Barcelona slipped to a first defeat of the season in midweek, conceding their first goals in the process as Paris Saint-Germain triumphed 3-2 at the Parc des Princes.
Awaiting Luis Enrique’s side this weekend as they seek to respond to that setback will be Paco Jemez’s Rayo Vallecano, now sitting 10th in the Primera Division following back-to-back victories in the last fortnight.
Can the Catalans return to winning ways and maintain their two-point advantage at the top of the table in Madrid this today?
If there’s one thing that can be said of Rayo Vallecano, they are certainly never boring. Indeed, after six games of the new campaign, Jemez’s side are the only La Liga outfit in double figures for both goals scored and goals conceded. It is an impressive feat.
After holding reigning champions Atletico Madrid on the opening day of the season, they endured a torrid time over subsequent weeks as they shipped nine goals in three games that earned just a solitary point.
However, following victories over the struggling duo of Athletic and Levante, the Vallecas outfit have moved themselves into a comfortable mid-table position at this early stage. To get a point this weekend, though, they will need to considerably up their game.
Barcelona have been imperious in domestic action thus far in 2014-15, scoring 17 goals and conceding not once to claim 16 of a possible 18 points to date. Even in spite of Luis Enrique rotating his squad, the Catalan side have rarely looked troubled in league action.
While they took a setback away in Paris in midweek, there were moments in that game where the side’s football was reminiscent of their very best levels under Pep Guardiola from 2009-11. They were, though, overpowered by the French side’s excellent midfield unit.
Rayo Vallecano can also take hope from the fact they do not need to travel to the Camp Nou where Barca have scored 11 in their past three outings. On the road, with six goals scored in three games that includes five against 10-man Levante, they have been considerably less threatening.
That said, with both Messi and Neymar in outstanding form, it is difficult to see the hosts being able to resist the might of the four-time European champions.
The duo have 11 league goals between them this campaign, while the Argentine alone has provided six assists per WhoScored.com statistics.
Given their long-standing inability to defend resolutely, shipping 80 goals last season, Vallecano may feel their best hope is to take the game to Barcelona and hope that the likes of Leo Baptistao, Gael Kakuta and Javier Aquino can see them go toe-to-toe with the league leaders.
It would be a risky strategy but perhaps no more so than relying on a far-from-resolute defensive unit. Either way, a highly entertaining clash should lie ahead.