Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano – Camp Nou at 19.30 live on Sky Sports 1
Rayo Vallecano are one of the most romantic clubs in Spain. Hailing from Madrid and playing in the shadows of the Bernabéu and the Vicente Calderon, the club represent the working-class surroundings of Vallecas. A strong left-wing identity, Rayo are a penniless team punching above their weight in La Liga.
Head coach Paco Jemez is the brains behind the operation and the charismatic boss has kept Los Franjirrojos in the top tier thanks to his astute leadership and joyful style of football. Rayo fear no one and look to implement their attractive possession-based ideology in each fixture, often to great success.
However, Jemez’s rigid approach has its pitfalls. Los Franjirrojos, unwilling to remodel themselves to suit La Liga’s big-hitters, attempt to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona and Real Madrid and always end up on the wrong end of a battering. It’s a brave but often head-banging philosophy as Rayo’s clutch of free transfers and loans get blown away by the planet’s best.
Last season, Rayo were slaughtered 6-1 at the Camp Nou and their past nine matches with Barca have resulted in nine defeats by an aggregate score of 2-40. The minnows have leaked at least three goals in all bar one of those contests and been trailing at the interval in each defeat.
Since being handed the reigns at Vallecas, Jemez has overseen 12 league fixtures with La Liga’s big-two and on all bar one occasion the L-L double result has banked. The aggregate score of those 12 defeats has been 5-45 with 11/12 losses by at least a two-goal margin and exactly half by three goals or more.
Looking at Rayo’s six away days at the Catalan giants and their Madrid neighbours, the minnows have lost 3-27 with their most recent four trips on the road resulting in defeats by at least four goals. It’s bleak.
Another trip to the Camp Nou is a daunting prospect, even without Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and potentially Luis Suarez. The hosts might be thin on the ground but it’s almost unthinkable to see them failing to collect maximum points.
Neymar has stepped up in Messi’s absence, netting four in his past five La Liga matches and with the Bluagrana notching at least twice in 18 of their last 21 La Liga home encounters, it shouldn’t require too much effort to repeat the feat.
In 20 league matches against bottom-half clubs under Luis Enrique’s stewardship, Barcelona have W17-D2-L1 and that record reads W9-D1-L0 when taking only Camp Nou results into account. Eight of those victories came by three goals or more with the hosts running out 42-3 aggregate winners.
The question is, can they follow suit without potentially two of their superstar attacking trio? Rayo are missing suspended centre-half Antonio Amaya but grabbing a goal themselves is more than possible. The hosts have kept just two clean sheets in 12 games this term and in La Liga they’ve already leaked nine goals in seven outings – the most at this stage since 2005/06. So if we’re assuming the visitors can pinch a goal, they should be capable of avoiding another pummelling on the handicap, right?
Rayo can be backed with a +2.5 Asian Handicap at 1.83. Barca have only beaten this handicap once in five Camp Nou dates this term and that came against lowly Levante with Messi netting a stoppage-time goal in a 4-1 success. Both Las Palmas and Malaga have given the Catalans a run for their money and Saturday might be the night Rayo finally get things right against the Bluagrana.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Rayo Vallecano +2.5 Asian Handicap at 1.83
Prices correct at the time of writing.
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