Defender Alejandro Balde is confident Barcelona can end their Rayo Vallecano “curse” on Saturday.
The reigning LaLiga champions have not beaten Rayo in four attempts and will hope to put the record straight when they head for the Estadio de Vallecas this weekend.
Balde told the club’s official website: “This is an important match for the team. We haven’t beaten Rayo Vallecano for two years and I think a win on Saturday will break the curse of not winning.
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“The start of the season was good. We are in third place in the league and we are already close to qualifying for [the knockout stage of] the Champions League.
“We are four points away from the top, but the season is still long and anything can happen.”
Three of those four winless games against Rayo have come since Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman at the helm in November 2021.
Barca go into the game having lost two of their last four in all competitions, a 2-1 El Clasico defeat by Real Madrid and a shock 1-0 Champions League reverse at Shakhtar Donetsk, but lying third in the table two points behind Real and four adrift of leaders Girona.
However, they do so having lost the services of 19-year-old midfield star Gavi, who is not expected to play again this season after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage on international duty with Spain.
Frenkie De Jong is closing in on a return from an ankle injury which has sidelined him since the end of September, while keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a doubt.
Asked about Gavi, Balde said: “I send him a lot of support. It is a very difficult and long injury, and the most important thing is for him to be patient because he must recover well because the team will need him.
“We are losing a great player, a key player in the team, we are losing his ferocity.”
Rayo, who have won only one of their last eight league games, but drawn six of them, complete a run of fixtures against the top three which has seen them draw 0-0 at Real Madrid before losing 2-1 at home to Girona despite taking an early lead.
Manager Francisco told a press conference: “We respect our rival a lot. They are one of the best in Europe and the world.
“We have to do what we have been doing, be brave and try to take advantage of the moments we have.”
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