Barcelona continued their habit of winning in less than comfortable fashion with a last-minute winner against Celtic in the Champions League in midweek, but will expect to emerge victorious in a more resounding manner at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
Rayo have lost four out of their last five matches, conceding 12 goals in the process, including six in a humbling at Valladolid. Memories will also remain fresh of Barcelona’s 7-0 victory at Rayo’s Estadio de Vallecas last season.
Rayo’s poor defensive record owes much to their attacking style, something which Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has claimed makes a meeting with Paco Jemez’s side a tricky one.
“The trip to Rayo is the toughest trip so far,” he said, according to Barcelona’s website. “Paco Jémez has done a great job. It won’t be easy for us to come out with the ball, because they are a very adventurous side.
“Vallecas is never an easy ground to visit and on Saturday they won’t just sit back and wait for us—they’ll go toe to toe with us”.
Barcelona’s defense has also been porous of late, notably in a 5-4 victory at Deportivo La Coruna last weekend. Part of their problems can be put down to injuries affecting much of their back line. While right-back Dani Alves is set to return on Saturday, Javier Mascherano will be missing through suspension after being sent off against Depor. That could mean that retuning midfielder Sergio Busquets is deployed alongside Alex Song.
Rayo Vallecano (probable)
D: Tito, Amat, Galvez, Casado
M: Trashorras, Fuego
Carlos, Leo, Piti
D: Adriano, Busquets, Song, Alba
M: Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta
F: Pedro, Messi, Villa
Prediction: Goals have not been in short supply in matches involving Barcelona this season and everything points to that theme continuing on Saturday. While Rayo’s adventurous style could well see them prosper from Barcelona’s weakened defense, the Catalans have far more attacking weapons if the match becomes stretched.
Rayo Vallecano 2-4 Barcelona
Where to watch: The La Liga match kicks-off from the Estadio de Vallecas at 4 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream, which you view at your own discretion, available here.