Connect in the back of the net

Nolito, Augusto Fernandez, Cabral, Pablo Hernandez, Iago Aspas; Celta Vigo Eduardo Berizzo’s Celta Vigo are known for their ferocious team-ethic and unity but they have plenty of individuals able to lay a claim to the title of stand-out player behind the Galician’s excellent season so far.

Celta had enjoyed a barnstorming start to the last campaign under Berizzo, only to see the momentum gathered by his high-octane pressing game fizzle out as they endured a nine-game winless run that spanned between late-November and the end of January.

This year there has been no such repeat, yet, as Vigo will spend the winter break in the comfort of fourth place after losing just three of their opening 16 games.

 

Blistering campaign

Nolito and Aspas, who is now settled back in Galicia after a disappointing spell at Liverpool and an underwhelming year at Sevilla, are top scorers with eight goals each while the former also has five assists in another blistering campaign that has reaped fresh links to Barcelona and Arsenal.

In Berizzo’s fiery midfield Fernandez has attempted more tackles than anybody else in La Liga with 94 and only his team-mate Cabral, Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, and Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano have a better pass completion rate than his 89.9%.

Nobody in La Liga’s top 10 have conceded more than Celta’s 28, a 5-1 thrashing at home to Valencia and the 3-3 draw with Las Palmas contributing to that, but only Barcelona and Real Madrid have netted more goals than their 28. Madrid have the BBC trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, Barcelona have the MSN of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar but Celta have the AON; Aspas, Fabian Orellana and Nolito.

It was they who humbled Barcelona with the 4-1 thrashing at Balaidos back in September that now seems, with the Catalans at the summit of the Primera Division and Club World Cup Champions, like a lifetime ago.

Nolito scored in that game and Aspas got two but Orellana’s contribution, cutting in from the right and joining in with Berizzo’s demands of high-pressing from the front, couldn’t be ignored even if he didn’t directly contribute.

 

Importance to Celta shouldn’t be understated

While Aspas eyes a call-up to the Spain squad to follow in the footsteps of Nolito who now has five caps after making his debut last November, the importance of Orellana to this Celta team shouldn’t be understated.

The Chilean has five goals (already as many as he has managed in each of the last two seasons), including one in the 0-2 win over Granada to help ensure Celta will spend Christmas in the comfort of a Champions League qualification spot, a result Berizzo claimed as a “display of authority”.

“[Orellana in the hole] allowed us to create combinations to score and open the game up” he said of the winger who is Celta’s second most prolific chance creator, behind Nolito of course, with 27. The 29 year old has missed just 16 minutes of his club’s season so far and only Neymar has attempted more dribbles or been fouled more times this season than Orellana in La Liga.

You can also guarantee a defensive shift will be put in by the winger as Berizzo demands, with Orellana a loyal devotee to that plan. Luis Enrique, who managed Orellana for a season at Celta and helped the Chilean to establish himself in Galicia, targeted their conservativeness before his Barcelona team travelled there in September.

“Nolito, Iago Aspas and Orellana spend more time defending than attacking”, he said, only to see his plans unravel spectacularly by witnessing what Celta’s front-three can do on the ball.

Nolito and Aspas have grabbed headlines but Orellana, the diminutive ball of energy who fits into Berizzo’s plan perfectly as a disciple of Marcelo Bielsa and Jorge Sampoali with Chile, brings an element of the unexpected and excitement- his nickname of El Poeta (the Poet) now assuming a literal sense- that is vital to Celta.

It is maybe then no surprise that he is attracting potential suitors with Marseille reportedly lining up a €15 million move in January.

 

Under no pressure to sell

Celta, with finances now stable after miring themselves in debts of €80 million 6 years ago, are under no pressure to sell, Nolito’s exit is likely to become before Orellana’s, but if they do cash in on the Chilean they will gain a big mark-up on the €1.2 million they used to sign him from Granada in January 2013.

After struggling in the top-flight with Granada following a prolific season on loan at Celta during their promotion season from the Segunda division, the Chilean yearned for a move back to Balaidos and was helped to build confidence and form by first Enrique and now Berizzo who plays perfectly to his winger’s strengths.

 

Celta must keep hold of vital trio

Back to Orellana’s El Poeta moniker, given to him as a nod towards his likeliness to a famous Chilean comedian, there is nothing quite so humorous about the winger’s form for Vigo or the Galician’s aspirations to cling onto a European spot in La Liga.

To do that, they must keep hold of Aspas, Nolito and Orellana. But while the former two get all the plaudits, Orellana is still going largely unnoticed. Celta and Berizzo won’t mind that at all.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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