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|To Win and Both Teams to Score||Odds|
|Real Madrid and Yes||+175
|Celta Vigo and Yes||+900
Carlo Ancelotti’s new-look defense is still coming together, and while Madrid should have little trouble picking up all three points on Sunday, their second clean sheet of the campaign might prove elusive.
On Sunday Real Madrid will play their first match at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu since a 2-0 victory over Barcelona on 1 March 2020. The club used the coronavirus pandemic to accelerate renovation work on the historic stadium, which has thus been completed ahead of schedule. Madrid spent the entirety of last season playing at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, the home of their reserve team, while construction work on the Bernabeu took place around the clock. Only 30,000 fans will be present this weekend, but Madrid will be delighted to be home.3
It is not quite the dream scenario, though. Florentino Perez, the president who brought Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, and Cristiano Ronaldo to the club, wanted to unveil the new and improved Bernabeu with another galactico signing. Kylian Mbappe was the player he wanted, and the France international was keen on a move too. Yet despite their best efforts, including a remarkable £171m bid on transfer deadline day, Madrid was unable to get a deal over the line.
Mbappe, therefore, remains at Paris Saint-Germain for the time being, although there is confidence in the Spanish capital that he will be a Madrid player next season. The question now is whether Los Blancos can have a successful season without him. There is certainly still enough quality in the ranks for Madrid to challenge for the La Liga title, particularly as Barcelona looks substantially weaker than they have done for some time. And while Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane departed this summer, Madrid brought in David Alaba and Eduardo Camavinga.
Mbappe would have been a difference-maker, though, and there is no denying that Madrid’s team is starting to look a little stale. They will once again rely heavily on the likes of Luka Modric and Karim Benzema this season while hoping that younger players like Vinicius Junior can deliver on a consistent basis. Madrid returns to the Bernabeu in between two eras.
Celta Vigo finished eighth last term, a vast improvement on their struggles in previous seasons – they ended both the 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns one place above the bottom three. Their improvement last term was principally down to the fine work of Eduardo Coudet. The Argentine replaced Oscar Garcia as Celta’s manager in mid-November when the team was rock-bottom of the table. During Coudet’s time in charge, only the top four plus Real Betis picked up more points than Celta.
Repeating the trick this season will be difficult and Coudet’s side has made a poor start. Home defeats by Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao came to either side of a 0-0 draw with Osasuna, leaving the Sky Blues in 18th place heading into the fourth round of fixtures. Given the identity of their opponents on Sunday, it is feasible that Celta could end the weekend second-bottom.
It is important that the board does not panic, though. Credit deserves time to get Celta going again, and the team is likely to start picking up points once the fixture list becomes a little kinder. Iago Aspas remains at Balaidos and there is no reason to doubt that he will score plenty of goals again this season.
Celta played fluid, attacking soccer last time out and should benefit from the return of supporters to stadiums in 2020/21, with their high-intensity style well suited to full grounds. It would be a surprise if Celta were still in the bottom three at the end of the campaign.
Avoiding defeat by Madrid is never easy, but Celta’s task this weekend is made all the more difficult due to the location of the match. Even though the Bernabeu will not even be half-full, there will be a celebratory atmosphere around the ground and it will certainly be tougher for Celta to hold out than it would have been at an empty Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Their attacking style has not yet brought tangible rewards this season, with Celta having scored only once in three games. But Madrid are still getting to grips with Ancelotti’s methods and a new-look defense shorn of Varane and Ramos, two former stalwarts. Los Blancos were remarkably shaky in a recent game against Levante, conceding three goals to Paco Lopez’s side.
With Aspas upfront and an attack-minded manager in the dugout, Celta will have chances to find the net this weekend. The problem will be at the other end. Coudet’s forward-thinking approach is admirable, but it can leave his team too open at times. Madrid, even without Mbappe, possesses an abundance firepower up top and on the bench. It is hard to look past a comfortable home win on Sunday, but back Celta to score at least once.
|Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo Information|
|Teams||Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo|
|Location||Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain|
|Time||Sunday, 12 September 2021, 15.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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