Barcelona, bolstered by the registration of their new signings, will look to start the 2022/23 La Liga season with a win when they face Rayo Vallecano.
The summer transfer window has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for Barcelona fans. Not long ago, they were rejoicing the signings made by their club, as the Blaugrana added some superlative quality to their roster by bringing in Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde, among others.
However, over the past week or so, there had been a lot of nervousness, concern and a sense of pessimism among fans as Barcelona struggled to register their new signings due to their bloated wage bill. But late on Friday night, there was a turnaround as the Catalans, after triggering their fourth economic lever, successfully registered six players, with Jules Kounde the one to miss out for the time being.
Now, geared up with a near full-strength squad, Barcelona will lock horns with Rayo Vallecano in their first La Liga match of the 2022/23 campaign at Camp Nou on Saturday night. Xavi Hernandez has a huge task of toppling arch-rivals Real Madrid from their perch in Spain and will be gunning for a winning start after cruising through the pre-season campaign, winning four of their six games.
Rayo Vallecano punched well above their weight to secure a 12th place finish last season, with Andoni Iraola’s men beating Barcelona in both their meetings during the campaign. They have not lost any of their previous five pre-season friendlies – a run that includes a draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford. They will be hoping to bag three points from Camp Nou once again, having done so in April this year.
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OFFICIAL: Barcelona have registered Robert Lewandowski, Franck Kessié, Andreas Christensen and Raphinha for the upcoming La Liga season ✅ pic.twitter.com/svSuCgCvfD
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 12, 2022
So, the big news coming from the Barcelona camp is that six of their seven unregistered players have been successfully added to their squad, meaning Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele, Sergi Roberto, Franck Kessie, and Andreas Christensen are all eligible to feature against Rayo Vallecano. However, Jules Kounde will miss out as he is yet to be registered by the Blaugrana.
Meanwhile, Ferran Torres has been passed fit and will be available for selection against Los Franjirrojos on Saturday. So, Barcelona have a fully fit squad to pick from for the game, and Xavi will field his strongest possible lineup, although it will be interesting to see if Frenkie de Jong finds a place in the lineup, given his current situation at Camp Nou.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a certain starter between the sticks for Barcelona, with the rest of the team lining up in front of him in a 4-3-3 formation. Christensen and Ronald Araujo should start as the two centre-backs for the Catalans, provided the former has sufficiently recovered from the minor cervical issue he had last week. If not, Eric Garica could get the nod.
Given the lack of viable alternatives, Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba remain the undisputed starters in the full-back slots. Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets will anchor the midfield as usual from the pivot position and look to help his team control and dictate the tempo of the game. Miralem Pjanic, who is now set to stay at Camp Nou, will be his backup.
Pedri is a permanent fixture in the middle of the park for Barcelona and will offer the forward thrust and creativity. The youngster showed signs of a flourishing partnership with Lewandowski during the Joan Gamper Trophy final against Pumas last weekend, and fans will be looking for more of the same. Meanwhile, Kessie could get the nod over de Jong in the third slot in the centre of the park.
Lewandowski will be the main man up top for Barcelona, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as an option from the bench. The duo of Raphinha and Dembele should occupy the flanks while Ansu Fati, Torres and the exit-linked Memphis Depay provide additional options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Dest, Christensen, Araujo, Alba; Kessie, Busquets, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Dembele
Rayo Vallecano will be without Esteban Saveljich, Santi Comesana and Andres Martin for the clash, while veteran goalkeeper Diego Lopez is also a doubt. Andoni Iraola will likely set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation as well, mirroring Barcelona’s shape, although they are unlikely to see much of the ball and will look to stay compact for the most part to keep their hosts at bay.
Stole Dimitrievski will be guarding the goal for Rayo Vallecano and could be in for a busy night at Camp Nou. On-loan defender Florian Lejeune ought to pair up alongside Alejandro Catena at the heart of the defence. They will be up against it as they look to stifle the dangerous Robert Lewandowski. Ivan Balliu and Fran Garcia should play as the full-backs.
New signing Unai Lopez, who arrived on a free transfer, should slot in the middle of the park along with Oscar Valentin. The duo will look to shield the backline and try to break Barcelona’s rhythm. Oscar Trejo will take up the third spot in midfield and try to drive the team forward when in possession.
Alvaro Garcia and Isi Palazon should be the wingers, who will also act as the main outlets for the visitors when they try to hit Barcelona on the counter. Radamel Falcao will occupy the No. 9 slot and look to cause issues for the Barcelona centre-backs.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dimitrievski; Balliu, Catena, Lejeune, Fran Garcia; Lopez, Valentin, Trejo; Isi, Falcao, Alvaro Garcia
- Barcelona have lost their last two La Liga games against Rayo Vallecano without scoring a goal.
- Barcelona have won their opening fixture in 12 of the last 13 La Liga campaigns (L1).
- Rayo Vallecano have not won any of their previous four matches on matchday one of a La Liga campaign, losing the last two.
- Barcelona are winless in their previous two La Liga matches (D1 L1), failing to score in both those games.
- Rayo Vallecano’s Radamel Falcao has scored four goals in five meetings with Barcelona in La Liga.
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While there will be a plethora of quality players on display when Barcelona take the field on Saturday, all eyes will be glued to a certain Robert Lewandowski. Arguably the biggest transfer of the summer so far, the 33-year-old joined Barcelona from Bayern Munich in a deal worth €50 million, including bonuses.
The Polish hitman comes into the season after having plundered 50 goals for Bayern Munich in 2021/22. On top of that, Lewandowski has scored in his first game of the season in each of his last seven Bundesliga campaigns, and he will be gunning to keep that streak alive, albeit in La Liga this time out. He scored once and set up two more for Barça against Pumas in the Joan Gamper Trophy, and more of the same could be on show this weekend.
Barcelona 2-0 Rayo Vallecano
Rayo Vallecano managed to get the better of Barcelona on two occasions last season. However, they will be coming face to face with a much-changed Barça side with a deadly attacking trio spearheaded by Robert Lewandowski with support from the dangerous Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha.
All three have displayed good form in pre-season, and with the likes of Ansu Fati, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gavi available as options on the bench, Barcelona should have enough in the tank to start the season on a winning note.