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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Celta Vigo value to avoid defeat as Barca visit

Paulinho of Barcelona fights for the ball with Maxi Gomez of Celta Vigo
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Copa del Rey last 16 8pm Thursday

Barcelona have not started any of the last three calendar years with a victory and they may struggle to justify odds-on favouritism away to Celta Vigo in the first leg of their Copa del Rey fifth-round clash.

The Catalan giants are unbeaten in 25 competitive games since losing to Real Madrid in both legs of the Spanish Super Cup and would expect to come through their tie against Celta, who are 24 points below them in La Liga.

However, Barca rarely play at their peak immediately after the mid-season festivities and might leave themselves some work to do in next Thursday's second leg at Camp Nou.

This time last year, Barcelona lost 2-1 away to Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of their Copa del Rey fifth-round tie.

They also made slow starts to their league schedule in 2015 and 2016, losing 1-0 away to Sociedad and drawing 0-0 away to Espanyol.

It is only 12 days since Barca were last in action, when they scored a stunning 3-0 victory away to Real Madrid, but this game doesn't have the intensity of that challenge and there are doubts over the fitness of South American trio Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Javier Mascherano, who were given extra time off over the holidays and returned to training on Tuesday.

Celta's players have also had time off with their families but the incentive of a high-profile match against Barcelona should give them plenty of motivation.

Juan Unzue's side won three of their last four home games before the winter break and picked up a 2-2 draw at Barcelona in a league match last month.

Celta Vigo or draw double chance
1pt 7-5 Betfair

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Barcelona have not started any of the last three calendar years with a victory
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