The keys to RC Celta’s success

The Galicians have recovered from a slow start to put together a great campaign, winning their last four games to put themselves in contention for a European spot.  

Here’s a look at the keys behind their success and the role of coach Eduardo Coudet, who’s impressed in his first season coaching in LaLiga. 

RC Celta come into the final two games of the season in great form and on the back of four wins on the bounce. Just this week they picked up another three points, against Getafe CF at Abanca Balaidos thanks to a goal from veteran striker Nolito.  

The win saw them pass the 50-point mark and into eighth pace in the table, with a record of 13 wins and 11 draws.  

Huge credit should go to the Galician side’s coach, Eduardo Coudet. The Argentine took over on Matchday 9, with the club in the relegation zone. After a defeat to Sevilla FC in his first game, the team slowly but surely began to rise up the table.  

Coudet has a clear game plan, opting for a 4-1-3-2 system in 84% of matches. It’s an unusual system in LaLiga Santander, with four players in the middle of the park in a diamond formation. This approach allows the team to press effectively in the opponent’s half and favours play through the middle. It also gives players like Renato Tapia to express themselves in the holding midfield pivot position. Likewise, it has brought the best out of players like Brais Mendez, Denis Suarez and Nolito, and of course Iago Aspas, who leads the line with greater freedom of movement. 

One setback is that the system concentrates play through the middle at the expense of the flanks. It’s no coincidence, therefore, that Celta have generated the second-fewest crosses in all of LaLiga Santander.  

Celta have also developed a reputation for starting games quickly. The side have scored over half of their goals in the first half of games. Coudet has an ace up his sleeve if things look complicated, however: Fran Beltran. The 22-year-old Madrid native, signed from Rayo Vallecano back in 2018, is the most used player off the bench in the squad.  

Three stats demonstrate the team’s effectiveness. Celta are the second most-effective team in front of goal in LaLiga Santander, generating a match-scoring chance on 10% of their possessions. According to Mediacoach data – LaLiga’s own real time tactical analysis tool – Celta get over 41% of their shots on target, with a 6.8% goal conversion rate, the third highest in LaLiga Santander. Forwards Iago Aspas and Santi Mina stand out in this respect, with 20% of their shots on goal ending up in the back of the net.  

Defensively, Celta are very difficult to break down. They’ve made the third-most recoveries in the league, something that is part and parcel of Coudet’s defensive philosophy.  

Staring from the back, Celta have a pair of excellent goalkeepers who have alternated between the sticks more or less equally this season: Ruben Blanco (34 saves across 1,639 minutes) and Ivan Villar (43 saves across 1,599 minutes). 

On the defensive line, Jeison Murillo, Néstor Araújo, Hugo Mallo, Joseph Aidoo and Aarón Martín have played the most minutes this season. Club captain Mallo is actually among the team’s top five scorers, with three goals this season.  

Murillo has made the second-most passes for the side, while Aaron Martin has made three assists, fourth most in the squad together with Santi Mina.  

The creative drivers and engine room behind Celta this season have been Renato Tapia, Denis Suarez, Fran Beltran and Brais Mendez. Mendez, together with Santi Mina, is a big goalscoring threat. Between them they’ve scored over half of the team’s goals in recent weeks. Denis Suarez, meanwhile, is the team’s top passer, as well as the second top assist provider with nine.   

And don’t forget the forward line of Iago Aspas, Nolito and Santi Mina. Aspas, in particular, is the key to the side. He’s played a part in 24 of Celta’s goals this season. He’s the top scorer (13) and the top assist provider (11). Across LaLiga Santander, only Atleti’s Marcos Llorente has also registered double figures in both goals and assists this season.  

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LaLiga’s title race: only 2 matchdays left

The most exciting league in Europe reaches its final two matchdays with Atlético de Madrid, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona separated by just four points after some thrilling midweek action. 

Diego Simeone’s Atletico de Madrid have sat atop the LaLiga Santander standings for much of the season but with just a handful of games to go the title race couldn’t be tighter. Incredibly, just two points separate Atleti from the reigning champions Real Madrid, with FC Barcelona just four points and still in with a chance of snatching the title. Sevilla were in contention until this week too, only to fall away right at the last minute; nevertheless, they remain close to beating their all-time points record as well as the fourth-place points record in LaLiga history. 

“Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona will lose another match,” Simeone predicted in early March, but we’ve already seen so many shock results this LaLiga Santander campaign that this has proved to most definitely not be the case. Barcelona had the perfect chance to go top two weeks ago, only to lose their game in hand at home to a sensational Granada CF side and fail to beat Atleti in what was a title six-pointer last weekend. Ronald Koeman’s men let another two points slip in the final minutes despite against Levante UD in midweek (3-3) despite being 2-0 up at half-time. Real Madrid had narrowed the gap to just one point after winning ElClasico three weekends ago, but then failed to capitalise after being held draws by Getafe CF, Real Betis and title rivals Sevilla last weekend.  

Here’s all you need to know about the final stretch of the title race: who’s involved, where they stand, the games they have left… so you can judge for yourself where you think points, and ultimately the LaLiga title, will be won and lost.  

Atlético de Madrid 

Current position: 1st (80 points) 

Next fixture: CA Osasuna (home), Sunday 16th May – 6:30pm CEST 

Remaining fixture: Real Valladolid (away) 

The last time Atleti won LaLiga Santander, it went down to the final day as they took the 2013/14 title with a draw away against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Given how tight this title race promises to be, it could go down to the wire once again. This year, their Matchday 38 fixture is away at Real Valladolid, who could well need points in the relegation battle.  

Simeone’s side have seen their previously big lead slowly narrow at the top, but remain top despite dropping points on two successive weekends, albeit against very tough opposition: first Athletic Club, then FC Barcelona last weekend. Their thrilling 2-1 win over Real Sociedad on Wednesday saw them suffer until the final whistle but was a crucial result. It means that Simeone’s team continue to hold their destiny in their own hands. Win out, and they win LaLiga Santander for the first time since 2014. If they win this weekend, and Real Madrid don’t beat Athletic Club, they could even be confirmed as champions this Sunday. 

Real Madrid 

Current position: 2nd (78 points) 

Next fixture: Athletic Club (away), Sunday 16th May – 6:30pm CEST 

Remaining fixture: Villarreal CF (home)  

Real Madrid come into the final two games of the season very much in contention despite only salvaging a last-minute draw against Sevilla last weekend, two points behind leaders and city rivals Atleti after a big 4-1 win against Granada CF on Thursday. A dramatic 2-1 win over FC Barcelona some weekends ago saw them leapfrog their eternal rivals into second, but a series of draws, first against Getafe CF and more recently against Real Betis and Sevilla in recent weeks has seen the reigning champions stutter in their title defence.  

After beating Granada away, they still face a tough run-in: Copa del Rey runner-up Athletic Club and Europa League finalist Villarreal CF. 

FC Barcelona 

Current position: 3rd (76 points) 

Next fixture: RC Celta (home), Sunday 16th May – 6:30pm CEST 

Remaining fixture: SD Eibar (away) 

Ronald Koeman’s side have had various opportunities to move top of the standings in recent weeks, but their inconsistency sees them stuck in third. They could have gone top with a win over Granada two weeks ago, only to fall to a 2-1 defeat to the Andalusians, one of the surprise packages of this LaLiga season. And just last weekend, Barça could have moved ahead of Atleti with a win against the leaders at the Camp Nou but couldn’t break the deadlock in a 0-0 stalemate. That result, combined with the 3-3 draw against Levante UD on Tuesday night sees them stay in third, four points behind the leaders with only two games remaining.  

This weekend they face a challenging duel against in-form RC Celta, who have won their last four games and, in the process, revived their European aspirations.  

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LaLiga Matchday 37 preview

This weekend sees the penultimate matchday of the LaLiga Santander season and it’s all still on the line, from the title race and European spots to all three relegation places. All 10 games will be played at 6.30pm CET on Sunday, to ensure that no team suffers a disadvantage from playing before or after one of their rivals. 

In the title race, there are only three teams still in with a chance of lifting the trophy and Atlético de Madrid lead the way. They host CA Osasuna at the Wanda Metropolitano and know that a win will be huge and possibly even enough to secure the championship this very weekend. Diego Simeone won’t be thinking about that, though, and will simply want his players to focus on the task in hand.  

Given that Atleti are on 80 points and given that Real Madrid follow on 78, an Atleti win and a Real Madrid failure to defeat Athletic Club in their match in Bilbao would mathematically seal Los Rojiblancos first league title since 2014. Real Madrid, though, just thrashed Granada CF 4-1 in midweek and aren’t waving the white flag. They’ll go to Bilbao determined to take what has been a thrilling title race to the final day.  

FC Barcelona, on 76 points, still have a chance of winning LaLiga Santander too, but they must win this weekend or else they’ll enter the final matchday without the possibility of finishing top. However, it won’t be easy for Barça as they welcome RC Celta to the Camp Nou, with the Galician side having won four on the bounce as they keep pushing to try to qualify for Europe.  

Villarreal CF are one of the teams currently in the European positions that Celta are trying to catch and the Yellow Submarine do have a tricky fixture this round, as they host Sevilla FC. Even if Sevilla FC no longer have the possibility of winning the title, the Andalusian club do still have a lot to play for as finishing ahead of Real Madrid would earn them entry to next year’s Spanish Super Cup.  

At the bottom of LaLiga Santander, the relegation battle is really heating up as there are five points separating 15th-placed D. Alavés on 35 points from 20th-placed SD Eibar on 30. In between, Getafe CF are 16th on 34 points, SD Huesca are 17th on 33 points, Real Valladolid are 18th on 31 points and Elche CF are 19th on 30 points. Each of these six clubs have matches this weekend against sides higher up in the table, so it won’t necessarily be easy for any of them to pick up points.  

SD Eibar, for example, travel to mid-table Valencia CF, where a small number of fans are expected to be in attendance. The bottom-placed side have a good record against Los Che, with five wins, four draws and four defeats from 13 top-flight meetings, and will need another good result this time out.  

Elche CF will be looking to keep their survival hopes alive by visiting one of the teams they come up with from LaLiga SmartBank last season, Cádiz CF. The Andalusian side, though, have already mathematically secured survival after what has been an impressive campaign so far.  

Real Valladolid must visit Europa League-chasing Real Sociedad, which is not an easy task for them as they look to snap a run of 10 matches without a victory. Meanwhile, SD Huesca will look to extend their two-point cushion to the drop zone when they go away to Real Betis, one of the teams jostling for position in the European race alongside Real Sociedad.  

Getafe CF and D. Alavés both have home fixtures that they’ll consider to be winnable, with Geta host Levante UD and as the Glorioso welcome Granada CF to the Basque Country. Being at home and in familiar surroundings could be the slight advantage that these sides need to confirm their place in LaLiga Santander for next season. For now, though, it’s all about who finishes where in the 2020/21 edition and the action that kicks off at 6.30pm CEST on Sunday will go a long way to determining that.  

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