Can a banged-up, shorthanded Real Madrid take all three points from Celta Vigo in a fixture that has been difficult for Madrid in the past, as Celta have won in their last two trips to the Bernabeu. Even though Celta Vigo languished in the Segunda for five years, they will take solace in the fact that they've actually taken points in four of their last five visits to the Spanish capital, according to Opta. Of course, none of those sides were coached by Jose Mourinho or featured the otherworldly fire-power of Cristiano Ronaldo.
But fate may have again smiled at Celta ahead of this match, as the international break was especially cruel to the reigning La Liga Champions, particularly the backline where Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa are injured and not available to play. Raphael Varane also picked up a knock and his status and availability today is unknown. Castilla defenders Nacho and Jorge Casado will be in consideration to play left-back and some reports are suggesting that Raul Albiol could play center-back, with Sergio Ramos being shifted over to right-back. Whatever combination is decided upon here by Mourinho will have to form an understanding fast, as Celta were extremely effective at creating opportunities from set pieces (sound familiar?) in their impressive 2-0 home victory against Sevilla, according to WhoScored's post-match analysis.
Sami Khedira was unable to train on Friday and most-likely will not feature against Celta, leaving the door open for Michael Essien to come-in and shore up the midfield in front of the makeshift backline. Luka Modric is, of course, also an option to play in Khedira's usual slot next to Xabi Alonso if Mourinho decides on a more attack-minded approach to match.
Celta will look to exploit these absences, particularly the creative, opportunistic Iago Aspas who, according to Opta, has manufactured an eye-opening 25 goal scoring opportunities in seven matches. To give you an idea, that's nearly double the 13 chances manufactured by Angel di Maria. Real Madrid did get some good news when strikers Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain were able to train and both should be available for selection.
There is some doubt about the availability of goalkeeper, Javi Varas--but outside of that Celta boss, Paco Herrera is expected to select the same side that defeated Sevilla. Jose Mourinho recently spoke of his respect for the Galician side, saying:
"The game will be complicated because we’ll be facing a good opponent and a team with good players, good organization, and I like how they play a lot. They also have a coach with a very good personality to make that kind of football real. They only play to win. They’ve spent two weeks preparing this game and they’ve all got their heads into this game"
If Real Madrid's backline can form any sense of cohesion, the team's advantage in quality up-front should be able to secure a victory in what figures to be a spirited and exciting match.
Tell us what you think, Madridistas!