Barca fail to heed Xavi’s warning
Barcelona coach Xavi warned his team they’d face a tough test against Rayo ahead of the game, speaking about the hosts’ intensity and the difficulties of playing at Vallecas in his pre-match presser.
Yet the Barca players simply didn’t heed Xavi’s warning. They failed to match Rayo’s intensity, struggled to create chances and were deservedly beaten.
️ Xavi analyzes the defeat at Rayo Vallecano: pic.twitter.com/BD9EmjY3qV— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 26, 2023
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise either. Rayo beat Barcelona home and away last season and held out for a goalless draw at the Camp Nou on the opening day of the campaign.
Barcelona were coming off a good result against Atletico too and knew they’d move 14 points clear of Real Madrid with a win but never really got going. Once again there was a lack of creativity and Barca seemed to run out of ideas entirely.
Xavi admitted he was really annoyed to lose this one and it’s easy to see why. The Barcelona coach knew exactly what was coming on Wednesday but still couldn’t prevent his team slipping to just a third league defeat of the campaign.
No 100 points but title still beckons
Barcelona’s defeat to Rayo means that Xavi’s side can’t reach the magical 100-point mark for the season, although they still remain in complete control of the title race.
A 14-point lead with just seven games left to play would have been very nice, but 11 points is still a very healthy gap to Real Madrid and the chasing pack.
Barcelona now have two home games in a row and need to get back on track quickly. Real Betis are up next on Saturday followed by a visit from Osasuna.
Xavi’s side have enjoyed a strong league campaign, as the table shows, but their form has been iffy for a little while now and it’s difficult to know just how good they are.
Andreas Christensen and Ousmane Dembele are both expected back against Betis, which should be a big boost, and will hopefully help Barca make a strong finish to the season.
Time for Gavi to take a break
Barcelona struggled all over the pitch on Wednesday, with Gavi in particular having a really tough night at Vallecas.
The 18-year-old was booked again, lost the ball far too often and you couldn’t help but think that he’s well overdue a break.
Gavi has already played 50 matches in all competitions for club and country this season, an incredible amount, especially for such a young player.
He’s become less efficient in recent games, and has also been booked in four of his last five matches, which perhaps highlights a growing frustration.
Barca struggled against Rayo’s intensity, one of Gavi’s key assets, which only reinforces the idea that the youngster could do with a breather.
Xavi does have plenty of midfield options at his disposal too, making his decision to keep on playing Gavi week after week even more frustrating.
Lewandowski ends worst Barca drought
Robert Lewandowski headed into this match without a goal in his last four games. He eventually ended his drought in the second half, scoring his first goal in 467 minutes for Barca - his worst drought since joining the club.
The Poland international might have had one in the first half too, but a tight offside call saw him denied.
Lewandowski’s form has come in for scrutiny, and a fair bit of criticism since the World Cup, but he still leads the goalscoring charts in La Liga on 18, four ahead of Karim Benzema, his nearest challenger for the Pichichi.
6 - @lewy_official has been involved in six of @FCBarcelona's last eight away goals in LaLiga (4 goals, 2 assists). Vital. pic.twitter.com/82dnDLJQ0w— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 26, 2023
Lewandowski actually has 24 for the season in all competitions which works out to a goal every 118 mins, despite the difficulties he’s had since the World Cup.
Yet for all his goals there’s no doubt that Lewandowski still isn’t quite right. Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres and Raphinha have all struggled to shine in attack alongside the Pole, and you imagine he can’t wait for Dembele to return.
With Dembele on the pitch, Lewandowski has scored 22 goals in 23 games (which works out to 0.96 goals per game). When Dembele is not there the rate drops to just 6 in 15.
Will Barca buy a right-back this summer?
Jules Kounde featured again at right-back for Barcelona on Wednesday but put in arguably his worst showing since joining from Sevilla. He was at fault for both goals and looked uncomfortable all night long.
Debate has raged in the rumor mill all season regarding whether Barca will go for a right-back this summer but they really need to as Kounde is not the answer.
The Frenchman has done a fine job on the flank but his best position is in the middle, and you get the feeling he’s longing to get back to what he does best.
Xavi has spoken about the issue and highlighted how Kounde, Araujo, Balde and Sergi Roberto can all play at right-back which suggests it’s not a priority.
Julian Araujo has also been signed from LA Galaxy but the rumor mill already seems to think that he could head off on loan and won’t be an option for next season.
Barca do look set for an intriguing summer transfer window. Right-back remains a big issue but will the club bring in a defender or focus their priorities elsewhere?