Saturday, October 4, 17:00 CET
Estadio de Vallecas
Matchday 7 of La Liga will see FC Barcelona travel to Madrid to face Rayo Vallecano, looking to keep their lead in the competition with another win. Vallecas has traditionally been a relatively easy away trip for Barcelona, with Rayo’s high pressing and possession-based game playing right into Barcelona’s game, since the latter are unrivaled when it comes to that style. Nothing different is expected this time; most are expecting this to be one of Barcelona’s easiest away matches of the season, even if that overconfidence can be dangerous. Rayo have started the season pretty well and they have nothing to lose here, the pressure is entirely on Barcelona as they look to maintain the gap they have built over their two rivals from Madrid.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Rayo have had a very decent start to the season, especially on the offensive end of the pitch with 10 goals in 5 matches after a 0-0 draw at home against current La Liga champions Atlético Madrid in matchday 1. Paco Jimenez has built a team in Rayo’s image, an expansive side always looking to impose their attacking, possession-based, game on their opponents, a side that is often involved in thrilling, high quality matches. This approach hasn’t been very successful against Barcelona, and that’s putting it mildly; last season, they lost 6-0 at Camp Nou and 0-4 in Vallecas, in a match that became famous for being the first time since 2008 a team beat Barcelona for possession in a match. In seasons before, the results weren’t much better either.
Despite this, Rayo are certain to keep their philosophy, which the club values as their identity as a football club. and try their best to reverse this very negative trend against Barcelona. They are also aware that this is not the kind of match they absolutely need to win to attain their primary goal each season: staying up. It’s safe to say that the pressure will be fully on Barcelona, for Rayo this is another opportunity to display their football and maybe get an upset if things go their way.
Jimenez is likely to field a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Toño in goal, a back four of Insua, Ba, Castro and Tito, shielded by a double pivot of Trashorras and Baena; Kakuta, Bueno and Licá will play behind the sole striker Leo Batistao. Rayo won’t take the approach most teams do when they face Barcelona, they will look to press high from the start – that of course means it will take extraordinary intensity from everyone for Rayo to have any chance of getting a result here.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Toño; Insua, Ba, Castro, Tito; Trashorras, Baena; Kakuta, Bueno, Licá; Leo Batistao
Barcelona are coming from their first official loss of the season, a 2-3 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain in matchday 2 of the Champions League group stages. In La Liga, however, not only do the blaugrana remain unbeaten, but they are yet to concede a single while having score 17 themselves. An incredible start to the league campaign, a sort of momentum Barcelona will be trying to keep this weekend in Madrid. The absence of any major injuries at the moment is more good news, Suarez is the only player unavailable for Luis Enrique for reasons that are well known to everyone.
It’s tough to predict the exact lineup considering that, apart from Messi, pretty much every player has been rotated so far this season, but it’s certain that Barcelona will play in their traditional 4-3-3. Bravo should start in goal, Piqué will likely come back in this match and partner up Bartra in central defense, with Alba and Alves as wingbacks. In midfield, Busquets should start and then any two of Xavi, Rakitic and Iniesta could complete the midfield trio; up front, only Messi is a given, two of Neymar, Munir and Pedro should complete the lineup. Regardless of who starts, Barcelona will be looking to shake off the disappointment of Paris on Tuesday and start strong applying pressure on Rayo from the get go.
This has traditionally been an easy match-up for Barcelona over the years, but La Liga likely to come down to a few points in the end you can’t really afford to underestimate any opponent, and every match must be approached with full concentration.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bravo; Alba, Piqué, Bartra, Alves; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Neymar and Messi
Key Match Facts
- If Barcelona keep a clean sheet in this match, they’ll beat the all-time La Liga record with 7 consecutive clean sheets to start the season.
- Rayo have scored 2 goals in each of their past 5 matches.
- Last season’s corresponding fixture ended with a 4-0 win for Barcelona.
Player to Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
So far this season, Messi has delivered 5 goals and 6 assists in La Liga; not only is he impressing with his trademark goalscoring ability but also in the way he constantly sets up scoring chances for his teammates. Against a team that plays as open – and therefore gives as much space – as Rayo, expect Messi to thrive and put on a show.