

An end-to-end encounter swung back Celta’s way in a double blow for Barca.

Umtiti pulled up with what looked like a hamstring problem as he chased Aspas down the right and the

Spanish international then patiently picked out Gomez to fire into an unguarded net.

“It was a series of unfortunate incidents in the one move,” lamented Valverde.

“Above all for the injury to Samuel than to give away the goal.”

Thomas Vermaelen was brought on for Umtiti, who has shone this season but could now miss Barca’s El Clasico trip to Real Madrid on December 23.

It was Barca’s other stalwart centre-back who should have restored the hosts’ lead when Gerard Pique hit the outside of the post from another defence-splitting Messi pass.

Unfortunately for Barca, Messi’s best chance of a winner was with his head as he nodded wide when Denis Suarez’s blocked shot fell his way.

Yet, Barca also had their goalie to thank as Ter Stegen’s outstretched hand denied Pione Sisto the winner two minutes from time.

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Real Madrid coming up against their new goalkeeper and other La Liga talking points

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Kepa Arrizabalaga

Barcelona look to extend their four-point lead at the top of La Liga against an old friend turned foe in Celta Vigo coach Juan Carlos Unzue on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid travel to a struggling Athletic Bilbao with their eyes firmly on one of Athletic’s rising stars.

Here, we examine five things to look out for in La Liga this weekend.

BALE’S FALSE ‘FRESH START’

Gareth Bale’s emergence off the bench to save a faltering young Real side from embarrassment against third-tier Fuenlabrada in the Copa del Rey earned the Welshman rave reviews in the Spanish press on Wednesday.

Marca declared Bale had been handed a “fresh start” after a year dogged by a series of injuries.

Yet, he could be absent again at San Mames due to a niggling calf problem having missed training for the past two days.

Celebrating a goal with his team mates: Gareth Bale

Celebrating a goal with his team mates: Gareth Bale

REAL’S NEW KEPA?

Unlike Bale, Keylor Navas didn’t help Madrid on his return to action after six weeks out by turning Fuenlabrada’s opener into his own net in midweek.

Kiko Casilla was also at fault for Malaga’s second goal at the Bernabeu last weekend, intensifying Real’s search for a new goalkeeper.

According to reports, the new man will be Athletic’s Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has been one of few shining lights in a hugely disappointing season for Bilbao.

Arrizabalaga didn’t feature as the Basques did suffer Cup humiliation at the hands of tiny islanders Formentera on Wednesday, edging coach Jose Angel Ziganda closer to the sack.

A Real Madrid target: Kepa Arrizabalaga

A Real Madrid target: Kepa Arrizabalaga

A CELTA CURSE OR CRUISE FOR BARCA

Unzue returns to the Camp Nou hoping to continue Celta’s record of beating Barca once in each of the three previous seasons when he was assistant to Luis Enrique.

Celta’s daring approach against the Catalans in recent years has though had mixed success.

Whilst they have twice hit Barca for four at home, in their last two visits to the Catalan capital Celta have been smashed 6-1 and 5-0.

Will look to secure three points: Barcelona

Will look to secure three points at home: Barcelona

LAS PALMAS LONGING FOR SETIEN

Las Palmas are looking for already their third coach of the season after Pako Ayestaran was sacked on Thursday.

Ayestaran was only appointed in September when Manuel Marquez resigned.

How the Islanders must wish they had held on to the man they will face this weekend back when Quique Setien brings Real Betis to the Canary Islands.

Setien not only kept Las Palmas up in the previous two seasons, but did so thanks to some thrilling attacking football.

That has continued at Betis, whose 13 La Liga games this season have produced 50 goals. However, contractual differences with the board saw Setien walk out in the summer and left Las Palmas in the lurch.

Quique Setien

Instrumental in keeping Real Betis at 8th in the table: Quique Setien

VALENCIA BEGIN LIFE WITHOUT GUEDES

Valencia kept their unlikely title challenge alive by holding Barca at home last weekend.

That point came at a cost, thought, as PSG loanee Goncalo Guedes suffered a broken toe that is expected to keep the Portuguese winger out for the rest of the year.

Guedes’s three goals and five assists have played a huge part in Valencia’s revival.

However, a kind fixture list during Guedes’s absence offers Valencia hope with a visit to Getafe on Sunday followed by Celta, Eibar and Villarreal before the winter break.

Suffered a broken toe: Goncalo Guedes

Suffered a broken toe: Goncalo Guedes

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Two good, two bad from La Liga's weekend fixtures as Goncalo Guedes impresses for Valencia

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It was a dramatic weekend in Spain, ending with Barcelona and Valencia playing out a thrilling and controversial 1-1 draw that allowed Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid close the gap in the league table.

The two Madrid clubs returned to form but the major talking point undoubtedly came from the Mestalla, where Valencia could have won, Barcelona should have won, and neither side actually did win.

Instead, the game became the perfect advert for the need for technology in football – and confirmed that Valencia are the real deal.

Here’s a look at two good and two bad performances from La Liga‘s weekend fixtures.

TWO GOOD

Goncalo Guedes

Valencia’s young Portuguese attacker is taking the league by storm, and on Sunday he showed he can produce his best against the best.

Barcelona couldn’t handle him, especially the way he and Jose Luis Gaya combined down the left, giving Barca right-back Nelson Semedo a horrid time, especially in the second half.

Guedes is on loan from PSG and if he keeps playing like this, his employers are going to have a tough decision on their hands at the end of the season.

The Parisians are loaded with attacking talent, but letting Guedes go could still prove to be a mistake.

Goncalo Guedes starred down Valencia's left-hand side.

Goncalo Guedes starred down Valencia’s left-hand side.

Atletico Madrid

It wasn’t just Antoine Griezmann‘s return to form that was a cause for delight at Atletico – it was that so many other players joined him.

Koke was sublime. Kevin Gameiro scored two and probably could have had five – not to mention, he set up the other three.

Thomas Partey, who has been a bright spark in Atletico’s disappointing start, played out of position at right-back and didn’t miss a beat.

A good day all around for Atletico.

A good day all around for Atletico.

TWO BAD

Real Madrid

Yes, they got the win, and Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema both got on the scoresheet. Crisis over? Not quite.

Malaga are the league’s bottom team and Madrid blew a lead twice and needed a late goal to secure the three points.

Both of Malaga’s goals came from inexplicable Madrid errors. They won, and gained two points on Barcelona, but this was far from a convincing performance.

Real Madrid's performance in their 3-2 win over Malaga wasn't convincing.

Real Madrid’s performance in their 3-2 win over Malaga wasn’t convincing.

La Liga and the LFP

LFP president Javier Tebas has said goalline technology is too expensive to implement in La Liga. This is one of Europe’s five biggest leagues, with two of the continent’s premier clubs, and time and again, Madrid, Barca and others face the disadvantages of the league’s stubbornness regarding technology.

It is inexplicable that in 2017, Lionel Messi’s goal was clear to everyone across the world, except for the people in charge of the match.

The VAR system will be in place from the 2018-19 season – although not for goal-line replays – leaving plenty of room for controversy.

How long before La Liga is ready for goalline technology?

How long before La Liga is ready for goalline technology?

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