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Rayo Vallecano vs Barcelona, 2016 La Liga: Team News, Match Preview

A preview of Barcelona's midweek La Liga clash with Rayo Vallecano in Madrid

David Ramos/Getty Images

FC Barcelona will be hoping to make history tomorrow evening by avoiding defeat and extending their unbeaten streak to a record-breaking 35 matches when they travel to Madrid to take on Rayo Vallecano at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas. The Blaugrana equalled the 26 year old record set by Real Madrid with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sevilla FC at the weekend, and it seems only fitting that the record could be broken in the Spanish capital, no doubt adding insult to injury if you’re a Real Madrid supporter.

At the moment, fans of Los Blancos have very little to cheer about. Their team has declined quite markedly since the dismissal of Carlo Ancelotti this past summer, and even the midseason appointment of club legend Zinedine Zidane has done little to stop the slide. A disappointing home defeat in the Madrid derby last weekend all but ruled them out of the La Liga title race, and even the prospect of a seemingly straight-forward match tonight against relegation-threatened Levante UD must have filled them with dread.

Their star player is doing his best to further alienate himself from his colleagues, while the club president has stood firm in the face of calls for resignation – it’s all going wrong, and the idea that FC Barcelona can break yet another one of their long-standing records tomorrow must be chilling.

Although from our perspective, what a time to be alive. This squad, this team is utterly transcendent. I was fortunate enough to be at the game on Sunday (heck, you could clearly see me applauding Messi’s free-kick) and while the performance wasn’t exactly eye-catching, it got the job done. We won the match, maintained our lead at the top of the table and witnessed another moment of magic for good measure.

You should really read Rob’s editorial for a more eloquent description of Messi’s brilliance, but from my experience at the weekend, there’s another thing we perhaps fail to recognise as often as we should – and that’s his ability to consistently not just live up to expectations, but exceed them altogether. And when you consider this in combination with how Messi repeatedly raised the bar above and beyond anything we’d ever witnessed before, that’s truly phenomenal.

Sevilla had scored the opening goal, and while we had started brightly, we were far from our best. Suarez wins the free-kick and immediately there is an air of anticipation around the stadium. The ominous sound of the drum reverberates around the stadium and slowly the crowd build to a crescendo. With Messi standing over the ball, we’re expecting something good – and in spite of all this build-up, all this expectation, Messi delivers above and beyond with a superlative effort into the "wrong" corner of the goal.

We were expecting maybe a shot on target, or a relatively "standard" goal, but Messi delves into the top drawer and pulls out this beauty of a shot. We’re not just applauding an equaliser anymore, we’re applauding his genius – that thrill that he, and he alone can provide us with his genius.

I was sat just behind one of the TV directors who was hard at work on his small screen on the touchline, replaying the goal from each and every camera in the stadium in the bid to find the perfect shot for the half-time highlights package and it was mesmerising. From each angle, the goal got better and better. Just another example in the long list of Messi mastering the art of football – but clearly I’ve digressed.

Let’s talk about the Rayo match, after all, that’s what we’re here for, right?



Let’s start with the bad news: Dani Alves is suspended, Rafinha Alcantara is still injured and both Sergi Roberto and Sergio Busquets have missed training this week. There are also rumours that one (or more) of the Messi-Suarez-Neymar trident will be rested, which when you combine all those stories together, might give Luis Enrique a few selection headaches for tomorrow. However, everyone trained today – so it seems like Enrique only needs to make the changes he deems necessary.

Undoubtedly, he will take the opportunity to make a few changes. The schedule hasn’t been kind to us as of late, and with a difficult trip away to face Eibar coming on Sunday, it’s not getting any easier any time soon either. I therefore suspect that we will see at least one change in defense, as Javier Mascherano should return to action in place of Jeremy Mathieu, or perhaps Jordi Alba if Enrique fancies giving the Frenchman a second successive start.

In midfield, we will see returns for Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic, and fitness permitting, I imagine that Sergio Busquets will retain his place at pivote. Against a side as proactive and capable as Rayo Vallecano, Busquets is arguably our key player for the match tomorrow – as losing the midfield battle would likely prove catastrophic to our chances of winning the match.

Meanwhile, I anticipate that Munir El Haddadi might rotate into the line-up in place of Luis Suarez, who looked a tad sluggish by his standards on Sunday – and perhaps needs a little rest ahead of a tougher match against Eibar this coming weekend. We will need a player like Suarez to break down the Basque Country’s surprise package, whereas a match against the admittedly open Rayo Vallecano defense perhaps lends itself to one of the fringe players.


Since the last time we played Rayo, I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to Madrid where I caught a match at Vallecas when Rayo hosted Granada. The hosts won 2-1 on that night, and the entire evening was fantastic entertainment. The atmosphere is great, the football is excellent and how can you not root for a team that plays The Final Countdown each and every time they score? Well, I guess when they’re playing your favourite team for one.

Roberto Trashorras was right when he stated that Barcelona’s unbeaten run will end – it’s inevitable, but I will take issue if he thinks it will end tomorrow. Rayo typically give us an excellent game, but they have scored at home against us in over a decade. In our four matches at Vallecas since their return to the top flight in 2011, we’ve scored 18 goals at an average of over 4 per match. They might give us one heck of a scare, but generally once that first goal goes in, they are the architects of their own demise.

Paco Jemez will be without Miku and Pablo Hernandez for the match tomorrow, but there is good news in the sense that top-scorer Javi Guerra trained normally with the rest of the squad today.



Barcelona: DWWWWW


FC Barcelona 5-2 Rayo Vallecano – 17th October 2015 – La Liga

Otherwise known as "The Neymar Show" as the Brazilian ran riot with four goals and an assist to condemn the visitors to defeat.


Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Vidal, Pique, Mascherano, Mathieu; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Munir, Neymar

Rayo (4-2-3-1): Carlos; Tito, Ze Castro, Llorente, Martinez; Baena, Iturra; Bebe, Jozabed, Piti; Guerra


These matches are impossible to call. Could be something relatively understated, like a 2-1, or it could end up 6-4 or 8-0. Who knows – so let’s guess at another 2-0 Barca.

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