The La Liga 2021/22 season will be starting on 14th August on Sunday with Alaves vs Real Madrid the season opener. La Liga will be available on MTV with the American channel having recently procured the rights. Reigning Champions Atletico Madrid will be kicking off their season away at Celta Vigo on 15th August at 9 P.M IST, in a game that certainly would not be a cakewalk for Los Rojiblancos.
The La Liga champions did not lose any of their games against Los Celestes in the last four matches with the last encounter being a 2-2 draw away at the Balaidos on 9th February this year as Los Colchoneros went on to secure the title.
After winning the league for the first time in seven years last season, Atletico Madrid had a mixed pre-season with losses to RB Salzburg, Cadiz and Feyenoord, with the last game particularly a fiery one, but secured wins against Numancia and VFL Wolfsburg.
Atletico have strengthened their side with the acquisition of all-action midfielder Rodrigo de Paul from Serie A side Udinese, who starred for Argentina as they secured the elusive Copa America by beating hosts Brazil in the final, with de Paul masterfully assisting Angel di Maria’s goal only goal of the match.
He is the perfect Diego Simeone midfielder, having an abundance of technical ability coupled with the ability to be physical and play rough. With Saul linked away to a move, de Paul will have the keys in the middle of the park alongside Koke.
Celta Vigo won three of its preseason games against Sanluqueno, Pafos FC and Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers, while drawing with Gil Vicente. Head Coach Eduardo Coudet prefers a 4-4-2 formation. Their transfer business has been signing Franco Cervi from Benfica and Javi Galan from relegated Huesca.
Turkish midfielder Okay Yoksulu has returned from his fruitful spell for West Brom despite the club’s relegation. Renato Tapia impressed for Peru in Copa America and will certainly be in contention for the match.
Celta Vigo last won against Atletico almost 3 years ago on 1st September 2018 in a 2-0 win. This will be the 98th season of existence for the club based in Vigo and their 10th consecutive in the Spanish top flight.
Tactics and injury updates:
Diego Simeone will stick to a back 3 formation that helped Atletico won the league. Rodrigo de Paul will be the midfield general and provide the creative spark for the forwards. The versatile Marcos Llorente will start in the advanced roles after a very successful season which saw him rack up 12 goals and 11 assists. Luis Suarez was recently announced to have suffered an injury in his left leg and will be out for an unspecified period. Joao Felix and defender Felipe who have been injured since July are expected to return at the end of August. Right-back Kieran Trippier and left-back Renan Lodi are said to be not available for the game, with the versatile Saul and Yannick Carrasco expected to deputise for them.
Celta Vigo will play in their 4-4-2 with Santi Mina and talisman Iago Aspas leading the line with Denis Suarez providing some creativity. They will be boosted by the return of Yoksulu unless he moves to another club. The club has no significant injury concerns as of yet.
Celta Vigo possible XI – Blanco, Mallo, Araujo, Aidoo, Galan, Tapia, Nolito, Denis Suarez, Mendez, Iago Aspas, Mina.
Atletico Madrid possible XI – Oblak, Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso, Saul, de Paul, Koke, Carrasco, Llorente, Lemar, Angel Correa.
Atletico will want to kick-start their title defence with a bang and to take advantage of both Barcelona and Real Madrid going through tough periods, but away to Celta Vigo with fans returning and key players not available will prove to be a tricky fixture.
FT Prediction: 1-1 draw.