Barcelona will seek to tighten their grip on first place in the Primera Division on Saturday when they play host to Celta Vigo.
The Catalans go into the fixture fresh from thumping away wins against Espanyol (4-0) and Levante (5-0) and having had the rare luxury of a full week to prepare for the fixture.
Thereafter, they will have a couple of weeks off before meeting Getafe in La Liga, but in order to enjoy the festive period as fully as possible, they must overcome midtable Celta.
|Game||Barcelona vs Celta|
|Date||Saturday, December 22|
|Time||5:30pm GMT / 12:30pm ET|
|Stream (US)||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
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|US TV channel||Online stream|
|beIN Sports||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will not be shown on television but can be streamed on Eleven Sports 2.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|N/A||Eleven Sports 2|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Ter Stegen, Cillessen|
|Defenders||Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, Miranda|
|Midfielders||Rakitic, Busquets, Roberto, Vidal, Denis Suarez, Arthur, Alena|
|Forwards||Messi, Luis Suarez, Coutinho, Dembele, Munir|
On the plus side, Nelson Semedo is fit and gets a starting berth.
Barcelona starting XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal; Messi, L. Suarez, Dembele.
Subs: Cillessen, Alena, Brandariz, Coutinho, Miranda, Arthur, D. Suarez.
|Goalkeepers||Ruben Blanco, Alvarez|
|Defenders||Araujo, Costas, Roncaglia, Cabral, Alonso, Mazan, Mallo, Vazquez|
|Midfielders||Lobotka, Yokuslu, Radoja, Beltran, Jensen, Sanchez, Mendez, Boufal|
|Forwards||Sisto, Mor, Hjulsager, Gomez, Aspas, Eckert|
Celta have a full squad available for this encounter with the exception of the suspended left-back David Junca.
Celta starting XI: Ruben Blanco; Mallo, Araujo, Costas, Mazan; Mendez, Yokuslu, Jozabed, Boufal; Aspas, Gomez.
Subs: Alvarez, Beltran, Cabral, Hjulsager, Lobotka, Sisto, Kevin.
Betting & Match Odds
Barcelona have been made hot 1/8 favourites with bet365. A draw is priced at 8/1 while a Celta win is a long shot at 20/1.
They may have one last outing of 2018, but Barcelona’s thoughts are already drifting towards the future.
On Thursday, it was confirmed that they will sign Jeison Murillo on loan from Valencia in the January transfer window to reinforce their defence, while the Camp Nou side have also been tipped to pounce for Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot.
Barca have kept three successive cleansheets in the Primera Division, but the spine of their squad remains paper thin and needs reinforcing.
At the other end of the pitch, though, Lionel Messi continues on his merry way, having shone once again last weekend in a 5-0 destruction of Levante. The Argentine’s hat-trick carried him over the 50-goal barrier for 2018 – a figure he has achieved in eight of the last nine years – and means he has won more top-flight matches than any other player in the club’s history.
“I don't know how to label him. I don't know how to answer the most repeated question,” head coach Ernesto Valverde said, clearly having run out of superlatives for the South American, who finished only fifth in the recent the 2018 Ballon d’Or voting.
“He's the one who makes us play, who gives us amazing goals ... we just have to enjoy him.”
Indeed, so prolific has Messi been alongside strike partner Luis Suarez, the duo have accumulated more goals than both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid this season.
Celta’s task is to somehow find a way of halting this juggernaut, but the Galicians are confident.
“The game comes at a good time because we’re in the middle of a good run of results and play, despite the recent draw against Leganes,” midfielder Jozabed Sanchez said. “Additionally, in recent years we’ve been able to make things difficult for them.”
Celta may be undefeated in their last three league matches, but the likes of Huesca, Villarreal and Leganes do not measure up to the size and quality of Barca.
Indeed, the last time Celta faced one of the league’s big guns, they went down 4-2 to Real Madrid at home.
Barcelona, therefore, remain hot favourites – particularly with Messi in such fantastic form.