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This Sunday Barça take on Rayo Vallecano in La Liga in a rearranged fixture from earlier in the season. The game kicks off at 9.00pm CEST at Camp Nou and the blaugranes will be looking for back to back wins after the 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad at the Reale Arena on Thursday. Let’s take a closer look at the team with the iconic red sash.
Hailing from Madrid’s typically working class neighbourhood of Vallecas, the name ‘Rayo’ means ‘stripe’ and refers to the club’s distinctive red diagonal on their shirt, which allegedly honours the colours of Argentinian club River Plate.
The club was founded in 1924, and is typically regarded as the ‘third team’ in the Spanish capital, although that mantle has been challenged in recent years by Getafe and Leganés.
Rayo did not play La Liga football until 1977. Since then, they have come to be regarded as the archetypical ‘elevator’ team of Spanish football, being relegated eight times but always eventually bouncing back up (which is actually well short of the record of 12 relegations shared by Málaga and Deportivo).
Rayo’s most recent relegation was in 2019, but two years later they won the second division and are back for another shot at the top level.
Head to head
Games between the sides have typically meant goals, and usually for Barça, including 7-0, 6-0 and 6-1 wins in recent years. In fact, in 40 meetings, there has only ever been one 0-0 draw.
In all competitions, Barça were on an incredible run of 14 straight wins against Rayo until their meeting in the Estadio Vallecas in the league back at the end of October. In what tuned out to be the final game in charge for coach Ronald Koeman, Radamel Falcao's first half goal was enough to give Rayo all three points and end their losing streak against the blaugranes.
Thursday's 1-0 win away at Barça's city rivals Espanyol ended a run of 12 games without a win in all competitions for Rayo. Sergi Guardiola's strike just before half time handed Andoni Iraola's side just their second away victory in the league and their first since a 2-1 win at Athletic Club in San Mamés back in September of last year. Rayo have picked up just nine of their 37 points this season on the road with only Espanyol, Mallorca and bottom side Alavés having worse away records in La Liga. The Madrid club now find themselves in 14th place in the table on 37 points, seven above the relegation zone.
Radamel Falcao (Colombia, 99); Stole Dimitrievski (North Macedonia, 54); Esteban Saveljich (Montenegro, 4); Mario Suárez (Spain, 3); Kévin Rodrigues (Portugal, 3); Iván Balliu (Albania, 2)
Top goalscorers 2021/22
Sergi Guardiola (8) Álvaro García (6), Radamel Falcao (5), Óscar Trejo (4)
Ivan Balliu (pictured below, left) grew up at La Masia and made his Barça B debut in 2010/11 under Luis Enrique, and later played for two more years under Eusebio Sacristán before leaving for Arouca in Portugal. The right back also played for Metz in France and Almeria before joining Rayo last summer. Although he played for Spain at youth level, he qualifies to play for Albania through his father and has won two senior caps for the country.
Andoni Iraola was a stalwart in the Athletic Club defence for many years, and played seven times for Spain. His first coaching role at AEK Narnaca in Cyprus was anything but a success (he didn’t win a single game), but he made a big name for himself when he guided second division Mirandés to the Copa del Rey semi-finals in 2020.
In August 2020, he replaced Paco Jémez at Rayo and guided them back into the top flight.
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