The La Liga side are trailing 1-0 to Manchester United in the Europa League semi-final
Celta Vigo have never been in this position before and they are showing their naivety in how they have acted in La Liga since Europe came calling.
They have just 90 minutes left in their season with nothing left to play for in the league (unless they can manage to beat Madrid and play a part in the title race) and there is a possibility that it could end with a thud despite their season showing plenty of early promise.
For all the talk of Real Madrid playing, and winning, with their B team, Celta Vigo are not only losing games with their B team but they are losing steam heading into the biggest game in the club’s history - the second leg Europa League semi-final against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
They have been beaten in six of their last seven games with the only victory coming against a Granada side who sleepwalked to relegation this season and couldn’t beat Celta Vigo if they randomly selected 11 fans from the stand in Balaidos on any given Sunday.
They were beaten 0-3 at home against Athletic Bilbao the week before last - a team who they should be competing to the maximum against - and were brushed aside by Malaga on Sunday night on the same scoreline as their season slips through their hands.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (left) and Celta Vigo manager Eduardo Berizzo. Picture by: Nick Potts/EMPICS Sport
As far as Celta Vigo’s first leg performance against Manchester United, the result was not fatal. It could have been a lot worse. The problem was not with the crowd or the atmosphere in the Galician city because they proved they can live with the biggest European names on that front. The issue was with Celta Vigo’s disjointed and awkward style of play and their inability to work their way into the game. If Eduardo Berizzo can be accused of anything, it is not that his teams play ugly, staccato-like football. Last Thursday, however, they did.
Iago Aspas couldn’t get free. Daniel Wass was disconnected and John Guidetti had no support. The only highlight was Pione Sisto, who has shown himself to be capable of operating at the highest level in the biggest games.
For all the rest Eduardo Berizzo’s side have gotten in recent weeks, and they have had a lot, they are missing the harmony and rhythm that got them this far. They looked physically outmatched against United despite having weeks of rest to build up their energy and ensure they were not carrying any knocks during their forays into Europe. The frustration is starting to show too with their lack of form.
Against Malaga on Sunday night, as they were given a proper dusting, Berizzo was sent to the stand when a melee broke out on the sideline. The ethereal essence of flow, giving your team momentum and keeping it is not an exact science and can be such a fragile thing that once it’s gone, it’s difficult to recover. Berizzo played with the formula and has lost that elusive momentum and everything that comes with it. He doesn’t even know where to start to get it back and he is frustrated because he knows that he is to blame.
Jose Mourinho showed his hand on Sunday. He is convinced that the Europa League is the Holy Grail for United this year. The difference being that United have worked themselves into European contention domestically just in case they are upset on the continent. Eduardo Berizzo did the same with Celta Vigo but their form ensures they won’t finish in a European place and will struggle to finish in the top half of the league. There’s conviction in setting out your stall but with such high stakes and with no guarantees in Europe, Berizzo might have hedged his bets to protect himself.
Celta Vigo fans are hoping that one last push in Europe can get them to the final and in the future will hope that they have learned from their mistakes. If they ever make it here again, they might act a little differently.