After a recent slump, Barcelona responded in spectacular fashion to destroy Milan and make the Champions League quarterfinals, and Jordi Alba has said the team now needs to continue to show that intensity for the remainder of the campaign.
Having lost the first leg 2-0 in Milan, Barcelona then went and lost consecutive matches to Real Madrid to leave some questioning whether their season was in danger of petering out. But a 4-0 in over the Italian side at Camp Nou on Tuesday has boosted confidence greatly.
“[That was] the real Barcelona and we have to keep playing at that level, with the same intensity and strength” Alba said, according to Barcelona’s official website. “We have to learn from the games against Milan.”
Barcelona’s lead atop La Liga is a commanding 13 points ahead of their clash with Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. Alba has admitted that he is a fan of Paco Jemez’s side.
“They like to play the ball and are aggressive when off it,” he explained. “I like the way they play.”
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Rayo ended a run of three games without a win with a 2-0 home victory over Espanyol last week and are still just three points off a Champions League place, in eighth spot.
Jose Manuel Casado, Javi Fuego and Leo Baptistao all got booked in that win and will miss the trip to Camp Nou.
Barcelona will be without midfielder Xavi, who has a muscle strain in his right leg. Victor Valdes is still ruled out through suspension.
D: Alves, Pique, Puyol, Alba
M: Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Villa, Messi, Pedro
Rayo Vallecano (probable)
D: Tiuto, Amat, Figueras, Nacho
M: Trashorras, Galvez
Lass, Piti, Carlos
Prediction: Barcelona were a side transformed back to their very best against Milan in midweek. Not only were they pressing with more intensity, but on the ball the switching of Andres Iniesta back into midfield and having David Villa in attack opening up space for Lionel Messi worked to devastating effect.
Even with Xavi missing out and Cesc Fabregas likely to come in, it is difficult to see Rayo having any hope at Camp Nou if Barcelona approach the level of their last performance.
Barcelona 0-3 Rayo Vallecano
Where to watch: The Liga match will kick-off at 4 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.