Celta Vigo secured Europa League qualification without kicking a ball yesterday, having built themselves up for a spectacular night whereby they finished the job themselves in front of a packed Balaídos. The sudden change in dynamic might just take the wind out of their sails, enough for Granada to nick a precious point in their battle for survival. Take the 7/2 available on the draw.
Valencia’s failure to beat Getafe leaves them unable to catch sixth-placed Celta, yet the Galician club has pulled out all the stops to create a sense of occasion here, allowing season ticket holders to purchase an extra two tickets each for just €5. So a capacity crowd of 31,800 is expected (nearly double the normal average) but with fans already in celebratory mood beforehand, it might only generate a sense of anti-climax.
That’s not to say Celta are without incentives. Talk now has switched to overhauling Athletic Bilbao in fifth place, thus avoiding a preliminary match next August and progressing straight into the group stages. However, that outcome is almost certainly going to depend on what happens next weekend at San Mames, although victory here would leave them in a position to play for a point against Basques.
The weekend results have also been kind to Granada with the three teams below them all dropping points and Rayo Vallecano getting beat. Sporting Gijon were hammered 6-0 at Barcelona, while the others all suffered a different kind of psychological damage by squandering precious leads. Rayo were 2-0 up against Real Madrid and lost 3-2, Levante were 2-0 up against Athletic and conceded twice in the last three minutes, while Getafe were 2-1 up against Valencia with six minutes to go but couldn’t hold out.
It all adds to the sense that the Andalusians’ best policy might be to batten down the hatches, pack bodies behind the ball and hold out for a point. It’s a result that would undoubtedly strengthen their position just outside the drop zone. With a one-point cushion and a superior head-to-head record on all three teams below them, it boils down to basic prospect theory: risk averse in the realm of potential gains.
The words of Granada boss Jose Gonzalez offer little to detract from this chain of thought. Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Saturday, he said: "We’re going to Vigo to win, but if circumstances force you to think a point is valuable, we’ll see. We’ve prepared ourselves to play against a great team that plays great football."
Events on Sunday will have only swayed Gonzalez more towards protection, so the 0-0 correct score at 16/1 should also be considered.
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