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FC Barcelona travel to Rayo Vallecano for a midweek Liga match where they will look to further consolidate what is already an extremely strong position at the top of the table. The home side, meanwhile, will be hoping to spring a surprise that will help put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
Luis Enrique had a full squad at his disposal for the last training session before the game, aside from Rafinha who remains injured. However, the suspended Dani Alves will not be making the trip to Madrid.
Here are the players who have been summoned for the match: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Piqué, I. Rakitic, Sergio, Arda, A. Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Mascherano, Munir, Jordi Alba, S. Roberto, Adriano, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen and Mathieu.
Masip, Douglas, Bartra and Sandro are being held out due to coach's decision.
Rayo, in contrast, have a number of fitness concerns, with Venezuelan striker Nicolás Fedor and winger Pablo Hernández the latest additions to an injury list that already included two goalkeepers, Toño and David Cobeño, Romanian left back Razvan Rat and German midfielder Patrick Ebert.
Better news for them is that both Javi Guerra and Jozabed have been able to train this week after missing games through injury, and could well play a part against Barcelona.
"You can never be relaxed against Rayo” said Barça boss Luis Enrique on Wednesday. “It will be an uncomfortable game … What I like about Rayo is that they love to attack and try to complicate life for their opponent as close as possible to your area. … What Paco Jémez is doing deserves a lot of credit. They have been playing good football in the top division for four years now, and that’s very commendable.”
The Rayo coach himself has said this week that “we’re treating this like any other game. I won’t do anything special. If nobody has beaten Barça for 34 games, it’s not because they haven’t been trying … But whoever does beat Barça after so many games will even be appearing in comic books, and we want that team to be us.”
Barça are on better form than any team ever in the history of Spanish football, and that’s official! They have already equalled Real Madrid’s record of 34 matches unbeaten in the 1988/89 season. Avoid defeat at Vallecas and they’ll have set a brand new record. That’s what you call form!
Rayo have only lost one of their last ten league games, but a remarkable seven of those games have been draws, so although they have managed to pull out of the relegation zone, they are still only two points clear of danger.
The record books are heavily stacked in favour of the Catalans here. Since Rayo returned to the top flight in 2011, they have lost all nine meetings with Barça, and have conceded four or more goals in all but two of those defeats. Those have included a 7-0 drubbing in their home stadium in 2012, and 6-0, 6-1 and 5-2 reverses on their last three trips to the Camp Nou.
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