FC Barcelona now gear up to face 10th-placed Rayo Vallecano in La Liga Santander in an attempt to extend their lead on top of the table. Following Real Madrid’s catastrophic 4-2 defeat at the end of Girona just recently, the Catalans now have a golden opportunity once again to put the league title well beyond any doubts still left in the minds of those who back the Blaugrana in any shape or form.
Date: Wednesday, 26th April 2023
Time: 10:00 pm CET
Venue: Estadio de Vallecas
Competition: La Liga Santander
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano
FC Barcelona have been presented with the golden opportunity to gain a 14-point lead over Real Madrid following the latter’s collapse against Girona in their most recent La Liga outing. The top dogs of the league dressed in Blaugrana now face off against 10th-played Rayo Vallecano in what can only be described as a potentially intense affair, as noted by Xavi Hernandez himself as well.
The Catalans have managed to secure 3 wins and 2 draws in their previous 5 La Liga matchups. Their most recent win holds significance in the fact that it was against Atletico Madrid, arguably the most in-form team in the league at that point. La Blaugrana managed to come out as victors with a 1-0 scoreline courtesy of a goal by Ferran Torres, taking their overall point tally to an impressive 76 from the 30 games they have participated in.
Their rivals and home team for this clash, Rayo Vallecano, currently sit right in the middle of the La Liga table. At 10th position, they have accumulated a total of 40 points from the 30 games they have played thus far in the league. In their previous 5 outings, they have managed 1 win, 2 draws, and 2 losses.
For Xavi Hernandez, this represents yet another chance that Barcelona can capitalize upon and completely snatch any semblance of hope left in those who back Los Blancos to win the league over Barcelona. The match holds much value in that regard and should be a cracking bout of football to witness.
Goalkeeper: Marc Andre Ter Stegen
One step closer to the Zamora title, and one clean sheet away from breaking Claudio Bravo’s historic record of clean sheets for FC Barcelona. This, in many ways, can be a record-breaking season for Marc Andre Ter Stegen, and in the form that he is in, it seems likely that it most certainly will be.
Left-back: Alejandro Balde
Despite being nullified in some games in recent times, the quality and danger that Alejandro Balde possesses remain no secret. The player will be expected to start and do his best to haunt Rayo on that left flank.
Centre-back: Ronald Araujo
The Uruguayan continues to impress and simultaneously bewilder his oppositions. Strong, fast, and dominant in his duels, Ronald Araujo possesses all traits necessary to mark an era at FC Barcelona and perhaps even the opponents of the Catalans remain aware of this. Here’s to hoping he continues in the same way against Rayo.
Centre-back: Marcos Alonso
The Spanish veteran will be called back into his defensive role now that Eric Garcia seems to be piloting the pivot position for this game. His experience and rather tricky shots to defend against could make him an unorthodox nuisance for Rayo Vallecano.
Right-back: Jules Kounde
While it remains true that his preferred position is more central, Jules Kounde has done a great job commandeering that right-back position. The versatility of the Frenchman is to be applauded and the adaptability he possesses continues to be cherished.
CDM: Eric Garcia
With Xavi Hernandez consistently hinting at his deployment in the pivot role in the pre-match press conference, it seems like Eric Garcia ends up being the chosen one to replace the suspended Sergio Busquets for this clash against Rayo. An interesting change of position to continue inspecting, it might just be Garcia’s new groove.
CM: Frenkie De Jong
The return of Frenkie De Jong to the starting lineup against Atletico Madrid following his recovery from injury was one that was sorely missed. The concept of balance that the Dutchman implements in this team remains essential to its technical setup and was one of the key reasons Barcelona looked much a better side in that game than on other occasions in recent weeks.
Barcelona’s own star prodigy returns. His return to the starting eleven is great news for those who don and support the Blaugrana colors across the globe. His controlled tempo and understanding of the game helps identify this Barcelona side at its best, and it was in his absence that the team managed to lose its own identity.
Slotting back into his false winger role, Gavi manages to aid both the forward line and create passing routes for his midfielders courtesy of his excessive work rate and stubbornness to continue being a nuisance to the opposition. The youngster is often the unsung hero as his off-the-ball work goes unnoticed and unappreciated at times.
Centre-forward: Robert Lewandowski
The Polish striker continues to lack his goal-scoring touch in front of the net but simultaneously continues to deliver from other perspectives. His hold up and the chances he allows to be created for his teammates remain vital at times, if only the latter were able to put most of them away would even Lewandowski be praised for his smart field plays.
While the Brazilian may dazzle and mesmerize, he also lacks consistency in the final third. His creativity is a vital asset to have, especially in the absence of Ousmane Dembele. Raphinha will need to increase his final product if he wishes to fully retain his spot in the starting lineup as the return of his French alternative draws nearer and nearer.
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen
Defenders: Balde, Alonso, Araujo, Kounde
Midfielders: De Jong, Garcia, Pedri
Forwards: Gavi, Lewandowski, Raphinha