Barcelona’s busy schedule continues as the Catalans return home for a La Liga matchup against Rayo Vallecano on Sunday night.
There are no other league games this weekend but this clash was postponed earlier this season and Barça will finally play their game in hand and catch up with the rest of the table.
After a crucial victory over Real Sociedad at Anoeta Barça can take a giant step towards Champions League qualification with another win, which would put them nine points clear of fifth place with only five games left to play after Sunday.
Rayo were fantastic in the first half of the season but haven’t won any games in 2022 and come to Camp Nou struggling and looking for a positive result to avoid any relegation fears. Let’s see how Barça could line up this weekend.
Thursday’s battle against La Real was very demanding for a Barça team already on its last legs after a crazy number of matches in the last three months, and the crazy schedule is starting to claim some victims. Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba clearly struggled through groin issues on Thursday, while Ronald Araujo was very lucky to avoid an injury after leaving the game early in the second half.
Dani Alves was also forced off with an ankle problem which leaves big question marks in defense. Saturday’s training session will answer all the doubts, but it’s really hard to predict who will start at the back against Rayo. So here goes a pure guess: Dani Alves will be fit enough to start on the right with Eric García and Araujo in the middle and Sergiño Dest on the left, which would mean much-needed rests for Piqué and Alba.
Barça’s midfield responded in a big way on Thursday and played very well against Sociedad, especially in the first half. Pedri’s absence will still be felt in a big way, but Sergio Busquets, Frenkie De Jong and Gavi all stepped up in the middle of the park in a very important game.
If all three of them can go on Sunday they will start together again, with a full week of rest until next week’s game against Mallorca allowing Xavi Hernández to use most of his starters. Nico González will be ready to start if needed, with Riqui Puig also hoping for minutes against a weaker Rayo side.
Barça’s front three also played well against Sociedad and should keep their places on Sunday. There’s a temptation to go a little crazy with rotations but that strategy didn’t work against Cádiz, and until Ansu Fati is fit enough to fight for real minutes and another forward arrives in the summer there is no other option but to play Ousmane Dembélé, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres together up front.
Adama Traoré could find himself back in the lineup for this one if Xavi decides to give Dembélé at least the first half off, but it’s unlikely we see any changes up front in a game Barça really need to win.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Alves, Araujo, Eric, Dest; F. De Jong, Busquets, Gavi; Dembélé, Aubameyang, Ferran (4-3-3)
How do YOU think Barcelona should line up against Rayo Vallecano? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!