Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 8/11
Hoping to find some La Liga stability on their return from November’s international break, Barcelona will make the trip to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday afternoon.
Starting with the hosts, while Rayo Vallecano might still have their sights set on mounting a top-half finish this season, the Little Thunderbolts have struggled to find much La Liga stability. Last seen heading into November’s international break with another downbeat performance as they were hit with a 2-1 loss at home against Girona, Francisco’s squad have recorded just a single win from any of their previous eight top-flight appearances – a run that stems all the way back to September 15th. Marking their return to La Liga action on Saturday afternoon holding just a two-point buffer from slipping out of the top-10, Vallecano will also be concerned by their recent issues on home soil. Including that 2-1 defeat at the hands of Girona on November 11th, Francisco’s squad are without a win from their previous four La Liga showdowns at the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas.
Marking their return from November’s international break on Friday night, Rayo Vallecano have reported a clean bill of health. Bagging a consolation strike against Girona earlier in the month and notching his fourth La Liga strike of the season, 31-year-old Alvaro Garcia will have a leading role to play here.
Featuring while away with Cape Verde over the past fortnight, former Manchester United starlet Bebe could be handed a full recall this weekend. Breaking into Francisco’s first-team squad prior to November’s international break, Romanian international Andrei Ratiu should keep his spot at right-back.
As for the visitors, while Barcelona might have made real history last season as they got their hands on a first La Liga crown since 2019, Xavis’s side have a major job on their hands if they are to keep hold of their Spanish title. Although the Catalonia-based giants might have entered the fortnight interval with a comeback 2-1 victory at home against Alaves, the defending champions are seeking some welcomed stability. Suffering an infamous last-gasp collapse at home against bitter rivals Real Madrid on October 28th as they eventually slumped to a 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp, Barca will know the importance of making a statement here. However, winning just a pair of their previous five showdowns on the road, Xavi’s side should also be worried by their most recent meeting against Saturday’s hosts. In fact, when the two sides last met on La Liga duties back in April, Rayo Vallecano picked up a shock 2-1 win in the capital.
In what is a devastating blow for Barcelona, it has been confirmed that midfield talisman Gavi is set to miss the remainder of the season after sustaining an ACL injury while away with Spain last week. The 19-year-old will be joined on the sidelines by fellow midfield star Frankie de Jong this weekend.
Bagging both goals against Alaves prior to November’s international break and recording his first La Liga strikes since the end of September, attacking talisman Robert Lewandowski will spearhead Xavi’s charge in the capital. The ex-Bayern Munich hitman should be joined in the final third by 16-year-old sensation Lamine Yamal.
Key Factors to Consider
- When the two sides last met back on April 26th, Rayo Vallecano picked up a shock 2-1 win on home soil.
- However, the Little Thunderbolts mark their return on Saturday afternoon without a win from their previous four La Liga home fixtures.
- Barcelona have recorded just a pair of wins from any of their last five showdowns away from the Nou Camp.
- Likewise, Xavi’s side have registered just a single clean sheet from their previous five appearances across all formats.
- Each of Rayo Vallecano’s last four showdowns in Madrid have finished with both teams finding the net.
Marking their return from November’s international break sat four points adrift in the title chase, Barcelona will be more than aware that they have plenty of pressure on their shoulders here. However, despite heading into the fortnight interval with a 2-1 win at home against Alaves, Xavi’s side are seeking some crucial defensive resolve. With just a single clean sheet from their previous five appearances, the defending champions should also be worried by a nightmare record against Saturday’s hosts. Including a 2-1 loss when they last travelled to the Spanish capital back on April 26th, they have remarkably failed to win any of their last four straight showdowns against the Little Thunderbolts.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 8/11
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