Messi scored twice against Granada. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

Barça will defend their Liga lead at Vallecas / PHOTO: GERMÁN PARGA - FCB

After the first defeat of the season in Paris, league leaders Barça, with five wins and a draw behind them, visit Rayo Vallecano today, a daring side that under Paco Jémez play precisely the kind of football that often causes discomfort to the Catalans. Last season, Rayo became the first team in five years to out-possess Barça – and gaining control of the ball is once again likely to prove a key factor today.

The other talking point will be in goal. Barça have yet to concede a goal in the domestic championship this season, and Claudio Bravo is on the point of setting a new all-time record. If he can survive for just 21 minutes more, the Chilean will surpass Pedro María Artola, who lasted for 560 minutes without once picking the ball out of the net in 1997/78.

The squad

As usual, Luis Enrique did not announce his squad until the morning of the match. Rafinha and Douglas have both been declared fully fit, meaning the sole unavailable player is Luis Suárez, but neither has been named in the side. Montoya, Sergi Roberto, Vermaelen and Masip also miss out.

Rayo in form

In his pre-match press conference, Luis Enrique admitted that he’s a fervent admirer of what Rayo are doing under Paco Jémez. The Madrid based side are currently sitting pretty in ninth place with 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats, and a goal difference of 10 for and 10 against. Their biggest concern on Saturday is in the centre of defence, where Ze Castro is absent, while goalkeeper Cristian Álvarez is also injured.

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