The upcoming La Liga season welcomes the return of the Galician derby between two of the division’s new boys. Not since 2007 has the encounter been played in the top tier but Celta Vigo’s final day draw ensured they’d meet rivals Deportivo La Coruna the following season.
Unlike their west coast neighbours, who only dropped down for a single campaign, Celta gained promotion back to La Liga via the scenic route, narrowly avoiding going out of business and a further relegation from the Segunda Division. Star players were sold to balance the books and somehow Celta still managed to turn it all around within 5 rollercoaster seasons.
Rivals Deportivo had been relegated and along with the penalty shoot-out play-off despair the season before, Celta had added determination to succeed last year and they duly did, going up automatically in second.
Striker Iago Aspas must take an awful lot of credit for that having scored 23 goals last season, the second top goalscorer in the division behind Almeria’s Leonardo Ulloa. At 24, Aspas has never played in La Liga but will be raring to go and fight to keep Celta in the division. He and Spanish under 21 defender Hugo Mallo are the key players for Celta this season but boss Paco Hererra will need to strengthen in other areas to ensure the club’s safety.
Despite this, it would be criminally irresponsible to spend freely in a bid to recapture those famous European nights of days gone by. The most likely result would probably be their return to the financial predicament they’ve only just crawled out of.
Staying up is absolutely vital so that Celta have a base to rebuild and strengthen, and most importantly soak up the added money La Liga brings to each club. You fear that this promotion may have come a bit too early for the club though.
Nevertheless, Samuel Llorca has joined from Hercules for €450,000 as has Javi Varas on a loan from Sevilla as well as Argentinian defender Gustavo Cabral, making his loan deal permanent. Whilst Celta may be on a tight budget, their fight and desperation to remain in La Liga is clear to be seen.
Judging by their willingness to fight on in Spain’s top flight, you may find the price of 12/5 at bwin for Celta Vigo to win their opening fixture against money-bags Malaga CF very tempting. And whilst they may not begin their La Liga domestic campaign with a victory, the overiding sense is that the club have learnt the tough lessons of years gone by and are showing measured ambition to climb back to their former glories.
Whether they are quite ready for it yet is difficult to judge but they look to be in for a long, tough season ahead. Should they finish above the dotted line however, they can then begin to dream of galavanting around Europe again.
After all the drama of the last couple of campaigns, one devoid of any theatrics would do nicely for their fans!
Segunda Division: 2nd (promoted as runners-up)
Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Espanyol 4-2 on agg)
Javi Varas on loan from Sevilla
Samuel Llorca €450,000 from Hercules
Gustavo Cabral free from Arsenal Sarandi
Yoel Rodriguez loan to CD Lugo
One to Watch: Iago Aspas