Rayo Vallecano (19th, 6pts) vs FC Barcelona (1st, 21pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Friday night
Competition/Round: 2018-19 La Liga, Matchday 11
Barcelona Outs and Doubts: Lionel Messi, Samuel Umtiti, Thomas Vermaelen, Sergi Samper, Denis Suarez, Malcom (out)
Rayo Outs and Doutbs: Tito (out), Santi Comesana, Gorka Elustondo, Álvaro Medrán (doubt)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 3, 2018, 8.45pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 7.45pm GMT (UK), 3.45pm ET, 12.45pm PT (USA), 1.15am IST (India, Sunday)
Venue: Estadio de Vallecas, Madrid, Spain
Referee: Alejandro José Hernández Hernández (oh boy)
How to watch on TV: beIN SPORTS (USA & Canada), Eleven Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport 7 (Nigeria), others
How to stream: beIN SPORTS CONNECT (USA & Canada), others
The prospect of losing Lionel Messi for a month was very scary for Barcelona. There were no previous indications that the team could cope without their best player for any game, let alone three giant ones like Sevilla, Inter Milan and Real Madrid (he wouldn’t have played in the Copa del Rey, so that doesn’t count). But Barça made three big statements in those matches (though Messi was a huge reason why we won against Sevilla with just 15 brilliant minutes on the pitch), and now they can have Messi back a little sooner than expected.
He won’t be ready to face Rayo Vallecano, though, but this should be a game Barça can win without their best player. Rayo are back in La Liga after a couple of years, and they’re still the same team that tries to play good stuff but just concedes a crazy numbers of goals (20 in the first 10 games) and just isn’t good enough to stay up for long.
They can be a tricky proposition for Barça, though, so before the Blaugrana can think about Inter Milan and winning their Champions League group, they need to make sure they care of business here. The good run of form and positivity cannot end on Saturday. As crazy as it sounds, it’d be a bigger blow to the team’s confidence than losing in Italy. So go to Rayo, be professional, play well, get the job done. It’s a simple formula. With or without Messi.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Rafinha, Suárez, Coutinho
Rayo (4-3-3): García; Advíncula, Amat, Gálvez, Moreno; Imbula, Comesana, Trejo; Kakuta, Tomás, Embarba
I really don’t like when I’m quite confident ahead of a game we should win. It makes me feel weird. But I trust the boys: 3-0 Barça.