The weekend has passed, and the historic Milan-Barca game still comes in mind. Although the spirits might be up and running for the team and their fans, it was only a matter of time till some bad news struck them. Barcelona captain Carles Puyol could be sidelined for up to a month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday. Xavi (hamstring) and Victor Valdes (suspension) also sit out Sunday’s clash, but youngster Marc Bartra is available after overcoming a knee problem.
Now, since we’ve covered the bad news, it’s time to highlight some of the good points. After an unbelievable comeback the Catalans put through, it showed the team could easily take on a top-flight team in Europe with very little tactical supervision. Barcelona upped their game defensively (quite literally if you look at how high their back-line was) and continued to apply masses amount of pressure. Physically, Barcelona showed initiative and good, clean tackles were made.
With Rayo’s game coming to place tonight and the several injuries that have struck yet again, the team needs to compromise and rotate with their formation. Both squads, having played out a goal-fest in previous times with Barcelona scoring a little under 13 goals in their last two visits to the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecan. Currently speaking, both won and lost twice in their last 5 domestic games, showing that Rayo is in terms of form, prove to be relatively fit; Starting with the Catalans:
Predicted Barcelona Starting XI
Pinto, Montoya, Pique, Bartra, Correia, Thiago, Song, Fabregas, Sanchez, Messi, Tello
Barcelona, having been 10 points clear at the top of the table, could afford a bit of rotations every now and then, and judging by the amount of center-backs they possess at the moment, it’s pretty safe to say that Bartra starting is a huge possibility. Tello and Sanchez should be a good defensive and offensive duo that act as pillars for the flanks, both pacy and both relatively on form, especially with the Chilean scoring and assisting twice during his last two previous games.
Barcelona’s midfield will probably be looking for some Thiago and Cesc action, and Alex song to probably start off the game instead of the over-played Busquets, giving a good sense of rotation and somewhat assures it will definitely be a free-flowing game. As for the back-line, it will be interesting to see how it forms. Personally speaking, I would like to see some youngsters start. Montoya is defensively brilliant and hasn’t gotten much playing time recently, so it would be a good time to rest Dani Alves. Marc Bartra is to form a partnership in the heart of the defense alongside Pique.
Predicted Rayo Vallecano Starting XI
Ruben, Tito, Galvez, Amat, Arbilla, Trashorras, Adrian, Bangoura, Dominguez, Piti, Delibasic
Rayo might on paper approach the game with a (4-2-3-1), but will definitely play a different formation when off the ball. Most likely a (5-4-1) in attempt to tighten up the spaces between the midfield and back-line, plus stall Barcelona from attacking the flanks, especially with Dani Alves and Alba probably missing out on the game, it will be interesting to see how the Rayo players presume throughout the full 90 minutes within very compact spaces.
Individually speaking, Rayo have their mad-men as well, Piti being the name. The winger has scored 11 goals in the league already and masters many positions. His flexibility will come in handy against a team as dominant as Barcelona. Tactically speaking, Rayo probably won’t start up the build-ups to their attacks via the midfield, they will try to blast those over-head kicks as much as possible and it’s Piti’s job to receive them, control the ball for a while, and wait for his players to go all out.
Rayo is no easy side, but judging by current forms and by taking the mental attributes into consideration, Barcelona will be out for a win from the start, and the youngsters will be out to prove their worth. I see the game kicking off to a tight start but once both teams get the hang of the playing field, 2-3 goals should be scored. Now, my predictions are rarely ever true, but I’ll go with an unusual one this time.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-0 Rayo Vallecano
Written by Hasan Al