10th October 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
"When Barcelona don't have the ball, they're not Barcelona. And every robbery was an automatic attack," explained a delightful Eduardo Berizzo after his Celta Vigo side had just defeated Barcelona 4-3.
In what was one of the matches of the season, Berizzo's men adhered to his tactics of pressing Barcelona high up the pitch, and the man marking scheme attached it, beautifully, which allowed them to persistently dispossess and unsettle the Catalan giants. By applying such relentless pressure to Barca whenever they looked to pass out from the back, Celta ensured Luis Enrique's men found it hugely challenging to implement their usually effective passing game.
Berizzo's strategy was executed to absolute perfection by his troops, as they successfully managed to cut the supply line to pretty much all of Barca's passing options in their own half, with their man orientated pressing scheme providing a fantastic platform for his side to win the ball back on countless occasions.
Iago Aspas and Daniel Wass would mark Barca's two centre-halves, while Pione Sisto and Theo Bongonda would mark the Barca fullbacks, guaranteeing there were no easy outlets close by for goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to utilise. To compound their issues, Pablo Hernandez stuck to Sergio Busquets, Nemanja Radoja went to Arda Turan and Facundo Roncaglia would track Rafinha.
With the Galicians covering the away side's options so masterfully, this forced Barcelona into playing very risky, low percentage passes out from the back or to hoof the ball long, with both courses of action usually resulting in Celta regaining possession. The Sky Blues enjoyed particular success in situations where Barca attempted to orchestrate their attacks with floor passes, for once they won back possession, they could rapidly attack the gaps present within the unset, disorganised Barca defence.
A fitting reward for their tremendous work arrived in the form of them jumping to a 3-0 lead in the first half. Their incredible work rate and well calculated strategy clearly rattled their opposition, as they were completely overrun by the intensity of Berizzo's men. Defensively they were on the ropes and their usually strong offensive connectivity was obliterated.
Barcelona did, however, improve dramatically in the second half, with Enrique bringing on Andres Iniesta and altering the shape, as they even clawed their way back to 3-2. Their hopes of completing their comeback were dashed on 76 minutes, though, with Hernandez's vigorous pressing of ter Stegen coaxing the German shot stopper into a horrible error of judgement that saw him hit his pass right into Hernandez's head. The ball then somewhat fortunately rebounded off the post and over the line, but without Hernandez's harrying, the chance would've never have been created.
Although Barca grabbed a late consolation goal through Gerard Pique, Celta unquestionably deserved their 4-3 victory, in what was a great weekend for some of Marcelo Bielsa's former disciples. On top of Berizzo orchestrating Celta's unlikely triumph, Mauricio Pochettino also led his dynamic Tottenham Hotspur outfit to a wonderful win over Pep Guardiola's previously undefeated Manchester City. Indeed, their former coach would've been suitably impressed by his former protege's inspirational achievements.
After suffering at the hands of the club he managed prior to joining Barcelona, Enrique was humble in defeat, noting: "If there's a team that can hurt us, it's Celta, and if I have to lose against a superior opponent, I'm glad it's them.
"I can't take away much in terms of positives from this match."
Having emphatically demolished Barca 4-1 at the Balaidos last season too, Berizzo's well calculated plan to overcome the Blaugrana has yet again set a formidable blueprint as to how best to go about dismantling the reigning La Liga champions.
Following their disastrous start to the season, which saw them take just one point and score one goal in their opening five La Liga matches, Celta have finally began to click. Now on a run of three straight league wins, their season is now well and truly back on an upward trajectory.
Although Celta have a propensity to have the odd off day, when they get it right, just like the did against Barcelona, there's no question they can beat anyone and play some of the most exhilarating and effective football in Europe in the process.
Celta Vigo Demonstrate How to Beat Barcelona
10th October 2016. By Edward Stratmann.