Celta stand between Barcelona and title celebrations

May 1, 2006
By Mark Elkington

MADRID, May 1 (Reuters) - Champions League-chasing Celta Vigo stand between Barcelona and the Primera Liga title when Frank Rijkaard's side travel to Galicia on Wednesday.

With an eight-point lead over second-placed Valencia, who only have three games left, Barca can secure a second successive championship with victory, although Celta will be no pushovers.

Fernando Vazquez's Celta have had an impressive season since winning promotion last year and are two points short of the Champions League places in fifth.

They have developed a well-organised counter-attacking style which may not please the purists but has been extremely effective in propelling them to the upper reaches of the table.

Up front they have the powerful Brazilian striker Fernando Baiano, while in midfield Borja Oubina has caught the eye of Spain coach Luis Aragones.

After Saturday's 2-0 away win over regional rivals Deportivo Coruna Vazquez said: 'We are close to securing a UEFA Cup place which would be an extraordinary prize in itself.

'But fourth place is also very close now although it depends more on what the teams above us do.'

Champions League finalists Barcelona looked jaded as they overcame struggling Cadiz 1-0 at the weekend, but have the chance to add some freshness to the squad by giving more minutes to Xavi, who made a return from injury as a substitute on Saturday.

FREESCORING VALENCIA

If Valencia fail to beat Real Mallorca away that would allow Barcelona to retain their title regardless of the result in Vigo, but it looks unlikely as Quique Sanchez Flores's side are enjoying a rousing end to their campaign.

They have scored 16 times to win their last five matches on the trot, while Spain striker David Villa has closed to within one goal of the league's leading scorer, Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o, who has 24.

Real Madrid remain two points adrift of Valencia in third, and can keep the pressure on with an away win at relegation-threatened Racing Santander on Thursday.

Fourth-placed Osasuna visit Atletico Madrid and UEFA Cup finalists Sevilla, who are sixth, take on Getafe.

At the foot of the table Cadiz and Alaves look favourites to join relegated Malaga in the second division next year.

Cadiz, 19th, are four points from safety and need to beat Real Sociedad at home to keep their hopes of escape alive, while a point above them Alaves entertain Real Betis.

Athletic Bilbao, who have never been relegated, are hovering above the bottom three in 17th and are at home to Real Zaragoza.