Saturday February 9 2019
Celta Vigo must build on Sevilla win to avoid relegation worry

Celta Vigo must build on their impressive home win over Sevilla if they are to pull away from the relegation battle in La Liga, writes Kieran Thomas.

Celta de Vigo finished 13th in La Liga last season under Juan Carlos Unzue, who was then sacked after a year in charge despite finishing 20 points above the relegation zone. Change was needed and the club appointed Argentine boss Antonio Mohamed, who had just left his position at Mexican club Monterrey after four seasons.

It was to be the 48-year-old’s first venture in European football but he faced an up-hill climb from the beginning. Celta had sold a multitude of their best stars – Daniel Wass, Sergi Gomez, John Guidetti and Borja Iglesias (who had spent the previous season at Zaragoza) all waved goodbye to Balaidos. In total all summer departures generated €40m in transfer fees and with the squad evidently missing strength in depth, the club spent €30m on new faces to rescue the situation.

Mohamed’s headache increased when injury problems prevented Mathias Jensen from replacing Valencia-bound Wass. Celta had a bright start to the current campaign, unbeaten in their first three La Liga matches, including a triumph over Atletico Madrid. But then they completely derailed, winning just one of their next nine league games. Odds on Celta pulling out of the tailspin were long, the kind bonuses on might help.

Despite occupying 11th place, the 4-2 defeat at home to Real Madrid was the final nail in the coffin for Mohamed, who was sacked and replaced by Miguel Cardoso. This appointment was somewhat of a strange one, another Coach who had never experienced Spanish football as a number one and had only been sacked by French club Nantes a few weeks before.

The Portuguese coach lost his opening game, failing to get the bounce associated with new appointments. But did go on to win his next two league games in a row which handed fans hope. However, since then just as was the case for Mohamed things went south and quickly. There is an over-reliance on striker Iago Aspas and Maxi Gomez. The two have scored a combined 19 league goals, which is more than half of Celta’s tally of 34 for the season.

However, Aspas has been sidelined since late December and that has caused problems for his teammate Gomez. The Uruguayan has struggled to recover his best level in front of goal, scoring only once since Aspas’ injury. Therefore, Celta were forced to enter the winter market. Bringing in four new faces, three of which were loan deals.

But with six games without a win and five of them being defeats Cardoso’s future has looked bleak. Hovering just above the relegation zone, with a mere one-point buffer between themselves and Rayo Vallecano in the final relegation spot. Going into the game with Sevilla a week ago, Celta were in the relegation zone and fans were wondering where their next win would be coming from.

There was an overriding sense of misery around Balaidos and ahead of kick off against the side in fourth, hopes were not high. Club president Carlos Mourino even put the pressure on in the build-up: “I can't promise that if we lose to Sevilla that the process won't end and that he (Cardoso) won't continue.”

But football has a funny way of throwing curve balls into situations when you least expect it and that’s certainly what happened in Vigo last weekend. A game of missed chances for Sevilla who saw a multitude of goal scoring opportunities wasted, allowing Celta to capitalise with just over fifteen minutes remaining. A simple flick-on from a corner by Gustavo Cabral somehow found its way into the path of Turkish midfielder Okay Yoku┼člu who secured a vital three points for Cardoso’s men.

Celta’s three remaining games of February are tough but could be considered winnable, as they face Getafe, Levante and Alaves. It is now important for the Galician side to use the confidence gathered from that massive win as a springboard to help lift them out of danger. If they fail to do so, Cardoso could be out the door as early as this weekend and Celta could be looking for their third Coach of the season. If there is no continued reaction from the players Celta could find themselves in Segunda next season.

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