Barcelona will be looking to get back to winning ways after a disappointing midweek journey to Paris. Luis Enrique’s men stumbled to a 3-2 loss against an energised Paris Saint Germain side in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Rayo Vallecano will be expecting a backlash from las blaugranas, who will be motivated to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. Barcelona have made a blistering start to the new campaign with five wins and a draw out of six. They are averaging just short of three goals per game and have yet to concede a single goal in La Liga this season.
Rayo, on the other hand, have made a typically indifferent start to the season. Their stats make good reading if you are a precisionist: two wins, two draws, two losses, scored 10 and conceded 10. On Saturday they will be playing at their Vallecas home ground where their stats continue in similar fashion: won one, drew one, lost one, scored four, conceded four. This pleasant symmetry is expected to come to an end this weekend.
Paco Jemez’s men do however seem to have hit a spate of form after a sluggish start. They have two consecutive wins under their belt; a 2-1 home win against Athletic Bilbao and a 2-0 away victory to Levante - although Levante don’t seem to be the tough, rugged, hard to beat team they have been over the last three seasons. Rayo’s hopes will be largely pinned on the classy Leo Baptistao. Baptistao grabbed a brace against Levante and will be leading the line again on Saturday.
Hoping to go one goal better than Baptistao’s two last weekend, is Barca superstar Leo Messi. He is currently three goals behind the all-time La Liga goal-scoring record, set by Athletic legend, Telmo Zarra, over the 1940s and 50s. As usual, Messi approaches this record in nonchalant style; ‘all in good time’ is his response to pressing reporters.
Barcelona head coach, Luis Enrique, will be ensuring his players due not take a complacent attitude against Rayo. In his press conference on Friday afternoon, Enrique said that his side will have to be ‘attentive’ against a pressing Rayo team that ‘know how to play’.
When asked about the Barca changing room and his recent managerial tactics – possibly hinting at the situation with Xavi - Enrique said that ‘he is not a hunting dog that marks his territory’. He continued, ‘I have not done it before. I manage my players with the objectives of getting a greater overall team performance.’
It is clear that Barca legend Xavi is unhappy with his current position on the bench, making way for new-boy Ivan Rakitic. Enrique will have to act smartly to ensure that he gets the best out of Xavi and utilises his expertise before the situation inflames further.
Possible starting lineups
Rayo Vallecano: Tono, Tito, Ze Castro, Ba, Insua, Baena, Trashorras, Lica, Bueno, Kakuta, Baptistao
Barcelona: Bravo, Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Munir, Messi, Neymar