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Rayo Vallecano v Barcelona: Manucho confident as champions look for a place in history

Manucho is confident Rayo Vallecano can take something from their meeting with La Liga leaders Barcelona on Thursday, as the dominant champions looking to set a Spanish record of 35 matches without defeat.

Rayo entertain Barca on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run in the league, but five 2-2 draws in that sequence leaves them 16th and just two points clear of the relegation zone.

All-conquering Barca, meanwhile, have not lost in their last 34 outings in all competitions – matching the 1988-89 benchmark set by Real Madrid.

Their stunning form began with a 5-2 home win over Rayo in October, with Club World Cup glory and a place in the Copa del Rey final and the Champions League last 16 secured since.

History is on their side as they head to Vallecas in search of yet another record; Barca have not lost to Rayo since a 1-0 defeat in 2002.

But Manucho – who was scored three goals in his last two games – believes Paco Jemez’s side have the capability of setting a club record of their own by making it eight top-flight fixtures without losing.

“The group is well, unified. We are at our best and I think we will have a good match against Barca,” Manucho told AS.

“[We will] play like we usually play. Nothing is impossible. With strength and work we can win.

“The coach never changes, whether we play against Barca, Real Madrid or another. That’s good because this style has enabled us to win many games.

“We just need to win. We will remain in La Liga, we are not going to give up.”

Luis Suarez added to Neymar’s four goals in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou, which Lionel Messi missed through injury.

Manucho acknowledges Rayo must learn their lesson and give Barca’s attacking trio the attention they deserve.

“They are the best forward line in the world and the three understand each other perfectly. They are players who must be respected,” he added.

Following Sunday’s 2-1 win over Sevilla, Barca hold an eight-point advantage over Atletico Madrid at the top of the table, a gap Jemez claimed is insurmountable.

The Catalan side will be without Dani Alves as he sits out with a ban picked up from an accumulation of yellow cards.

Rafinha is nearing a return from a knee injury but is not expected to feature, while Sergi Roberto and Sergio Busquets are fitness worries for Luis Enrique.

Conversely, Jemez has a number of absentees, with Miku, Pablo Hernandez (both hamstring) and Jozabed (ankle) adding to the coach’s lengthy list of concerns.


Key Opta stats:
– Barcelona inflicted Rayo’s biggest home defeat in La Liga (0-7 in April 2012).
– Since Paco Jemez’s arrival to Rayo in 2012, Barcelona (68.66 per cent) and Rayo (58.05 per cent) have the highest possession rate in La Liga.
– Luis Suarez has been involved in five of the last six Barcelona goals away from home in La Liga (three goals and two assists). 

Tue 1 Mar, 2016
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