Celta Vigo are the only Spanish team left in the Europa League at the quarter-final stage and Eduardo Berizzo’s side are aiming to reach their first semi-final in the competition on Thursday against Genk. The Galicians want to go all the way to ensure that the Europa League trophy stays in Spain for the fourth year running.
Berizzo has previously stated that his side’s goal is a top six finish in La Liga, but it is now clear that the Europa League is the priority as Los Celestes lie nine points off sixth with only seven games left to play. The fact that the Coach made ten changes to the team that beat Genk 3-2 at Balaidos in the first leg of the quarter-final against Granada on Sunday proved as much, even if the risk was lessened by the dire situation the Andalusians find themselves in.
The gamble paid off, as Celta won 0-3, and judging by the performance it is evident that there is a very healthy, competitive spirit in the their camp at the moment. Berizzo knows his best XI, but by playing the second string in the League, or at least some of it, he is giving them a chance to prove their worth to feature in continental competition, and therefore the whole squad know that they will have a part to play in the latter stages of the season.
On top of that, the main men will be fresh for the trip to Belgium on Thursday, which they will definitely need to be ready for. The 3-2 score line gives Celta the lead, but Genk have two away goals, which leaves the tie in the balance. The only player who played in both the first leg and the Granada game is goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez, and he has spoken about the need for caution ahead of the next game.
"Despite the result of the first leg, I do not think we are favourites,” he said, according to Marca. “We have to prepare the game as if we were drawing or losing. We saw in the first leg that they like to attack, that they always try to dominate the game. Defensively we will need to be well organised so that they cannot create many opportunities. The sensations are good, the team is prepared for these games. We are looking forward to the match on Thursday.”
If Celta were to overcome Genk, tougher tests will await. They are currently third favourites to win the competition behind Manchester United and Lyon so there is no reason why they cannot go all the way. Stranger things have happened.
This competition means a lot to Spanish clubs and it is taken very seriously- the chance to win some silverware is not taken lightly, and that certainly applies to Los Celestes. Reaching a semi-final would be making history for this side, but you can be sure that Berizzo will not be settling for anything less than a spot in the final in Stockholm.