The lowdown on Rayo Vallecano

The lowdown on Rayo Vallecano

A closer look at FC Barcelona's first Liga opponents of the 2022/23 season

La Liga kicks-off this weekend and FC Barcelona open their campaign at home to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday at 9.00pm CEST. 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 managed to hold onto their place in 2021/22 with a 12th place finish.

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 41 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 in late October 2021. In what turned 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 Catalans. 

And in the return meeting in April 2022, Rayo completed a surprise double with only their second ever win at Camp Nou and the first for 22 years after Álvaro García opened the scoring after just 7 minutes and the home side failed to find a reply.

Last five meetings
24/04/22 (LIGA) Barça 0-1 Rayo Vallecano
27/10/21 (LIGA) Rayo Vallecano 1-0 Barça
27/01/21 (COPA) Rayo Vallecano 1-2 Barça
09/03/19 (LIGA) Barça 3-1 Rayo Vallecano
03/11/18 (LIGA) Rayo Vallecano 2-3 Barça


Form guide

After a brilliant start had them in strong contention for a European place at the halfway stage of La Liga 2021/22, Rayo won just two of their remaining games (against Barça and Espanyol), and ended up just four points clear of relegation. This was partly due to being distracted by a run to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.

The preseason, which included trips to Germany and England, went solidly enough, the only loss coming at Freiburg.  

Preseason results
July 16: SC Freiburg 3–0 Rayo Vallecano
July 20: Sheffield Wednesday 0–2 Rayo Vallecano
July 23: Birmingham City 2–2 Rayo Vallecano
July 27: Leganés 1–2 Rayo Vallecano
July 31: Manchester United 1–1 Rayo Vallecano
August 5: Rayo Vallecano 0-0 Valladolid

The players

New signings
Salvi Sánchez (Cádiz), Diego López (Espanyol), Florian Lejeune (loan from Alavés), Sergio Camello (loan from Atlético)

International caps
Radamel Falcao (Colombia, 99); Stole Dimitrievski (North Macedonia, 56); Bebé (Cape Verde, 6), Esteban Saveljich (Montenegro, 4); Mario Suárez (Spain, 3); Iván Balliu (Albania, 2), Diego Lopez (Spain, 1)

Top goalscorers 2021/22
Sergi Guardiola (10, now back at Real Valladolid) Álvaro García (8), Radamel Falcao (6), Óscar Trejo (4)

Barça connections
Ivan Balliu (pictured below) 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 two summers ago. 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.

Balliu, en una imatge del partit de la primera volta. FOTO: Arxiu - FCB

The manager

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.

Força Barça
Força Barça

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