Unstable Celta Vigo prepare for relegation battle

Celta Atletico

It was only 22 months ago that Celta de Vigo stood on the cusp of reaching the Europa League final. They had lost the first leg of their semi-final 1-0 against Manchester United but were level 1-1 at the Old Trafford return the following week. In the dying moments, the ball came into the box and John Guidetti had a glorious chance to score, which he spurned.

Having been one kick from a memorable European decider, things have gone from bad to worse for Celta in the time since. An underwhelming 13th-placed finish last season has been followed by a traumatic campaign in which they are flirting with relegation.

Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Eibar means they have lost eight of their last ten league fixtures and have won just once in their last 11. It is a season which has lacked consistency both on and off the pitch. New boss Antonio Mohamed was appointed in the summer and enjoyed a promising start – seven points from the opening three games, including a victory at home to Atletico de Madrid.

They have won just four of their 23 games since and now must accept they are in a relegation battle from now until the end of the campaign. They are not yet in the bottom three but sit just three points off basement side Huesca – who have won three games over their last five – with Villarreal and Rayo Vallecano also breathing down their necks.

Celta have now dismissed boss Miguel Cardoso and replaced him with former Villarreal boss Fran Escriba, known for his defensive, disciplined football. Yet the Galician side’s strength is undoubtedly in attack. They are suffering from Iago Aspas’s calf muscle strain – sustained in the middle of February and expected to sideline him for a further three games. The former Liverpool striker has netted 80 goals since his 2015 return to the club and is crucial to their hopes of avoiding the drop.

Maxi Gomez and Pione Sisto are two other highly-rated attacking players while Brais Mendez, Ryad Boudebouz and Sofiane Boufal also offer plenty of flair. Yet this side have remained unbalanced all season, with instability in defense leading to a lack of structure throughout the side. They have netted just eight goals in their last 11 league games and their goals against tally of 44 is the second worst in the division.

Escriba has a huge task on his hands to drill his players into a system capable of earning enough points to maintain their top-flight status. The double-header at home to Villarreal and away to Huesca at the turn of the month may prove pivotal for Celta’s survival hopes.

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