After finally ending their three game scoring drought, as well as three games without a win, Barcelona got back on track with a 1-0 victory against Atletico Madrid.
They face a quick turnaround as they travel to Madrid to take on a Rayo Vallecano side who have given them problems in recent history.
Rayo Vallecano was the first team Barcelona faced this season at the Camp Nou, with the visitors coming away with a 0-0 draw. They beat the Catalans in their first meeting last season which marked the end of Ronald Koeman’s tenure. They did the double against them by beating Barcelona at home by the same score.
Xavi is well aware of their recent woes and knows it won’t be an easy game.
"“It’s the most complicated match, playing on a smaller pitch than normal against the most intense opponent in the division — in the good sense of the word,” Xavi said.“They are a very solid team who don’t give the ball away, they are a very uncomfortable opponent. We have warned the players that they will be a very intense opponent, they don’t let you progress, the distances are shorter, there will be a lot of rebounds, second balls.”Source: Sport"
In other words, Xavi wants his team to match Rayo’s intensity. Something the team has struggled with this season.
The bonus heading into this match for Xavi is he once again will be able to count on Frenkie de Jong and Pedri. The former started against Atletico Madrid while the latter came on as a second-half substitute.
However, he will be without Sergio Busquets who was booked and has to serve a one-match suspension. Given the way Rayo Vallecano play, it could end up being a blessing in disguise.
Ousmane Dembélé and Andreas Christensen are still unavailable but if they don’t suffer any setbacks, both could be back for the game against Real Betis.
Marc Casado, Chadi Riad and 15-year old Lamine Yamal make the squad list. Yamal was included for the Atletico Madrid clash though did not see any minutes.
On paper, this is one of the final remaining tests for Xavi and his side this season. Regardless of what Real Madrid does against Girona, Barcelona will certainly be looking to pull out the win and inch one step closer to their first LaLiga title since the 2018/19 season.