After their great escape from Valladolid over the weekend, Real Madrid travel to Galicia for a tricky Round of 16 Copa del Rey tie against Celta Vigo
Even though Celta are currently sitting in 15th place in the La Liga table and they struggled through extra time to vanquish Almeria in the previous round of the Copa, Aitor Karanka was quick to point out on Tuesday that "Celta play good football" and his words should be viewed as more than mere window dressing, as Celta gave Madrid a legitimate battle in a league match at the Bernabeu in October.
Paco Herrera's men have earned accolades and respect for their surprisingly stylish, positive and attractive brand of football but, unfortunately, they haven't yet been able to consistently translate that positivity into points.
For example, against Bilbao at the San Mames on Sunday (a display that inspired Karanka's praise), Celta were agressive in their approach, attacking Athletic relentlessly through the middle of the pitch with long balls, according to WhoScored's post-match analysis, before ultimately losing 1-0 to the beleaguered Basques.
A pattern begins to emerge upon examining Celta's match reports over the past month, as the side attacked Levante through the middle as well, this time favoring through balls more so than long-distance shots. Celta also attacked down Levante's right flank and WhoScored's analysis demonstrates that they used that same approach against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, focusing their attacks down the right and attempting long range shots.
With Real Madrid's aerial vulnerabilities and unsettled backline, I'd expect a similar tactical approach from Celta Vigo later today. One other interesting tactical observation to pass along is that Celta had previously lined-up in 4-3-3 against Real Madrid, but have basically used a 4-2-3-1 formation against almost every other side since that match.
Speaking of vulnerabilities, Madrid's set-piece broken record continued playing against Valladolid and Callejon and others spoke publicly of their irritation and concern over the team's continuing inability to defend set-pieces this season. According to Goal.com, Callejon said the following in the wake of the Valladolid match:
"These sorts of goals bother me, because we have to be more alert and correct those mistakes...The set-piece situations, where opponents use their height advantage, are something we need to keep working on so that what happened in this match does not happen again."
Karanka also spoke of the necessity to use "this week of training to keep improving and to strengthen certain tactical and physical aspects" and I have to believe that he and Callejon are speaking of the same things within those two quotes.
As far as selection matters go, Adan has been very vocal in the lead-up to this fixture, praising Celta and stressing the need for Los Blancos to secure an away result at Balaidos, which could lead one to believe that he will be in goal this evening. Fabio Coentrao has returned to training but Karanka essentially ruled him out of today's match, saying:
"He is nearly ready. But with Marcelo also out we will not run any risks in this game."
Goal.com predicts that due to their omission against Athletic "Enrique de Lucas and Park Chu-Young are in contention to begin against Los Blancos" and that Paco Herrera "may also opt for a South American defensive pairing of Gustavo Cabral and Andres Tunez."
So what do you think? Banana peel or Business-as-Usual.