Barcelona head coach Xavi admits he must be "self-critical" about his side's recent drop in quality, but insists they will "see the positives" after victory over Celta Vigo.

A poached first-half finish from Pedri was enough for a 1-0 win for the Blaugrana to extend their winning run in LaLiga to seven consecutive games and take them back to the summit on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid.

Yet between their latest result and a similar narrow triumph against Mallorca, Barca appear to be fading away from their early bullish intensity, with a loss to Inter in the Champions League further compounding matters.

Speaking afterwards, Xavi acknowledged he was less than satisfied with his team's latest drop in temperament, but still highlighted the vitality of their ability to earn big results with unrewarding form.

"I have to be very self-critical today," he told DAZN. "The first half was good. In the second half, we stopped applying pressure; psychologically, we dropped off.

"It is important to take three points when you are not good though. We have won seven games in a row. You have to see the positives. Until an excellent performance arrives, you have to save these matches."

With El Clasico looming for likely control of the title race, Xavi seemed less pressed about concerns over form though, suggesting the all-encompassing nature of the fixture balances out both Madrid and themselves.

"El Clasico, it is unpredictable," he added. "Last year, we arrived on the back of a bad run of form, and yet we won 4-0. We will try to win and show personality, like we did last time."

Pedri was the hero for Barcelona as they saw off a LaLiga challenge from Celta Vigo to take an unpersuasive 1-0 win on Sunday.

Despite a bright, almost bombastic start from Xavi's side, the Blaugrana gradually faded once again in defence of an early lead, ultimately escaping with all three points intact.

A week on from a similar performance against Mallorca, questions may be lingering about Barca's prowess, even as they sit top of the table.

Yet after the sting of a Champions League loss to Inter in midweek, the Catalans were at least back to winning ways, while Celta were left to rue their difficulty in securing a draw.

A dominant start from Barcelona hinted at a blowout scoreline, and Pedri's poacher's finish following a deflection in the 17th minute certainly whet the appetite.

But a subsequent struggle to find a second goal before the break did little to dispel a nervous air around Camp Nou, especially with just under a dozen chances otherwise squandered by the hosts.

That gnawing unease manifested itself in a markedly scratchier start to the second half, during which Celta gradually began to impose more of a threat.

Such pressure seemed to tell when Jorgen Strand Larsen headed home with 20 minutes left, but the offside flag spared Barca's blushes, and from there they held on all the way for a less-than-convincing result.

Xavi revealed Frenkie de Jong could start in defence on his return from injury when Barcelona welcome Celta Vigo in LaLiga.

The Blaugrana are aiming to remain at the LaLiga summit as they seek a response from the midweek Champions League defeat by Inter.

De Jong is back in the squad having missed his side's last two matches after sustaining a thigh injury while on international duty with the Netherlands last month.

Though he did not confirm the midfielder would start at Camp Nou, Xavi indicated he could fill in at centre-half in the absence of the likes of Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen.

When asked about De Jong at his pre-match press conference, the head coach said: "He's 100 per cent. We'll see what we decide tomorrow.

"Frenkie can play centre-back, we've already tried it. He is powerful and fast, but there are other alternatives. There is versatility in the dressing room."

One of those alternatives could be 19-year-old Chadi Riad, who would make his senior Barca debut should he feature against Vigo.

"We know him from last year and the pre-season," Xavi said. "He is aggressive, with good output ... he has a future. We follow him. He can prove things, he can become important."

Xavi also urged his players to lend leading marksman Robert Lewandowski a hand on the goalscoring front. 

The Poland skipper has scored nine of their 19 goals in LaLiga this term, with his nearest challengers Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele both netting just twice apiece thus far.

"We have to improve the goals without him," the head coach observed. "And also improve fouls, shoot from outside the area... everyone must contribute goals. We have to improve the scoring ability of those at the top.

"We need to shoot more when we have the ball, find that final pass, find the right solutions. We must improve and be more competitive. You have to be more optimistic in front of goal."

 

 

 

Iago Aspas says a "stubborn" streak means he has not given up hope of winning over Luis Enrique before the World Cup.

The Celta Vigo striker was left out of Enrique's latest Spain squad, meaning he will play no part in the upcoming Nations League games against Switzerland and Portugal.

Those are La Roja's final games before their World Cup squad is announced, and those that have missed out might naturally fear the worst.

Since the start of last season, Aspas has scored 23 goals and had seven assists in 43 LaLiga games for Celta, with that goals return only beaten by Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (30).

Those goals have come at a rate of one every 157.96 minutes, and from an expected goals tally of 16.42, with his return suggesting he is exceeding normal performance levels with his finishing.

The 35-year-old former Liverpool player had been hoping such form would push him into contention for a place in the squad for Qatar 2022, but he now faces a battle to rival the likes of Borja Iglesias and Ferran Torres.

Aspas told the Cadena Ser programme 'El Larguero' that now was not the time to give up on his ambition.

"Hope is the last thing you lose, but it is true that I haven't gone [with the national team] for a while," he said. "I finished last season quite well and now I have continuity in the league.

"Of course it hurts not to go, I'm stubborn and I'm not going to give up until the end. If I get on the final list, all the better. They pay me to play for Celta, but I have that prize just around the corner and I'll do everything possible."

Aspas, who has six goals from 19 caps for Spain, is convinced it is a footballing issue rather than anything personal with Enrique.

"If not, he would have told me because the coach is up front," Aspas added.

Diego Simeone praised his team's desire to take risks after Atletico Madrid beat Celta Vigo 4-1 at the Civitas Metropolitano.

Goals from Angel Correa, Rodrigo de Paul and Yannick Carrasco were added to by an Unai Nunez own goal after Gabriel Veiga scored a consolation for the visitors.

De Paul scored and recorded an assist in the same LaLiga game for the first time in his career, after 75 league games with Valencia (34) and Atletico (41).

It was the third time Atletico have scored at least four goals at home in LaLiga in 2022, just one fewer than in the previous four years combined in the competition (once in 2018, twice in 2020 and once in 2021).

Their only other home league game in 2022-23 saw them lose to Villarreal, but they fared better on Saturday despite having to soak up some pressure from Celta, especially early in the game.

Speaking to DAZN after the win, Simeone said: "After the defeat against Villarreal we needed to start adding points in LaLiga and, little-by-little, we improved.

"I think we still have situations to grow. Today at the start we had some losses that gave them clear scoring chances, but at least there was an attempt to try to play better and for that you have to take risks many times, but it is also true that the third goal [Carrasco's] was a great goal.

"We scored the four goals very forcefully, with a lot of desire to get into scoring positions."

 

Simeone made six changes from the team that so dramatically beat Porto 2-1 in the Champions League in midweek, with Ivo Grbic, Mario Hermoso, Nahuel Molina, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Thomas Lemar and Correa coming into the side, allowing him to rest some key players.

"We made many changes, we knew that after the Champions League the body is not the same and neither is the head," he said. "They created important scoring situations for us, especially the one that Ivo manages to neutralise hand in hand.

"In the second half we talked and we wanted to improve. The second half was much more complete, except for the end. Until minute 70 we had a good second half."

One of the regulars who missed out was goalkeeper Jan Oblak, replaced by Grbic, but the Atletico head coach was happy with the performance of Croatian stopper, who made two big saves early in the game when the score was still 0-0.

"I understood [Oblak] was not in his best shape to be able to give 100 per cent," Simeone said. "It was a great opportunity for Ivo, and he took advantage of it.

"It makes us very happy for him because he is working. When you work, in the end you get the rewards."

A goal and an assist from Rodrigo de Paul helped Atletico Madrid record their first home win of the season in LaLiga as they beat Celta Vigo 4-1 on Saturday.

Diego Simeone's men were made to work for their victory, with Celta more than a match in most areas for the hosts in the first half, but they could not keep up in the second.

Angel Correa gave Atletico the lead in the opening 10 minutes, before De Paul's deflected effort early in the second half and a superb run and finish from Yannick Carrasco confirmed the win.

Substitute Gabriel Veiga pulled a goal back for the visitors, but an own goal from Unai Nunez ended any hopes for them.

Jan Oblak missed out for Atletico, despite playing in the dramatic midweek Champions League victory against Porto after suffering a knock at Real Sociedad last weekend.

Ivo Grbic deputised and was called into action after just a minute as a long ball was misjudged by Mario Hermoso, allowing Jorgen Strand Larsen in on goal, but the Norwegian could not beat the goalkeeper, who also had to save a Hugo Mallo header from point-blank range from a corner shortly after.

After surviving those scares, Atletico were ahead in the ninth minute after a fine one-touch move down the right as a cross-field ball from Reinildo to Nahuel Molina led to a cushioned pass to De Paul, who immediately slid the ball across to Correa to fire into the roof of the net.

The game calmed down after that, and it took until early in the second half for Atletico to double their lead as a Carrasco cross found substitute Koke, who laid the ball back to De Paul and his shot from the edge of the box deflected in off Nunez, wrong-footing the helpless Agustin Marchesin in the Celta goal.

Carrasco made it three in the 66th minute after picking the ball up on the halfway line and dribbling towards the penalty area, cutting in from the left before moving back onto his left foot and firing past Marchesin at the near post.

Celta got a goal back with 19 minutes remaining as a through ball from Iago Aspas down the right found Veiga, whose shot squirmed under Grbic, but the contest was over when Cunha raced past Nunez, before hitting a cross that deflected in off the visiting defender.

Carlo Ancelotti described Luka Modric as "immortal" after his outstanding display in Real Madrid's 4-1 LaLiga win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Modric, 36, restored Madrid's lead shortly before half-time with a sumptuous strike from outside the area after Karim Benzema and Iago Aspas had exchanged penalties.

It marked the first time the Croatia international had scored two consecutive goals from outside the area in the competition since January 2019 when he completed a run of three.

Indeed, more than half of Modric's goals for Madrid in all competitions have been from outside the box (18 out of 32).

He then followed that up in the second half with a superb pass to set Vinicius Junior up for Madrid's third.

The LaLiga and European champions agreed a deal with Manchester United on Friday for the sale of midfielder Casemiro, but Modric hardly looked like he missed the Brazilian.

"Modric's goal changed the game," Ancelotti said. "Until then it had been quite even. Celta were pressing well, but that intensity dropped in the second half.

"Modric is immortal. He's always ready and always plays well."

Aurelien Tchouameni impressed in Casemiro's traditional role at the base of Madrid's midfield three, with no player on the pitch making more clearances (four) or interceptions (three), while he gained possession a joint team-high nine times.

The France international is considered by many to be the natural heir to Casemiro, but Ancelotti does not want to compare the two.

"Tchouameni has different qualities to Casemiro, but today he played very well," the Italian said.

"He showed what he has been showing in training. Without the ball, he defended well. He did well defensively with Modric and [Eduardo] Camavinga."

Substitute Eden Hazard missed the chance to score his first LaLiga goal since May 2021 when his late penalty was saved by Agustin Marchesin.

Benzema gave up the opportunity to take the spot-kick himself – a gesture that was welcomed by Ancelotti.

"I thought it was a very nice gesture from Benzema to Hazard," he added. "It doesn't matter if he missed it, as he normally takes penalties well. It's more important that Hazard has shown an overall good performance."

Real Madrid made it back-to-back wins to start their LaLiga title defence as goals from Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde sealed a 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo.

Carlo Ancelotti's side agreed a deal with Manchester United on Friday for the sale of midfielder Casemiro, but they scarcely missed the Brazilian enforcer in what was a dominant performance against Eduardo Coudet's men at Balaidos.

Benzema opened his league account for the season from the penalty spot early on, before Iago Aspas levelled with a spot-kick of his own midway through the first half.

Modric gave Madrid the lead again with a wonderful strike shortly before half-time, while Vinicius and Valverde were on target in the second half as Los Blancos, who missed a late penalty through Eden Hazard, wrapped up maximum points with the minimum of fuss.

Madrid went ahead in the 14th minute through Benzema's penalty after David Alaba's shot had crashed into the arm of Renato Tapia, the spot-kick given after a lengthy pitchside review from referee Jesus Gil Manzano.

Celta levelled with a penalty of their own in the 23rd minute, Aspas powerfully striking past Thibaut Courtois from 12 yards after Goncalo Paciencia's header was blocked by the arm of Eder Militao.

Los Blancos restored their lead three minutes before the interval, however, when Modric jinked his way to the edge of the area and whipped a sumptuous strike into Agustin Marchesin's top-left corner.

Modric was key to Madrid's third goal as well, the midfielder threading a fine ball through for Vinicius, who rounded Marchesin and slotted into an empty net in the 56th minute.

Valverde then added a fourth 10 minutes later with a clinical finish from 15 yards following a flowing counter-attacking move, before substitute Hazard saw his spot-kick saved by Marchesin after Benzema had been fouled by Hugo Mallo.

What does it mean? Madrid extend run over sorry Celta

Celta had failed to win any of their previous 16 games against Real Madrid in LaLiga (D2 L14), and it was not hard to see why as a dominant Madrid stretched that run to 17.

Despite the loss of Casemiro, Los Blancos look in rude health for the 2022-23 season. This victory meant they have won their opening two LaLiga games in a season for the first time since 2018-19 under Julen Lopetegui.

Masterful Modric

Modric certainly did not seem to suffer from Casemiro's absence. The Croatia international restored Madrid's lead with a wonderful strike – his 18th from outside the penalty area for the club – before setting up Vinicius' goal with a typically incisive pass.

Benzema punishes Celta again

Benzema's early strike from the spot means he has now been involved in an incredible 10 goals in his past four LaLiga games against Celta (eight goals and two assists), including two braces and one hat-trick. They will be glad to see the back of him for a few months at least.

What's next?

Celta are away at Girona on Friday, while Madrid travel to Espanyol two days later – their third consecutive away game to start the season.

Casemiro has been left out of Real Madrid's squad for their trip to Celta Vigo as he nears a transfer to Manchester United.

On Thursday, reports emerged that United were confident of striking a deal for Casemiro, who has been crucial to Madrid's success under Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane.

The 30-year-old trained with Madrid's squad on Friday but Ancelotti confirmed at his pre-match news conference that talks were under way with United.

Ancelotti was unsure if Casemiro would definitely be unavailable for Saturday's LaLiga meeting with Celta, but the Brazil international has now been left out of Los Blancos' squad, suggesting the £51million (€60m) move to Old Trafford is close to completion.

Madrid's coach is confident he has the players within his squad to replace Casemiro, and name-checked new signing Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos as possibilities in the holding role.

Kroos, however, will not be available for Saturday's match, with reports suggesting he has fallen ill with flu.

Barcelona have confirmed that Oscar Mingueza will join fellow LaLiga outfit Celta Vigo, pending a medical and personal terms.

The 23-year-old defender rose into the first-team during Ronald Koeman's spell in charge of Barca, making his debut during a Champions League clash against Dynamo Kyiv.

Capped by Spain in 2021, Mingueza featured 66 times for Barca's first-team, registering five assists and scoring two goals – including against Real Madrid.

Last season, Mingueza featured in 19 LaLiga matches for Barca, and featured in the Champions League and Europa League, but he saw opportunities decrease in the second half of the season.

After the turn of the year, Mingueza started just twice for Xavi's side in the league as Barca's form improved under the guidance of their legendary midfielder.

Mingueza is set to join Celta on a four-year deal reportedly worth around €5million.

His role in the side would have been difficult to maintain following the club's defensive reshuffle in the current transfer window, which has seen Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen move to the club. 

Celta Vigo have confirmed a request from Santi Mina to be reintegrated into pre-season training while he awaits an appeal verdict to an initial prison sentence.

In May, Celta "temporarily" removed Mina from their first-team squad pending disciplinary proceedings after the forward was sentenced to four years in prison for the sexual abuse of a woman.

The forward was sentenced when a ruling was handed down by the Third Section of the Provisional Court of Almeria in relation to an incident on June 18, 2017.

Mina's legal representation confirmed at the time that he will appeal the decision. In a statement reported by EFE, they cited "important errors in the assessment of the tests carried out and therefore of the events that occurred".

Celta subsequently acknowledged the court's sentencing and communicated the opening of disciplinary proceedings against Mina while continuing to respect "the player's right to defence" ahead of his appeal.

In a statement released on Monday, the LaLiga club confirmed they were prompted by Mina and his representation to reintegrate him, again noting their respect for his right to appeal.

"Through a burofax, RC Celta is required to [allow the player to] join the team's training sessions immediately," the statement read. "So in this case the club is forced to assume the presence of the player from this moment on in the preparation sessions within the times stipulated..."

While noting Mina declined a transfer abroad, Celta also raised the possibility of legal action in the event his appeal falters.

"RC Celta reserves its right to claim, if the ruling becomes final, all damages caused by the player's behaviour to the entity, both economic and club image, respecting today his right to appeal," the club added.

Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo has been discharged after spending a night in hospital following a head injury sustained in Tuesday's 3-1 LaLiga win against Celta Vigo.

Araujo suffered a concussion when clashing heads with team-mate Gavi shortly after the hour mark as both players contested for an aerial ball just inside their own half.

Gavi stayed down, whereas Araujo initially appeared to chase after the ball, only to then collapse to the turf.

Both sets of players urged medical staff to come onto the field, and the 23-year-old received around 10 minutes of treatment before leaving the pitch in an ambulance.

Barca head coach Xavi confirmed shortly after the match that Araujo was "conscious and out of danger" but would spend the night being monitored at a nearby hospital.

In a further update on Wednesday, Barca confirmed Araujo has been discharged from hospital and will be further assessed to determined when he can return to action.

The Uruguay international has played 42 times this term, totalling 3,181 minutes on the field – only Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong have played more minutes among outfield Barca players.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hopes "with all my heart" that Ousmane Dembele will sign a new deal to stay on at Barcelona.

Dembele is into the final few weeks of his contract and has been widely tipped to join another club as a free agent.

The France international was told publicly to leave Barca by the club during the January transfer window after talks over fresh terms broke down.

But after initially being shut out of the side, Dembele has forced his way back in and has been a consistent performer for the Blaugrana over the past four months.

Indeed, after setting up two goals in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Celta Vigo, Dembele has now assisted a LaLiga-high 13 goals this season.

That includes 11 assists alone since the turn of the year, which is two more than former team-mate Lionel Messi as the most across Europe's top five divisions in 2022.

Aubameyang profited from another of those assists against Celta and has called on Dembele, who he also linked up with at Borussia Dortmund, to remain at Camp Nou.

"He is my little brother," Aubameyang told Movistar+. "We have been together for a long time, from the first day he arrived at Dortmund.

"Over time we have built up this sibling relationship. That's why I love him so much.

"He's doing very well now and I am very happy for him. I hope with all my heart that he stays." 

Dembele is one of three French players since 2006-07 to have provided 13 or more assists in a single season across Europe's top five leagues, along with Kylian Mbappe and Christopher Nkunku. 

 

Aubameyang scored twice for Barca after Memphis Depay had earlier opened the scoring, before Iago Aspas' strike seemingly gave Celta a route back into the match.

That was Aspas' 10th goal in 15 LaLiga games against Barcelona, a tally that only Diego Forlan can match against the Catalan giants in the competition this century.

But Jeison Murillo was dismissed for a foul on Depay and Barca saw out the win, albeit one that was overshadowed by a sickening head injury sustained by Ronald Araujo.

Barca have now won three in a row to all but seal second place in LaLiga, though head coach Xavi was left with mixed feelings as his side were not at their best.

"We didn't play a good game, yet we still got the three points," he said. "The feeling is not overly good. We have to understand what each game requires.

"It was hard for us to understand that we had an extra man. We lacked the neatness that we have asked so much for. But we were effective and continue to fight for second."

Barcelona coach Xavi has confirmed Ronald Araujo "is conscious and out of danger" but will spend the night in hospital after leaving the win against Celta Vigo in an ambulance.

Araujo clashed heads with team-mate Gavi shortly after the hour mark in Tuesday's LaLiga match when contesting an aerial ball just inside their own half.

Gavi stayed down, whereas Araujo initially appeared to chase after the ball, only to then collapse to the turf.

Both sets of players urged medical staff to enter the field, and the 23-year-old received around 10 minutes of treatment before being taken to a nearby hospital.

The incident somewhat overshadowed Barca's 3-1 victory, but Xavi provided a positive update on Araujo's condition shortly after full-time.

"We were scared at first," Xavi told Movistar+. "The doctors have told us he is conscious and out of danger. But he will be spending the rest of the night in the hospital.

"Tomorrow, hopefully, he will be back at home. It's just a scare."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double, after Memphis Depay had earlier opened the scoring, gave Barca a 3-0 lead against Celta.

Celta recovered from three goals down to draw 3-3 in November's reverse fixture, though, and pulled one back through Iago Aspas at Camp Nou.

However, a red card issued to former Barca loanee Jeison Murillo ultimately ended the visitors' hopes of rescuing another unlikely point.

With his goal, Aspas has now scored 10 times in 15 league games against Barcelona – only Diego Forlan has scored as many against them this century in LaLiga.

Aspas was asked about his goal in his post-match interview, but his immediate focus was the well-being of Araujo.

"Firstly, I want to send a message of encouragement to Ronald. I don't know what happened," he said. "He left on a stretcher, but they have told us that now he is better. 

"At first when I saw the incident, he looked a bit stunned. Then I saw him from the side, with his head down and that's why we called the medics.

"In the game, we have had many more chances than Barcelona, but we weren't effective neither in the rival area nor our own."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as Barcelona eased to a 3-1 win over 10-man Celta Vigo in a game overshadowed by Ronald Araujo leaving the field in an ambulance.

Araujo clashed heads with Gavi shortly after the hour mark at Camp Nou and, after initially appearing to run off the injury, collapsed to the floor before being attended to by medics.

That incident came shortly after Iago Aspas had struck to give Celta some hope following Memphis Depay's opener and a couple of goals from Aubameyang either side of half-time.

But a red card for former Barca loanee Jeison Murillo ultimately left the visitors, who recovered from three down to draw 3-3 in the reverse fixture, with too much to do in Tuesday's LaLiga contest.

 

Dembele showed superb trickery to take the ball past two opponents and pull it back for Depay to sweep past Matias Dituro, who got a hand to the shot but could not keep it out.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, returning from illness that ruled him out last weekend, kept out Thiago Galhardo at full stretch and denied the same player from a header soon after.

Barca doubled their advantage before the interval through Aubameyang, who tucked into the bottom-right corner after Nestor Araujo failed to deal with Depay's cross into the box.

Aubameyang took advantage of some more good play from Dembele three minutes after the interval by clinically sweeping home Barca's third.

A poor pass from Ter Stegen to Araujo allowed Galhardo to pounce and play in Aspas, but Celta's momentum was halted when last man Murillo fouled Depay and was sent off.

Barcelona saw Araujo leave the field with a head injury soon after and had a fourth goal for substitute Riqui Puig ruled out for offside, but they had no trouble seeing out the win, despite 11 minutes being added on.

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