Barcelona will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they travel to Estadio de Vallecas to take on newly-promoted Rayo Vallecano in La Liga this midweek.

Barcelona’s struggles in the 2021/22 campaign continued this past weekend as they were handed a 2-1 handed defeat by arch-rivals Real Madrid in the first  El Clasico of the season. The outcome has left the Catalans in the ninth position in the La Liga standings, six points shy of leaders Real Sociedad.

With manager Ronald Koeman back under the pump after the home loss to their bitter rivals, Barcelona will be hoping to correct course and bag all three points when they lock horns with Rayo Vallecano. Promoted after a dramatic playoff victory over Girona, Andoni Iraola’s side have made a bright start to their first season back in the top-flight.

Heading into Wednesday night’s contest, Rayo Vallecano are a point and a place ahead of Barcelona, ​​albeit having played an extra game. Los Franjirrojos lost their most recent match 3-2 to Real Betis, but have picked up four consecutive wins at home in the league and will want to continue that streak when the Catalan giants come visiting.

Ahead of this exciting David vs Goliath encounter coming our way from Estadio de Vallecas, The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at both sets of squads.

Team News & Tactics

Vallecano Ray

The home team have no major injury concerns heading into the midweek clash. Martin Merquelanz, however, remains sidelined for Rayo Vallecano for the visit of Barcelona. Seasoned campaigner Radamel Falcao is fit and available for selection, which will come as a major boost for manager Andoni Iraola.

On Wednesday, Los Franjirrojos are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Stole Dimitrievski manning the goal. Shielding him will be a four-man defensive line comprising Esteban Saveljich and Alejandro Catena at center-back flanked by the full-back duo of Ivan Balliu and Fran Garcia.

Santi Comesana and Oscar Valentin ought to form the double-pivot structure in the middle of the park, with an aim to stop Barcelona’s midfield runners and disrupt their passing rhythm. The creative essence should come from Oscar Trejo, who is likely to occupy the No. 10 slot for the hosts.

Further attacking support will be provided by the wide duo of Isi Palazon and Alvaro Garcia. Even though Falcao is available and has a record of three goals in four games against Barcelona, ​​Randy Nteka could keep him out of the side yet again, starting as the lone center-forward.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1):  Dimitrievski; Balliu, Saveljich, Catena, Garcia; Valentin, Comesana; Palazon, Trejo, Garcia; Nteka

Barcelona

Barcelona, ​​meanwhile, have a plethora of injury issues to contend with as Frenkie de Jong joins Pedri, Martin Braithwaite and Ronald Araujo out on the sidelines. In addition, Ousmane Dembele is still not ready to return to action, while teenage sensation Ansu Fati is a doubt for the contest after picking up a knock in the Real Madrid clash.

Ronald Koeman is unlikely to make any major tweaks to personnel or formation despite the defeat on the weekend. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will be guarding the Barcelona goal again, with the rest of the team lining up in a 4-3-3 shape in front of the German shot-stopper.

Oscar Mingueza is likely to be retained at right-back despite struggling in the Clasico against Real Madrid while there is no looking past Jordi Alba on the left. Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia ought to form the center-back pairing yet again for the Catalan giants.

Gavi, despite his age, has become a regular in the starting XI for Barcelona and should feature against Rayo Vallecano. Club captain Sergio Busquets is also a certainty at the base of the three-man midfield unit for the visitors, while the third slot in the middle of the park could be occupied by Philippe Coutinho, considering that both Riqui Puig and Sergi Roberto are not entirely favoured by the manager.

Up top, Sergio Aguero, who scored his first goal for Barcelona at the weekend, could make the starting XI at Estadio de Vallecas. Flanking the Argentine international should be Memphis Depay, who needs to up his game, and Sergino Dest, who was guilty of missing a great chance at the weekend but has looked fairly decent on the right-wing.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3):  ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Garcia, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, Coutinho; Dest, Aguero, Depay

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have won their last 13 matches against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga. They have scored an average of 4.3 goals per game during this run.
  • Rayo Vallecano have won just three of their eighteen home games against Barcelona in La Liga (D6 L9).
  • Barcelona have been victorious on their last two visits to newly-promoted teams in La Liga after having won just one of their previous five such matches.
  • Rayo Vallecano have won each of their previous four home games in La Liga. They have not won five in a row in their own backyard in the Spanish top-flight since April 2014.
  • Barcelona are without a win in their last three away games in La Liga (D2 L1). The Catalans failed to score in the previous two league fixtures on the road.

Player to Watch

Memphis Depay

After a rather impressive start to life as a Barcelona player, Memphis Depay has faded a great deal in recent weeks. The Dutch international has managed a rather decent tally of four goals and two assists in 12 games so far but has scored just twice in his last nine appearances across all competitions.

While the likes of Sergio Aguero and Ansu Fati are back in the reckoning to share the attacking burden with the 27-year-old, he must ensure that his levels do not drop. A solid performance against Rayo Vallecano, thus, becomes important for Depay as he looks to establish himself as a key player for his new club.

Prediction

Rayo Vallecano 1-1 Barcelona

Rayo Vallecano are enjoying a fine start to their first season back in the top-flight and have proven to be a tricky customer for established La Liga sides this term. Their form, especially at home, has been very promising while they showed great spirit in the weekend’s defeat to Real Betis, coming back from two goals down before losing to a late penalty.

On the other hand, Barcelona have had their fair share of problems at both ends of the pitch. The attacking unit has lacked cohesion while they remain susceptible defensively. In addition, their run of three away games without a win makes it an evenly-balanced affair despite the difference in quality between the two squads.

With the possibility of Ansu Fati missing out, The Hard Tackle predicts Rayo Vallecano to hold Barcelona to a draw on Wednesday night, leading to increased pressure on Ronald Koeman.

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