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La Liga, Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano: Projected Lineups

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The international break is thankfully over, and it's time to see Barcelona play football again, which is the reason we like football in the first place. The Blaugrana need to come back to the winning ways in La Liga after losing to Sevilla two weeks ago.

Barça's opponent is a difficult Rayo Vallecano side that hasn't been at its best so far this season, but is a tough, well-organized team coached by an amazing manager that could cause a lot of trouble to the league holders on Saturday afternoon at Camp Nou. The Blaugranes are slowly getting their injured players back, and the wave of physical problems experienced in the initial months of this season is now disappearing, with only three players currently out.

The problem is, the injury list has some guy named Lionel Messi, another guy named Andrés Iniesta and a certain Rafinha Alcântara on it. Three of the most special players on the squad have left a giant hole on the creativity department, and that will be a problem against a good defense like Rayo's.

So with the remaining pieces he's got, Luis Enrique might choose to field this lineup on Saturday:


Alves - Piqué - Vermaelen - Alba

Rakitic - Busquets - Roberto

Munir - Suárez - Neymar

The biggest decision to make is on defense. All center-backs and full-backs are finally available, and the coach has a variety to options on the goal-prevention side. Thomas Vermaelen, perhaps the team's best defender this season, is back from injury, and his great performances before a calf strain that sidelined him for the last four weeks might earn him a start on his return.

The front six, though, is likely to be similar to the one that played against Sevilla. Sergio Busquets didn't work well as an interior midfielder, and should return to his original slot as a pivote. Sergi Roberto has proved himself time and time again both as a full-back and as a midfielder, and he's likely to continue his good form with another start. Munir El-Haddadi was very solid last time out, and after a good international break, he's also on a good run of performances and should start alongside Suárez and Neymar.

Luisito is cleared to play after a few days of treatment on a muscle problem, and this season's highest scorer, who found the back of the net twice against Rayo the last time these two teams played, is certainly eager to get more goals. Neymar will be once again expected to be the special player on the pitch, as he was at Seville, and after a mini-preseason during the break, he should be in better fitness and ready to be great again. We can certainly use some Ney Magic.


Now, on to the Rayo lineup:

4-2-3-1: Toño | Tito, Llorente, Castro, Nacho | Trashorras, Baena | Embarba, Jozabed, Bebé | Guerra

Paco Jémez is amazing, but is certainly worried about his men's slow start his season. With only two wins in the first seven matches, Rayo is flirting with a relegation battle as of right now, but the squad is strong enough to improve. Midfielder Roberto Trashorras, one of the best in the league, is usually responsible for making this machine work, but he hasn't been at his best so far. Without his passing, Rayo isn't as sharp at executing its attractive style of play, and if they continue to lose silly balls, they could ignite some dangerous counter-attacks for Barça, and that might be one of the keys to a Blaugrana victory.