Barcelona have won their last three La Liga games in a row and are just two points away from a second-place finish thanks to a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Tuesday night at Camp Nou. Xavi Hernandez made a big formation change without Sergio Busquets, going to a very attacking 3-3-3-1 system that did not work at all in the opening 30 minutes. Barca looked confused and disorganised on the pitch, constantly allowing spaces in behind the backline and struggling to keep possession early on.
With the league essentially over, though, Xavi evidently wanted to experiment with the team, deploying a 4-2-3-1 on paper with Frenkie de Jong and Gavi in the double pivot.
Celta were the best team for most of the half and could have scored at least once if not for some fantastic defending by Ronald Araujo and two huge saves by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. After a terrible half-hour of football, Xavi went back to the familiar 4-3-3, and the difference was night and day: the home team looked comfortable and creative, and the chances finally came.
They also got two goals: the first came after a terrific run and assist by Ousmane Dembele and a good finish by Memphis Depay, and the second started with a beautiful pass by Jordi Alba to find Memphis and ended with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showing his opportunism to take advantage of an inadequate clearance by Nestor Araújo and find the bottom corner with his left foot to double Barca’s lead.
At halftime, Barca were in control after a solid finish to the first half but still had work to do to complete the job against a Celta side that were very much still in the game ahead of the final period.
Celta Vigo, who finished with more efforts on goal than their hosts, pulled a goal back shortly after Barca made it 3-0 when Iago Aspas capitalised on a poor pass out of the back by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But they would later be reduced to 10 men following a red card for Jeison Murillo in the 58th minute.
The game was paused for several minutes in the second half after a nasty-looking aerial collision between Gavi and Ronald Araujo required the latter to be escorted off the field in an ambulance. Barcelona later announced the defender had suffered a concussion and was taken to hospital to undergo further testing.
“It was a big scare, but he is conscious,” Xavi said. “He is in hospital and will spend the night there. But the doctors have told us not to worry. There are no more problems, luckily … If everything goes well, he will be back home tomorrow.”