Barcelona will welcome Rayo Vallecano to Camp Nou in their 33rd La Liga assignment of the ongoing season on Sunday.
Xavi’s Barcelona entertain Rayo Vallecano in La Liga with an eye on strengthening their hold on the second spot in the league table. The Blaugrana are currently second, level on points with third-placed Sevilla but with a match in hand. A win would see them move three points clear of the Andalusian outfit.
Barcelona enter the encounter with just two wins in their last five matches across competitions. They first drew 1-1 with Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie before beating Levante 3-2 in the league.
The Blaugrana were then condemned to a 3-2 defeat by the German club in the second leg, which ended their hopes of winning a silverware this season. The Catalan giants were hoping for a positive reaction to the defeat, but instead went down 1-0 to Cadiz in the league. They finally returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Real Sociedad on Thursday.
Rayo Vallecano are fresh from a 1-0 win over Espanyol in La Liga, but they had had a horrible year prior to the win on Thursday. The visitors had failed to win in 13 league matches leading up to the Espanyol game with their last La Liga victory coming in December last year.
Rayo Vallecano’s struggles in 2022 has seen them drop down to the 14th spot in the table with 37 points, just seven more than 18th-placed Granada in the relegation zone. The Espanyol win could spur them to turn around their league season and finish it strongly, without facing the danger of dropping to the second division.
Team News & Tactics
The squad for #BarçaRayo! pic.twitter.com/JonKN0p9uq
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 23, 2022
Xavi will continue with his possession-based football in a 4-3-3 system that has served Barcelona greatly in the past couple of months. The Blaugrana were on a brilliant run across competitions following the Spaniard’s appointment but have lost some pace recently.
With Barcelona playing just two nights ago on Thursday, one can expect Xavi to rotate the squad for Rayo Vallecano’s visit. There are also a few injury concerns which could force the Barcelona boss to make some unwanted changes.
Gerard Pique, Ronald Araujo and Dani Alves are all available and part of the matchday squad despite picking up injuries in the 1-0 win over Sociedad. Jordi Alba and Gavi also suffered knocks but could make the team for the Rayo Vallecano encounter. Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti and Pedri continue to be long-term absentees.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is expected to continue in goal for Barcelona, but there could be wholesale changes in the back four with Sergino Dest, Eric Garcia and Clement Lenglet all set to get a look in. Xavi might not alter the midfield if Gavi is deemed fit for the encounter.
Adama Traore could come in for Ousmane Dembele, who has played full 90 minutes of Barcelona’s last two league encounters. Traore will line up alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres in the Barcelona frontline against Rayo Vallecano.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Dest, Lenglet, Garcia, Alba; Frenkie de Jong, Busquets, Gavi; Traore, Aubameyang, Torres
Andoni Iraola will welcome Ivan Balliu back from suspension. The right-back is expected to slot right back into the starting eleven after missing the game against Espanyol. Martin Merquelanz and Esteban Saveljich will both continue to be on the sidelines due to their respective injuries.
✈️ ????? ????????? ⚡#EspanyolRayo #VamosRayo pic.twitter.com/VHiq0CEsBH
— Rayo Vallecano (@RayoVallecano) April 22, 2022
Iraola will continue with his high-pressing style in a 4-2-3-1 which has impressed many in Spanish footballing circles. His high-risk football has provided dividends to Rayo Vallecano, who gained promotion to the Spanish first division just this season.
The inclusion of Balliu in the eleven could be the only change Iraola makes to the side that started against Espanyol. Stole Dimitrievski will continue in goal with a back-four of Ivan Balliu, Nikola Maras, Alejandro Catena and Fran Garcia ahead of him.
Oscar Valentin and Santi Comesana will form the midfield double-pivot with Isi Palazon, Oscar Trejo and Alvaro Garcia assisting Sergi Guardiola up front.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Dimitrievski; Balliu, Maras, Catena, Fran Garcia; Valentin, Comesana; Palazon, Trejo, Alvaro Garcia; Guardiola
- If Rayo Vallecano beat Barcelona at Camp Nou, it would be just their second league win this year.
- The last time these two sides met in the league, Rayo Vallecano emerged winners by a 1-0 scoreline, which was Ronald Koeman’s final match in charge of Barcelona.
- Barcelona have won four of the last five encounters between the two sides.
- Only Real Madrid have scored more goals than Barcelona this season in La Liga.
- The last time Rayo beat Barcelona in consecutive league matches was back in 2002.
Player to Watch
Infographic: Aubameyang's stats for Barcelona in La Liga. pic.twitter.com/ME5FAQ0zi8
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 23, 2022
Aubameyang has made a great start to life at Barcelona after joining them in the winter earlier this year. The former Arsenal captain has already scored nine league goals for the club in 11 appearances, with only Memphis Depay scoring more in La Liga.
He scored the Blaugrana’s only goal against Real Sociedad earlier this week, taking his total tally to 11 for the season which made him the joint top-scorer for the club this season along with Depay. A goal against Rayo Vallecano will take Aubameyang to the top of Barcelona’s goal-scoring charts for the 2020/21 season, and he will be raring to go.
Barcelona 2-0 Rayo Vallecano
Barcelona returned to winning ways with a hard-fought win over Real Sociedad on Thursday. The Blaugrana would want to add to that and build momentum going into the business end of the season. Expect the hosts to keep a clean sheet and walk out with a 2-0 win from the encounter at Camp Nou, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang starring in the victory.
Leave a Reply