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How will Barcelona line up against Rayo Vallecano in a tough La Liga trip?

The leaders face a difficult obstacle on the road to the title

FC Barcelona v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander Photo by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

After a massively important victory at home against Atlético Madrid, Barcelona continue their chase for the La Liga title with a tough midweek trip to Madrid for a big matchup against Rayo Vallecano at the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas.

The Blaugrana are back on track after ending a three-game winless streak with a strong performance and a thrilling one-goal victory over the Colchoneros, restoring their double-digit lead at the top of the table and reestablishing their status as overwhelming favorites to clinch the championship.

But the remaining schedule is still very difficult and Rayo is one of the toughest teams left on that calendar, especially in their tiny but brutally hostile stadium. They are one of Barça’s bogey teams and play very good football, and will provide a very difficult test for the leaders. Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Wednesday’s battle.


FC Barcelona v Girona FC - LaLiga Santander Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barça played their best game in over a month on Sunday, with a complete performance that should have resulted in a much easier win if not for some big misses in attack. But the quality of play was encouraging, and the challenge is to make that good effort consistent again.

Xavi will be looking for continuity again now that his best players are getting back to full health, so there shouldn’t be any major rotation to the team for this one. At the back the only change should be Eric García in place of Marcos Alonso, with Andreas Christensen unlikely to play but very close to a comeback.

Jules Kounde will remain at right-back, with Ronald Araujo alongside Eric in the middle and Alejandro Balde on the left.


FC Barcelona v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander Photo by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Sergio Busquets is suspended for yellow card accumulation and misses the trip to Vallecas, which makes it even better that Frenkie De Jong and Pedri are back to full fitness. Frenkie is the favorite to fill the captain’s role as the anchor of midfield, and Pedri is expected to start for the first time in nearly two months.

Gavi played in midfield against Atlético and with Busquets’ absence we are unlikely to see the four-midfielder system again in this one, so the young jewel will stay in the center of the park to complete a midfield trio that will most likely be starting full-time next season.


FC Barcelona v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander Photo by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barça’s front three played well on Sunday, with Raphinha playing his best game in a Barça shirt and Ferran Torres scoring the all-important winner against Atleti. Robert Lewandowski missed a big chance but was good in other less glamourous parts of the game such as ball retention and link-up play, but the Pole will certainly be looking to be better in front of goal in this one.

With the entire attacking trio looking good for the first time in a while it would be a shock to see Xavi changing it at all, especially with Ousmane Dembélé unlikely to start. The Frenchman is expected to make the bench, however, adding a very important weapon for the second half.

Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Eric, Balde; Pedri, De Jong, Gavi; Raphinha, Lewandowski, 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!

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