August 18, 2018 – 5.15pm
Celta Vigo welcome Espanyol to Balaidos for the opening match of the 2018-19 La Liga season.
The coastal port of Vigo feels the winds of change for this fixture with both clubs sporting new head coaches as they seek to improve their fortunes.
Antonio Mohammed takes over at Celta, replacing Juan Carlos Unzue, while Espanyol brought in Rubi in place of David Gallego.
Celta fans will be more concerned by their situation. Mohammed has never managed in Europe, spending his time so far in his native Argentina. They also sold key players: Daniel Wass, Jonny Castro, and Sergei Gomez while Borja Iglesias may haunt them when he returns with Espanyol.
In Iago Aspas and Maxi Gomez, they do possess a potent forward line but defensively, Celta were a wreck last season. The bottom three were so adrift that Celta escaped comfortably. This time around, things may be squeakier.
Espanyol sold Gerard Moreno, last season’s top scorer, but Iglesias netted 22 with Zaragoza while on loan last season and certainly has an eye for goal. The Catalans enjoyed a fruitful pre-season, recording six wins out of six, including victories at Burnley and Borussia Monchengladbach.
Roncaglia, Junca, and Jensen all miss out for Celta. Maxi Gomez is expected to recover from a minor knee problem with Beltran and Araujo making their debuts.
Sergio Sanchez is Rubi’s only absentee while Didac Vila and Marc Roca are set to cement their places in the senior team following summer sales.
The two sides finished level on 49 points last season but Espanyol’s dominance in this fixture took them to the higher league finish. A 2 – 2 draw in Vigo was followed by a 2 – 1 win in Barcelona.
It was the second consecutive season the match at Balaidos finished 2 – 2 and the third time in the last six. Four of the matches saw over 3.5 goals with Celta unbeaten in them all (W4, D2).
The changes in coaches make this hard to predict but it is clear neither side will want to lose this match. In a season where points threaten to be precious, caution will be the name of the game.
Celta’s forward line threaten goals, but they look like shipping more with a weak defence. It won’t be any surprise if this is played at a low tempo with the visitors making most of the running.
It isn’t expected to be a classic and with both coaches dreading a losing start, a tight affair will ensue.
Our tip: Total Goals: UNDER 2.5 – 1.70 (7/10)