Celta Vigo will be bidding to make a winning start to their 2022-23 La Liga campaign when they welcome Espanyol to Estadio Municipal de Balaidos on Saturday afternoon.
The Sky Blues finished 11th in Spain’s top flight last season, two points behind ninth-place Valencia, while Espanyol were 14th, just four points above the relegation zone.
Celta finished 17th in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 campaigns, but they have not been in any relegation danger in the last two seasons, claiming eighth and 11th position respectively.
Last term, the Sky Blues boasted a record of 12 wins, 10 draws and 16 defeats from their 38 matches, which saw them collect 46 points to claim 11th spot; Eduardo Coudet‘s side will now have their eyes on a top-10 finish, and it has been a busy summer for the club in terms of incomings.
Williot Swedberg, Luca de la Torre, Carles Perez, Oscar Mingueza and Unai Nunez are among those to have arrived, while there have also been a number of departures, with Brais Mendez, Nestor Araujo and Nolito among the group of players to have departed since the end of last season.
Celta finished fourth in the 2002-03 La Liga campaign, and while a Champions League spot will be beyond them this season, they could be potential challengers for a European position.
Coudet’s side will welcome the champions Real Madrid in their second league game of the season on August 20, which puts pressure on them to start with a victory on the opening weekend.
Espanyol are now under the management of Diego Martinez, with the 41-year-old appointed head coach for the new campaign at the end of May, having been without a job since leaving Granada in May 2021.
The White and Blues won the 2020-21 Segunda Division title to secure a return to the top flight, and they finished 14th in La Liga last season, just four points above the relegation zone.
Martinez’s side have also been busy this summer in terms of incomings, with Edu Exposito, Brian Olivan and Joselu among a number of new players to arrive, while there have been departures for the likes of Oscar Melendo, David Lopez and Diego Lopez, so there will be a fresh look to the squad this term.
Espanyol have also had an active summer in terms of pre-season friendlies, playing six games in total, including a goalless draw with Napoli in their last match on August 6.
The Catalan outfit struggled away from home during the 2021-22 campaign, only picking up nine points from 19 matches, which was the second-worst record in the division, so Martinez will be looking to oversee a huge improvement in that area this term.
Celta are expected to hand debuts to some of their summer signings this weekend, with Mingueza, De La Torre and Goncalo Paciencia potentially featuring in the first XI.
There will still be plenty of familiar faces from last season, though, with Iago Aspas, Hugo Mallo and Javier Galan among those set to feature in the side.
Renato Tapia, Franco Cervi and Augusto Solari should also be named in the starting side, with the likes of Swedberg and Carles Perez likely to be on the bench for the Sky Blues.
As for Espanyol, Raul de Tomas has been missing during pre-season amid the speculation surrounding his future, and the striker is not expected to be considered for a start here.
Lecomte has arrived at the club on loan from Monaco this summer and is expected to start between the sticks, while Joselu – a free transfer from Alaves – is likely to lead the line.
Keidi Bare and Oscar Gil both had injuries towards the end of last season but should be available here, while Sergi Darder could play in an advanced midfield area for the visitors.
Celta Vigo possible starting lineup:
Villar; Mallo, Aidoo, Mingueza, Galan; Tapia; Solari, Cervi, De La Torre; Aspas, Paciencia
Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Lecomte; Gil, Cabrera, Calero, Hilali; Costa, Bare; Melamed, Darder, Souza; Joselu