Rayo Vallecano vs. Barcelona: 5 Things We Learned
Barcelona's 5-0 win at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday keeps them top of La Liga for another week.
The handsome scoreline—which was perhaps an unfair reflection of the contest given that three of the goals came in the final quarter of an hour—ensured that the Catalan club remained top of the table and still unbeaten in the competition.
Here are five things we learned from the clash at the Estadio Vallecas.
Barca Still Flatter to Deceive
Barcelona thrashing any team in La Liga aside from Real Madrid is rarely a surprising result these days, but the win by a five-goal margin does not tell the whole story.
Just as in the 2-1 win over Celtic in the Champions League the previous Tuesday, Tito Vilanova's side were far from the thrilling best we are so used to seeing them produce.
Three late goals from Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi added a gloss to the scoreline.
The only top opposition Barca have faced so far this season is Real Madrid. They lost the Super Cup to their bitter rivals at the start of the season before being held to a 2-2 draw at home in the league.
The quality they have will easily see them through their European group and past the vast majority of their domestic opponents, but improvements will likely be necessary for the many key fixtures to come in the second half of the season.
On Another Day, Rayo Could Have Caused a Shock
Credit must go to Rayo Vallecano for at least holding out for so long before the drubbing many would have thought inevitable before kick-off eventually transpired.
The side from the Madrid suburb more than matched their illustrious visitors in terms of chances created—they had 18 shots to Barca's 15, though only three on target—and they stopped Barca from having their customary three-quarter share of the possession.
Francisco Jemez's side remain too close to the relegation zone for comfort, but if they can reproduce this kind of performance against the teams around them in the table and convert more of their chances then they should easily secure their top-flight survival for another season.
Lionel Messi Has an Outside Chance of Reaching 1,000 goals
Another game, another milestone for Messi.
The reigning Ballon d'Or's first goal against Rayo was the 300th of his senior career in just 422 appearances for club and country.
At just 25 years of age, if Messi continue to improve as he approaches his peak and is able to extend his career into his mid-30s, there is a slim chance that he could reach the 1,000-goal mark by the time he hangs up his boots.
It is at this stage a highly fanciful target—one which even the player himself may not imagine is within his capability—but we have seen Messi make the seemingly impossible appear routine on so many occasions that it cannot be truly discounted.
What's more, given the detailed record-keeping of all football in this day and age, should Messi achieve that incredible feat it would be impossible to dispute, unlike the claim of a four-figure haul by another former Barca hero, Romario.
David Villa Took Another Big Step Toward Regaining His Old Form
It has been a long road back for David Villa following the leg fracture which saw him miss the second half of last season and Euro 2012.
Spain's record goal scorer had already scored three league goals as a substitute this term, but his opener against Rayo was his first in a game which he had started.
The striker's incisive diagonal run to beat the offside trap and his clinical finish showed he has not lost his directness or his instinctive eye for the goal, which is great news for both his club and country.
Fabregas Is a Key Part of Barca's Present as Well as Their Future
There are those who predicted that Cesc Fabregas would regret his return to his boyhood club last year as he would be reduced to a bit-part role behind the dream midfield duo of Xavi and Andre Iniesta.
But the former Arsenal captain is the only outfield player to have started all eight league matches for Barca this season.
Fabregas's excellent slide-rule pass to set up Villa's opener against Rayo was his ninth assist of the season and his 74th since the start of the 2006-07 campaign.
No other player in Europe's top five leagues can match those figures over that period, showing that Fabregas is a key player for Barca now and will be even more so in the future.
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