Coach: Eduardo Berizzo
Key signings: Pione Sisto, Jose Naranjo
Key sales: Nolito
Last season: Sixth
This season (predicted finish): Seventh
For Celta Vigo, each of the last three seasons have represented tremendous progression. After narrowly dodging relegation on the last day of the season in 2013, they have finished ninth, eighth and now sixth in subsequent years. For Celta, it seems the only way is up.
Taking advantage of a poor season for Valencia and with Sevilla distracted by other competition, Celta were able to squeeze themselves into a Europa League spot. So what’s next?
Whatever their ambitions, they will have to do it without one of last season’s main protagonists in Nolito. The winger has been the jewel in Celta’s crown for years, and after several impressive seasons has moved on to Manchester City.
Unfortunately with success, comes bigger, richer teams looking to poach players, which saw them lose Augusto Fernandez and Santi Mina last season to Atletico Madrid and Valencia respectively.
The case is the same with Nolito, whose rave performances in his three years in Vigo saw him earn a Spain call-up for Euro 2016. He brought a consistent goal output and created chances aplenty for his teammates and will be missed.
But Celta will move on. Boss Eduardo Berizzo remains and the club wasted no time in signing a replacement in FC Midtjylland’s Pione Sisto, who came into the spotlight after scoring twice against Manchester United in the Europa League. At just 21-years-old, the Galicians will be hoping the former Danish Footballer Association’s Player of the Year can be a long term successor to their departed winger.
Keen to bolster the wide areas, they have recruited another exciting young winger, this one closer to home in the form of Jose Naranjo. Not a big name, and at €1m not a big price tag either, but the 21-year-old scored 15 Lague goals for Gimnastic in last season’s Segunda and will likely bag a goal or two here.
Facundo Roncaglia from Fiorentina and Alvaro Lemos from CD Lugo for free round off the rest of Celta’s transfer activity thus far. For the position Celta find themselves it may prove insufficient.
One of their biggest tests this year is the challenge of Europa League football. The added games and its stress on the squad crippled Real Betis a few season ago, to the point where they were relegated the same year. Make no mistake it will be a challenge for Berizzo and his squad, which may still need to be bolstered somewhat.
Of course he can rely on some of the quality players who have stuck with him from last season to see them through. Iago Aspas was the side’s top scorer las season with 14 goals, while Fabian Orellana chipped in with seven goals and seven assists from the wing. With Claudio Beauvue and John Gudetti in reserve they have more than enough firepower.
At the back Gustavo Cabral will be looking to build on a solid season, with young right-back Jonny continuing to make great strides.
Berizzo has good tools at his disposal, however key losses, European competition and minimal signings all point to a difficult season in prospect. But Celta are built to surprise, and put nothing against them doing the same this time around.