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Rayo Vallecano vs. Barcelona: Team News, Predicted Lineups, Live Stream, TV Info

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IMarch 3, 2016

Can Luis Suarez continue his stunning recent form against Rayo Vallecano?
Can Luis Suarez continue his stunning recent form against Rayo Vallecano?Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Rayo Vallecano take on champions Barcelona with the weight of history against them.

Only once in the last 14 years, way back in 2002, per Fussball Wettpoint, have the Lightning managed a victory over the Blaugrana.

Since then the Catalans have won every fixture with a total goal difference of 45-4. Two of those four were scored by Rayo at Camp Nou in the last fixture.

If that wasn't a particularly bad enough statistic for the hosts to chew over, they'll also know that if their visitors were to win the match, they would create a new all-time unbeaten Spanish record of 35 games.

A record that has been held by Real Madrid since 1989.

Paco Jemez certainly won't be changing his style to accommodate the views of others however.

Sid Lowe of the Guardian noted the manager's words to reporters in light of one particularly heavy defeat against Barca:

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There is a fine line between braveness and temerity.

At times of crisis, people spend money to see us play: we've got a responsibility to play nice football, otherwise what the hell are they spending their money for?

The only satisfaction to be derived from losing is knowing that you did all you could to win.

It's a brave if slightly controversial viewpoint, but it's one that has generally been applauded by those in love with the beautiful game, if not always by Rayo's fans themselves.

Still flirting with relegation, it's arguably the time for the team to be finally shutting up shop at the back to ensure results when they are required.

As has become a fairly constant theme in Luis Enrique's press conferences, Lucho won't take any opponent lightly, even if the odds appear stacked in Barca's favour.

Per the club's official site, he said: 

You can never be relaxed against Rayo. It will be an uncomfortable game.

What I like about Rayo is their love to attack and desire to complicate life for their opponent as close as possible to your area. I love Paco Jemez's philosophy.

What Paco Jemez is doing deserves a lot of credit. Rayo continue to be a difficult team to play, and it has been four seasons that they have been playing good football in the top division, which is very commendable.

What more motivation do the hosts need than to potentially derail Barca's charge to another La Liga title?

At least we're virtually guaranteed an open and exciting game of football on an otherwise quiet Thursday night.

Date: Thursday, March 3

Time: 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET

Venue: Camp de Futbol de Vallecas; Madrid, Spain

TV Info: Sky Sports 5, Sky Sports 5 HD (UK only)/beIN Sports 1 (US only)

Live Stream: Sky Go app (UK Only) / beIN Sports Connect (US only)

Form Lines

Last 6 Results
Rayo VallecanoBarcelona
L 0-2 vs. Real Betis
W 3-1 vs. Sevilla
D 2-2 vs. Sporting Gijon
W 2-0 vs. Arsenal
W 2-0 vs. Las Palmas
W 2-1 vs. Las Palmas
D 2-2 vs. Deportivo La CorunaW 3-1 vs. Sporting Gijon
W 3-0 vs. Celta Vigo
W 6-1 vs. Celta Vigo
D 2-2 vs. Valencia
D 1-1 vs. Valencia

WhoScored.com

Predicted Formations

Jemez doesn't really know any other way to play than an attacking 4-2-3-1, whether that exposes them against the bigger teams in the league, such as Barca, or not.

It is precisely that type of attitude that has endeared Rayo's coach to the wider footballing public in Spain.

In the recent past, he has shown that it's a formation that works too. A win over Celta Vigo and a draw against Valencia are hardly the shabbiest of results.

Juan Carlos has the unenviable task of keeping out the most potent strike force in European football and his defenders—Nacho, Diego Llorente, Ze Castro and Tito—can all play a part.

Predicted Rayo Vallecano and Barcelona formations and lineups.
Predicted Rayo Vallecano and Barcelona formations and lineups.Credit: sharemytactics.com

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez will take some stopping on current form, however.

Old warhorse Roberto Trashorras and Raul Baena have the equally difficult task of stopping the flow into the front three from Sergi Roberto and Andres Iniesta.

Arguably it's in this area of the pitch where Rayo have suffered the most against Barcelona in the past.

Sergio Busquets will cover a back four of Aleix Vidal, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba, with Claudio Bravo the last line of defence against a home front four of Miku, Pablo Hernandez, Jozabed and Bebe.

Player to Watch  

Has to be none other than captain fantastic Roberto Trashorras.

When the chips are down, including when you're losing 10-2 to Real Madrid, there's no one else you want on your side than Trashorras.

An unbelievable servant to the club, even his advancing years cannot stop him being Rayo's most important player.

Almost every play comes through the midfielder at some point. He'll bust a gut to get forward to help his attackers as well as get stuck in with his defence without a moment's thought.

The evergreen Roberto Trashorras is Rayo's key player.
The evergreen Roberto Trashorras is Rayo's key player.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Perhaps that's part of the problem as to why Rayo are often so soundly beaten by the Catalans.

Trashorras can't keep going at full throttle for 90 minutes, and it's obvious a slow down occurs over the period of an entire game.

His colleagues, therefore, need to step up when he takes the foot off the gas for any part of the match.

Against Sergi Roberto, the ageing skipper will be faced with a player not too dissimilar to himself in his youth.

It will also be the perfect chance for Roberto to stake another claim for permanent residency in the Barca starting XI.

Key Battle

With Dani Alves suspended, Aleix Vidal has a chance to impress.
With Dani Alves suspended, Aleix Vidal has a chance to impress.Vladimir Rys Photography/Getty Images

Aleix Vidal gets the chance to impress at right-back with Dani Alves given brief respite before the trip to the Basque country and a date with Eibar.

He will be faced by ex-Manchester United flop Bebe—a player who has made a real name for himself at Vallecas.

Andy Mitten of the National noted after the last time the two teams met that:

He has the confidence and patience of an attack-minded coach in Paco Jemez, who is playing him regularly, even though he knows Bebe’s game is not complete.

Bebe played well against Barcelona at Camp Nou on Saturday, regularly getting in behind Daniel Alves, one of the best right-backs in football.

It was during one such move that he set up a goal to give his side the lead before they were beaten 5-2 in a hugely entertaining match.

Vidal hasn't had as many games as perhaps he would've liked since becoming available for Barca, and the test against Bebe gives him the opportunity to prove his worth for Enrique in the campaign's latter stages.

We might expect a lot of the play to come down that side again as Trashorras looks to link up with Bebe and take Sergi Roberto out of the equation in the process.

Odds

Rayo Vallecano win 12-1

Barcelona win 1-5

Draw 6-1

Pre-match odds courtesy of Odds Shark.

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