Barcelona have enjoyed a summer of splurging as Xavi looks to get the club back on track following a turbulent few years that culminated in the departure of Lionel Messi last summer, and he begins 2022/23 against last campaign’s kryptonite club Rayo Vallecano, who completed a shock double over them.
There remains no confirmation that Barca have been able to register their summer recruits ahead of the new season, with La Liga rejecting their latest attempts to list the likes of Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Jules Kounde as they still fall outside the competition’s financial fair play rules.
That unsettling off-field dilemma is likely causing Xavi to rethink and recalibrate his tactics for this weekend’s curtain-raiser. Andoni Iraola, in the opposing dugout meanwhile, has won both of his La Liga games against Barca as a manager — both coming last season — and he could become only the sixth coach to win his first three match against the Catalan club in top-flight history.
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Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano match stats
Barcelona have a squad bursting at the seams with elite-level attacking talent, but Rayo Vallecano also boast a serial goal-getter among their ranks, and one who has a prolific track record against the Catalan club. Across his career in La Liga, Radamel Falcao has netted four goals in five meetings with Barcelona, scoring in each of his last four games against the Blaugrana in the top-flight.
If Barca are to work some final-third magic of their own, then Ousmane Dembele could be the man to deliver. With his contract situation now put to bed, the mercurial Frenchman will be itching to start fresh this season and really cement his status as a consistently elite Barca winger. He is one of only two players, alongside Messi, to register assists in the double digits in 2022 across Europe’s top five leagues.
Only Ousmane Dembélé and Lionel Messi have provided more assists across Europe's top five leagues in 2022 than Dejan Kulusevski. 🤯
24 Apr 2022 – Barcelona 0-1 Rayo Vallecano – La Liga
27 Oct 2021 – Rayo Vallecano 1-0 Barcelona – La Liga
27 Jan 2021 – Rayo Vallecano 1-2 Barcelona – Copa del Rey
09 Mar 2019 – Barcelona 3-1 Rayo Vallecano – La Liga
03 Nov 2018 – Rayo Vallecano 2-3 Barcelona – La Liga
As previously mentioned, Barca lost their last two La Liga games against Rayo Vallecano last term, firing a blank in each contest. Should that scenario transpire again this weekend, then Iraola’s men will become only the second club in the history of the Spanish top fligh to record three successive wins against Barca while keeping a clean sheet in each, with Real Madrid last doing so in 1958.