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Rayo Vallecano - Barcelona Preview: Catalans aim to keep slim title hopes alive with victory at Vallecas
Pep Guardiola's side look to return to winning ways after a disastrous week, which has seen them lose the Clasico and suffer elimination in the Champions League against Chelsea
By Karthick Arvinth
Tito, Arribas, Bravo, Pulido
Bangoura, Michu, Michel
Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Adriano
Thiago, Busquets, Iniesta
Fabregas, Messi, Sanchez
Rayo Vallecano are missing a host of players for Sunday's Primera Division encounter with Barcelona at Vallecas.
Emiliano Armenteros, Sueliton, Piti and Javi Fuego are all out through injury, but defenders Raul Bravo and Rober have shaken off muscle problems and are fit to play.
Mikel Labaka and Jose Manuel Casado are both suspended following their dismissals during last Saturday's defeat at Sporting Gijon.
Barcelona playmaker Xavi has been ruled out for more than two weeks with a calf problem, so Thiago Alcantara may get a recall to the starting XI.
Defender Gerard Pique is also sidelined with a head injury picked up in Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Chelsea.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Rayo Vallecano have lost six of their last seven matches in La Liga.
- The Castilian side have avoided defeat in their last four meetings with Barcelona at Vallecas (W2, D2).
- Only Sporting Gijon (64) have conceded more goals in La Liga this term than Rayo (60).
- Barcelona's 2-1 loss to Real Madrid last weekend brought to an end a 11-game winning streak in La Liga.
- Defeats by Chelsea and Madrid consigned the Catalans to their first back-to-back losses since May 2009.
- Lionel Messi (pictured right) has scored 63 goals this season, four shy of Gerd Muller's European record for Bayern Munich in 1972-73.
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Top 3 Predictions
Rayo Vallecano 0-8 FC Barcelona
- 15.32 %
Rayo Vallecano 8-0 FC Barcelona
- 12.84 %
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 FC Barcelona
- 8.26 %
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Mar 17, 2013||FC Barcelona 3 - Rayo Vallecano 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Oct 27, 2012||Rayo Vallecano 0 - FC Barcelona 5|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Apr 29, 2012||Rayo Vallecano 0 - FC Barcelona 7|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Nov 29, 2011||FC Barcelona 4 - Rayo Vallecano 0|
|May 19, 2013||Levante 2 - Rayo Vallecano 3||LIGA|
|May 12, 2013||Rayo Vallecano 0 - Valencia CF 4||LIGA|
|May 5, 2013||Zaragoza 3 - Rayo Vallecano 0||LIGA|
|Apr 26, 2013||Rayo Vallecano 2 - Osasuna 2||LIGA|
|Apr 19, 2013||Mallorca 1 - Rayo Vallecano 1||LIGA|
|Returns:||Rayo Vallecano £710.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Draw £660.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Barcelona £13.64||Sign up to Paddy Power for £250 in free bets|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
The former Celta Vigo midfielder has been one of the signings of the season in the Primera Division and is Rayo's top scorer with 15 league goals. An attacking midfielder who also works hard defensively, the 26-year-old's strength in the air can trouble Barca's defensive pairing of Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano.
Barca's all-time leading scorer has failed to net in his last three games - an unusually long barren spell by his standards. The Argentine endured a frustrating night against Chelsea as he fluffed a crucial penalty that could potentially have won the tie for Barca, and he will be keen to make amends at the weekend.
Inevitably, the focus will be on Pep Guardiola - and his successor Tito Vilanova - in the Barca dugout, and it will be interesting to see how the players react to the announcement of the change of guard. Rayo have virtually secured their top-flight status and could be in for a long night as the visitors look to respond to recent set backs with a commanding performance.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed