x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Familiar faces will stand between leaders Barcelona and a 10th win in 11 Spanish Primera Liga outings this season when the unbeaten champions play at struggling Celta Vigo.

alexis Sanchez, centre, scored Barcelona’s second goal in their 2-1 win over Real Madrid. Alejandro Garcia / EPA
alexis Sanchez, centre, scored Barcelona’s second goal in their 2-1 win over Real Madrid. Alejandro Garcia / EPA

Familiar faces will stand between leaders Barcelona and a 10th win in 11 Spanish Primera Liga outings this season when the unbeaten champions play at struggling Celta Vigo on Tuesday.

The Galician club, who recorded only their second win of the campaign at Malaga on Saturday and are 15th in the table after 10 matches, are coached by the former Barca and Spain midfielder Luis Enrique, who took charge of Barca’s B team in 2008 before an unsuccessful stint at Italian Serie A club AS Roma.

In his first term in charge at Celta, Enrique, 43, has three Barca academy graduates in his squad: forward Nolito, on-loan midfielder Rafinha – the younger brother of Bayern Munich playmaker Thiago Alcantara – and centre-back Andreu Fontas.

Celta produced easily their best performance of the season in thrashing Malaga 5-0 at the south coast club’s Rosaleda Stadium, but will be up against a Barca side on a high after overcoming Real Madrid 2-1 in el clasico over the weekend.

“To beat Barca, we will have to do our jobs extremely well,” said Fontas, 23.

“It’s almost impossible to get the ball off them and scarcely any team in the world manages it.”

Fontas, whose career was set back by a serious knee injury last year, said the win against Malaga had brightened the mood at Celta and they were more confident of surprising Barca at their Balaidos Stadium. However, he said the champions were even stronger under new coach Gerardo Martino, who took over from Tito Vilanova last season.

“He [Martino] has added certain things that before they didn’t have and that makes them more lethal,” Fontas said. “[They] are less predictable than in previous years.”

Third-place Madrid, meanwhile, need to regroup for their match at home to Sevilla tomorrow.

Defeat in el clasico left Carlo Ancelotti’s men six points behind Barca and five adrift of city rivals Atletico, who play at Granada on Thursday.

Ancelotti has yet to mould his squad into an effective unit and his tactics have been questioned.

The Italian started without a recognised striker against Barca, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria in a three-pronged attack.

It was only when Bale, who is coming back after a thigh strain, was replaced by Karim Benzema on the hour with Barca leading 1-0 that Madrid started to look more threatening and the France forward came close to an equaliser when he smashed a superb shot against the crossbar.

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