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La Liga: FC Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano: Match Preview

A preview of Barcelona's early kick-off against Rayo Vallecano, where the Blaugrana can return to the top of La Liga with a victory at the Camp Nou

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

And so it’s come to this: after Real Madrid succumbed to a 0-1 defeat away at San Mames against Athletic Bilbao, FC Barcelona can move back to the top of La Liga tomorrow with a victory over Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou. All this just two months after a defeat at the Anoeta supposedly dealt Barça’s title hopes a final coup de grâce...isn’t it funny how the narrative in football can shift so suddenly and so dramatically?

Not that we can complain; to be within 90 minutes of reclaiming our rightful place on the top of La Liga is an incredible opportunity and one that the squad must be anxious to take. For so long now they have been doubted, both by their own fans and by the wider media – this represents a chance to not only reclaim top spot, but also a large amount of credibility.

So too will it be a vindication of Luis Enrique’s management style. While it hasn’t always won plaudits, it has been brutally effective, particularly as of late and while a tired Real Madrid squad stumble their way from one fixture to the next, Enrique’s rotations have enabled the Blaugrana to peak at just the right time with the business end of the season looming.

And on paper, this is an opportunity we should take – Rayo Vallecano are a fantastic side and one of the most attractive outfits in the league in terms of their footballing philosophy, but their tactical stubbornness while admirable is also foolish against a team of Barcelona’s calibre. Since returning to the top flight in 2011, Rayo have squared off against Barcelona on seven occasions – they are yet to win and have only scored a single goal.

Barcelona in the same seven matches however have scored 31 goals.

Will the trend continue tomorrow? Can Barcelona return to the top of La Liga in style with another emphatic victory over Rayo Vallecano, or will Paco Jemez finally mastermind a success story against the Blaugrana?



Neymar is suspended after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season last weekend in Andalusia against Granada, while there are some question marks surrounding the fitness of Gerard Piqué after the Catalan appeared to pick up a little niggle in midweek against Villarreal. Of course, Piqué wasn’t the only one to suffer on that night at El Madrigal: Sergio Busquets sustained a damaged ankle after a crude challenge from Tomas Pina and while we are unaware of the exact timeframe he faces on the sidelines, he will certainly miss out tomorrow.

In spite of Busquets’ absence, Sergi Samper remained with the B team this weekend and actually played a part in today’s narrow 3-2 defeat against Lugo. Munir El Haddadi on the other hand trained with the senior squad and is expected to find a place on the bench with Neymar’s suspended.

In goal, Claudio Bravo will start in search of his fourth clean sheet of the calendar year and he is likely to be supported by a defense featuring Dani Alves, who is expected to return to the line-up after being omitted against Villarreal. At this stage, it seems more likely than ever that we are witnessing Dani’s final season in Blaugrana colours, so my advice would be to savour him while we can – as chances are that we will never have another right-back quite like him.

In the heart of defense, I’d like to see Marc Bartra again, but I suspect that Jeremy Mathieu will get the nod ahead of him and will feature alongside Gerard Piqué – provided that the latter is actually fit and ready to play. Jordi Alba meanwhile should continue on the left-hand side of defense, although I wouldn’t be averse to seeing Adriano Correia given a run out – he’s just as deserving of game-time and there’s no reason not to include him against a team like Rayo.

In midfield, the Busquets-shaped hole at pivote will be filled in name only by Javier Mascherano, as the Argentine will likely put his own spin on Barça’s midfield anchor role. But then we knew that already; what’s important is who is stationed ahead of him and I suspect that Ivan Rakitić and Andrés Iniesta will get the nod, although this could be the perfect match for Xavi knowing the amount of space that will be available.

Neymar’s absence on the other hand will force Lucho into one of the most obvious decisions of his coaching career: handing a start to Pedro, for the Spaniard to hopefully continue his recent run of good form. Lionel Messi will of course start alongside him, and the same can be said of Luis Suarez who has also been delightful as of late. It’s a strong team, and one that’s more than capable of overwhelming Rayo.


Alberto Bueno made the headlines last weekend with a four-goal haul against Levante – but it’s worth noting that he is yet to score against Barcelona in his career to date. The same can be said of the majority of his attacking comrades at Rayo – the player who scored that sole goal against Barcelona since their return to La Liga, Raul Tamudo, is long gone. Of course we still need to respect them, but they will be susceptible at the back and it’s up to us to take advantage.


Barcelona: WWLWWW



Rayo Vallecano 0-2 FC Barcelona – 4th October 2014 – La Liga

Lionel Messi and Neymar helped themselves to a quickfire double in the first-half to seal all three points in this relatively subdued performance from the Blaugrana.


Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Mascherano, Rakitić, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Pedro

Rayo (4-2-3-1): Alvarez; Tito, Ze Castro, Amaya, Nacho; Trashorras, Baena; Lica, Bueno, Kakuta; Manucho


Not even close – a 3-0 win for Barça.

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