Defending La Liga champions Barcelona travel to Madrid to face Rayo Vallecano on Saturday with the Catalan giants looking to strengthen their position at the top of the table.
Ernesto Valverde’s side currently sit just one point clear of second placed Alaves in the current standings after a stuttering start to their title defence. A clash with second from bottom Rayo Vallecano represents a must win match for Barcelona.
The champions took significant steps forward last weekend as they thrashed old rivals Real Madrid in El Clasico - though a 5-1 scoreline perhaps reflected the difficult state of affairs facing Los Blancos, even if Barcelona were brilliant on the day.
A heavily rotated Barcelona side earned a narrow 1-0 win away to Segunda Division B side Cultural Leonesa in midweek to remind Valverde of the difficulties faced by the Catalans in competing on all fronts this season.
How to Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Saturday 3 November|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||19:45 (BST)|
|Where Is it Played?||Campo de Futbol de Vallecas|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||Eleven Sports|
|Referee?||Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez|
Rayo Vallecano manager Michel has a relatively minimal injury list to contend with ahead of Saturday’s hosting of the champions, with only two senior players set to miss out.
Defensive midfielder Gorka Elustondo remains absent with a hamstring injury, while right back Tito continues to nurse a knee injury for the home side.
Barcelona continue to be without star man Lionel Messi ahead of this weekend’s match, as the Argentine superstar recovers from a fractured arm. Messi suffered the injury during the 4-2 win over Sevilla last month but is back in training, alongside Samuel Umtiti.
Though Messi has now returned to training, it is unlikely that he will be ready to be placed straight back into the team. He should miss out alongside centre backs Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen, as well as midfielder Sergi Samper.
|Rayo Vallecano||Garcia; Advincula, Amat, Galvez, Moreno; Comesana, Embarba, Imbula, Pozo, Kakuta; De Tomas|
|Barcelona||Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Rafinha, Suarez, Coutinho|
Looking at the table, this game can only go one way. Vallecano have lost three and drawn three of their last six league games, while Barcelona are first in the table and have scored nine goals in their last two games.
Vallecano have scored in each of their last three league fixtures so they'll have enough up front to trouble the La Liga champions. However, you do fear for Jordi Amat against Luis Suarez.
Head to Head Record
Barca have a healthy advantage in the head to head standings, having won 17 league fixtures. Vallecano have picked four draws and three wins, the last of which came during the 2001/02 season.
During the 2015/16 season, Barcelona scored ten goals in their two fixtures against Vallecano, including one hat trick from Lionel Messi and four strikes from Neymar.
Though Barcelona have had a less than consistent start to the season, the champions should be buoyed by the emphatic nature of their Clasico triumph last time out in La Liga.
Second from bottom Vallecano also appear vulnerable to falling prey to the hot goalscoring form of Suarez, with the home side struggling after just one win from their first ten league games this season.
A goal difference of minus ten also reflects their struggles for efficiency at both ends of the pitch this term.
Barcelona appear well placed for happy hunting in Madrid this weekend and Ernesto Valverde’s side should earn another comfortable win towards the defence of their La Liga crown.