Barcelona will be looking to maintain their top spot in La Liga as they travel to face a Rayo Vallecano side who are winless in their last eight league games.

The 2018-19 La Liga season has gone off to a very weird start. Real Madrid are nowhere near the top of the table, with teams like Deportivo Alaves, Espanyol and Real Valladolid in the top six. Barcelona though, have maintained their top spot in the league and will be looking to retain their position beyond the gameweek.

After a winless run, two wins on the trot for Barcelona have alleviated few of the fears surrounding Ernesto Valverde’s immediate future as the club manager. Rayo Vallecano, on the other hand, are struggling to get out of the relegation zone. One win alone in 10 games and without any in their last eight, the team will be hoping to go on a little run in order to steady their own selves in the league.

Barcelona’s last trip to Rayo Vallecano yielded a 5-1 win, with the home side on the receiving end of two red cards. Ahead of their latest meeting, we take a closer look at the two sides.

Team News & Tactics

Rayo Vallecano

Tito continues to remain on the sidelines. Jordi Amat and Alex Galves should continue to be the centre-back pairing for Barcelona’s visit. Alberto Garcia will be looking for only his second clean sheet of the season on Saturday. Luis Advincula and Alex Moreno are likely to be the full-backs.

Alvaro Medran is doubtful for the match. But, Gorka Elustondo is likely to be match-fit for Saturday. Giannelli Imbula and Oscar Trejo are guaranteed to start in the midfield. But, the last spot could be a toss-up between Santi Comesana and Elustondo, with the latter likely to get the nod.

The front three is almost locked in, with the likes of Gael Kakuta, Adri Embarba and Raul de Tomas set to test the Barcelona defence.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Garcia; Advincula, Amat, Galves, Moreno; Imbula, Elustondo, Trejo; Kakuta, Tomas, Embarba

Barcelona

Thomas Vermaelen is on the sidelines. Samuel Umtiti and Lionel Messi are both back in training but have not been selected to travel with the rest of the squad. The likes of Denis Suarez, Malcom and Sergi Samper have also not been named in the eighteen to travel to face Rayo Vallecano.

With Umtiti unavailable, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet will continue in central defence, with Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba completing the back four.

Arthur Melo has managed to lock in a spot for himself in midfield and should start alongside Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. With Lionel Messi out, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho should start on either side of the centre forward, a position likely to be taken up by El Clasico hattrick hero Luis Suarez.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Dembele, Suarez, Coutinho

Key Stats

1. The last time Rayo Vallecano won at home against Barcelona was in 2002, in a 1-0 win over the Spanish giants.

2. Rayo Vallecano have received two red cards each in their last two home games against Barcelona.

3. The aggregate of the last five home games paints a damning picture for Rayo Vallecano, with just 1 goal scored by the home side in response to Barcelona’s 23.

4. There have been six red cards in the last four meetings between Rayo Vallecano and Barcelona.

5. After a goalless run of five games in all competitions, Luis Suarez now has four goals in four games, along with three assists to show for his efforts.

Player to Watch

Clement Lenglet

Crunch time for Clement. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Crunch time for Clement. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Samuel Umtiti is fast approaching full fitness and is likely to slot back into the starting eleven once he returns. Lenglet has impressed so far. But, the Frenchman will be looking to do more in the next couple of games in order to give Ernesto Valverde a selection headache for when Umtiti is fit.

Prediction

Rayo Vallecano 1-3 Barcelona

Despite Rayo Vallecano’s dismal start to the season, one thing they have not struggled in is finding goals. Rayo Vallecano have failed to score in just two league games so far, averaging a goal a game in La Liga. They are expected to do the same on Saturday.

But, Barcelona are expected to be high on confidence after the El Clasico domination. Expect Barcelona to ease through to three more points to add to their La Liga points tally and consolidate their place atop the table.

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