There is a certain symmetry to how Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano have started the season. The Catalans have opened the campaign by winning all four games while scoring 14 goals and allowing just four. Rayo has been far from perfect, with just one win and four goals scored while conceding 12.
Now, these teams are set to do battle in Madrid. Barcelona won both meetings between the teams last season by a combined score of 8-1, including a 5-0 thrashing at Campo de Vallecas.
Yes, it could be a very long afternoon for Rayo.
When: Saturday, September 21 at 2 p.m. ET (7 p.m. BST)
Where: Campo de Vallecas, Madrid, Spain
Odds: Barcelona (62.5 percent), Rayo Vallecano (18.6 percent) and draw (18.9 percent), according to Bloomberg Sports.
Barcelona has yet to lose in any competition, with two draws against Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup the only games they haven't won this season. The Catalans are fresh off of a 4-0 dismantling of Ajax in the Champions League, highlighted by Lionel Messi's brilliant hat trick, so they are certainly in top form.
Of course, so high are the expectations for Barcelona that new manager Gerardo Martino felt compelled to explain the team's slow first half against Ajax even after winning the match by four goals.
From Dermot Corrigan of ESPN:
Barcelona have recently reached footballing excellence so the fans are more demanding. I understand that they did not like the first half, that they were not satisfied. But they should be fairly satisfied with the second half. It was not a brilliant match but we put in a strong performance. Our second half was better than our first. We controlled the game better, we pressed well and we defended well. But, yes, it is a little worrying that the team can get 'broken' at times.
No pressure or anything, Martino. Just win every match and play beautiful football doing it.
It's hard to imagine Rayo putting up much of a fight in this match. The club has already lost 5-0 to both Atletico Madrid and Malaga, though both of those matches were on the road.
Facing Barcelona is a scary prospect. Messi is dominant as always, Neymar has seemed to make a pretty seamless adjustment to European football, Cesc Fabregas has upped the level of his play and, oh yeah, did I mention they also have Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Busquets and Dani Alves?
Alberto Bueno has started strong for Rayo, scoring two goals in four matches, but even if he manages to snag an early goal for the home side, one imagines this result will be "no bueno" for Rayo.
Barcelona wins, 4-0.
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