Barcelona now have played the same number of matches as the rest of the La Liga teams and wasted the chance to virtually guarantee a spot in the Champions League next season thanks to a 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou on Sunday night. Barça conceded early and never looked like a real threat for the rest of the game, and despite finishing the weekend still second in the table they remain just six points ahead of fifth place with five games to go and will have to work hard to clinch a Top 4 finish.
Barça had a very slow start to the game, playing slow attacking football and losing easy balls in midfield with poor passes and decisions. Rayo on the other hand were very quick out of the gates and scored the opener when Isi’s ball over the top found Álvaro García, who was given time to control the ball and find the bottom corner to give the away team a shocking lead.
The Blaugrana still needed at least 20 minutes to wake up after conceding the first goal, but finally upped their intensity in attack and started to create real chances. Goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski and the Rayo backline needed to make some serious interventions, and Barça came close to getting an equalizer on multiple opportunities.
They were also denied a clear penalty when Santi Comesaña hit Gavi inside the box, but both the referee and VAR ignored the shout. Gavi was involved in another big moment when he hit the crossbar with a beautiful shot, and Ferran Torres scored on the rebound but was denied the goal for an offside.
At halftime Barça had started poorly but got better at the end of the period and could have easily scored a goal or two, but were still behind going into the final 45 minutes and needed to improve even more to find the winning goals.
Barça couldn’t carry over the momentum from the end of the first half and were back to their slow, unimaginative attack with very little movement and a whole lot of crosses that never threatened the Rayo defense.
Xavi Hernández made a double change with 30 minutes to go, bringing in Memphis Depay and Nico González looking to add more intensity and creativity off the bench, but the two players had very little impact early on and Memphis was especially wasteful and imprecise with his passing.
The Barça manager made his final two moves of the game with 20 minutes left, sending Luuk De Jong and Adama Traoré to try and cross the Blaugrana back into the match. But the plan didn’t work, and Barça never created a real chance to find a late equalizer and were once again denied a clear penalty when Gavi was pushed in the back inside the box in front of the referee, who somehow didn’t see a foul that VAR never bothered to check.
The final whistle came after 11 minutes of added time to give Rayo three big points that will definitely save them from relegation now, and Barça have now lost two straight at home without scoring a goal and have won just one of their last five in all competitions. The loss isn’t the end of the world and they are still in excellent position to finish in the Top 4, but the pressure is there and they can’t afford to drop any more points.
Barça will welcome a rare full week of rest and training before facing Mallorca next Sunday in what has become a must-win game for a Barça team going through a tough time right now.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest (Lenglet 46’), Araujo, Eric (Adama 71’), Alba; F. De Jong (Nico 60’), Busquets, Gavi; Dembélé, Aubameyang (L. De Jong 71’), Ferran (Memphis 60’)
Rayo Vallecano: Dimitrievski; Balliu, Maras, Catena, García; Comesaña (Ciss 56’), Valentín (Trejo 67’); Isi (Mario H. 87’), López (Suárez 87’), García; Nteka (Guardiola 56’)
Goal: García (7’)