Barcelona hosts Celta before key games vs Inter and Madrid
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — At risk of yet another Champions League humiliation, Barcelona hosts Celta Vigo on Sunday needing to regain some winning momentum before critical matches against Inter Milan and Real Madrid over the coming week.
The Spanish league game at Camp Nou comes after Barcelona lost at Inter 1-0 in the Champions League. That defeat, Barcelona’s second in three group-stage games, left it in danger of failing to advance to the knockout rounds for the second straight year.
Another loss to the Italian club when they meet in Spain next Wednesday would eliminate Barcelona if group leader Bayern Munich at least draws against Viktoria Plzen.
And just four days later Barcelona travels to the capital to face Madrid in the first clásico of the season, most likely with the league lead on the line.
“I am worried about the loss. The situation is complicated,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said after the defeat at San Siro. “Now we are facing three finals (in the Champions League) and we are going to give it our all.”
Barcelona will likely have to beat Celta to maintain its lead of the Spanish league. It is level on points with Madrid and only ahead of the defending champion on goal difference. Madrid, which has won all three of its Champions League games, will get a chance to return to the top in Spain on Saturday when it crosses town to play at Getafe.
After losing to Bayern and Inter, Xavi’s new-look Barcelona led by Robert Lewandowski is eager to get a victory over a top opponent.
Lewandowski will be a marked man, as usual. He has nine goals and is on a six-round scoring streak in the league.
Celta is led by Iago Aspas and his five goals. The team from northwest Spain is in 11th place but has lost its last two away games at Atlético Madrid and Valencia by a combined score of 7-1.
Xavi has only Gerard Pique and Éric García to play as central defenders after Andreas Christensen sprained his left ankle at Inter and joined defenders Ronald Araujo, Jules Koundé, and Héctor Bellerín on the injury list that also includes forward Memphis Depay.
Midfielder Franck Kessie will also miss the Celta match after injuring a muscle in his right thigh while training on Wednesday.
The only good news for Xavi was that midfielder Frenkie de Jong was back training after missing the Inter game due to injury.
After this run of three games, October still doesn’t get any easier for Barcelona with league games against Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao before it hosts Bayern Munich on Oct. 26 in the Champions League.
Failure to reach the Champions League round of 16 yet again would mean an additional financial blow to the club that sold off part of its television rights and other assets to pay for its summer transfers and balance its books for last season.
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