Barcelona will take on Rayo Vallecano in La Liga this weekend, with the home side looking to earn their 10th straight win at Camp Nou.
The Catalan club are well clear from Real Madrid on top of the La Liga table and appear likely to win the competition in 2013, but that won't make them go any easier in this one—especially given the ferocity and power they showed during the week against Milan.
Barca will therefore enter this match as firm favorites to walk away with all three points, but don't completely rule out Rayo Vallecano in this one.
Vallecano are pushing for a top-four finish and have showed strength away from home this season at times, despite a number of poor performances on the road.
They will feel they have a real chance for the win here—making for a very fascinating fixture, indeed—so read on to see all the biggest storylines to watch for in this one.
With Rested Players, How Will Barcelona Fare?
Following their big win during the week and with international fixtures looming, Barcelona are surely bound to rest players for this one.
Carles Puyol and Xavi are both out (according to Goal), whilst Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez could earn starting spots once more for La Blaugrana. And whilst they are by no means second-tier players, it will be interesting to see how the Catalan club fare here with a slightly altered squad.
Their midfield was simply so good against Milan that it will be hard to replicate such form here, even with Fabregas returning. Xavi's absence will have an interesting impact and could allow Vallecano more traction through the middle than they would otherwise have had.
Still, Barca will be the heavy favorites and deservedly so. Whoever plays will likely do a fantastic job, and Barcelona should be successful because of it.
But it will be interesting to see how the changes play out in this one.
Are We in for Another Barca Demolition?
The last three matches between these two teams have produced a staggering 16 goals in total, with Barcelona scoring every single one of them.
Vallecano have not netted against the Catalan club in a long time now. With key striker Leo Baptistao suspended (per Goal), they will face a hard time scoring against the Spanish league leaders—let alone being a devastating attacking force against them.
The away side have struggled away from home this year, and whilst they do have some wins over big teams to boast about, it's hard to see them toppling Barca here.
The bigger question will be whether they can keep La Blaugrana from running riot over their defense and keeping up their recent dominance.
Lionel Messi Gunning for 18 Straight
He's the talk of every football match he plays in, but Lionel Messi will again be the star when Barcelona line up against Rayo Vallecano this weekend.
Providing he plays, Messi will be looking to score in his 18th straight La Liga game (already a record), having found the back of the net as a substitute last week.
Messi netted a staggering 40 league goals this season (twice against Rayo Vallecano when they played earlier in the season), so it's tough to say that Messi won't find the back of the net in this one. It seems it will come down to how long Jordi Roura plays the Argentinian international, given his importance for the remainder of the year ahead.
Even then, it might only take a couple of minutes for Messi to continue his record here—much like he did against Deportivo last weekend.
What are you looking out for when Barcelona take on Rayo Vallecano?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre