It has been some week for Barcelona. First, there was the devastating loss in El Clásico which all but handed the league title to Real Madrid, then a excruciating loss to Chelsea in the Champions League, before finally came the news that everyone feared – Pep Guardiola would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
A series of blows that will no doubt take some time to recover from, but amongst that Barça still have games to play and Rayo Vallecano are the first up.
The team from Madrid have lost their last three games, and form has slipped in what otherwise has been an excellent, inspiring campaign. A loss to Sporting Gijón, albeit away, showed that perhaps fatigue is taking its toll on a squad lacking depth. However, Rayo are certainly not ones to roll over and will continue fighting until the very end of the season. To get the win here they are 9.00, and 5.00 for the draw.
Their high octane approach has smothered many teams this season, and in the game at Camp Nou they offered much of the same with Guardiola complimenting Rayo’s bravery and commitment. With that in mind you can expect the hosts to create a few chances, and 1.70 is the odds for both teams to score.
Michu is Rayo’s main man, and his 15 goals this season have incredibly come from his midfield role. 10 of those have come at home. You can back him at 4.90 to score anytime. Diego Costa’s also a huge threat, and he’s at 3.90 to score first.
Rayo will be without several faces for the game, including Emiliano Armenteros, Raúl Bravo, Rober through injury. Key duo Labaka and Casado are both missing through suspension.
Barcelona meanwhile will be in a strange mindset coming to the game. The league is over, out of the Champions League and Guardiola will be saying his goodbyes at the end of the season. Turbulent doesn’t even cover the half of it, so the best thing for Barça to do is focus on the task in hand – Guardiola will demand as much.
They of course won’t want to leave a huge gap between themselves and Real Madrid, so winning all the remaining games is essential for that and a few impressive performances to leave the season on a happier not would be most welcome.
Last time out was El Clásico, a game in which Barça looked forlorn and void of ideas. There were predictable patterns to their attacking play and when they did get chances, most again were squandered. It was a similar case against Chelsea in midweek, and it left many asking whether they need to implement a new method to their style of play.
For now though, they’ll stick to what has gained them so much success in recent years. Another win for Barça can be found at 1.35. Lionel Messi will be looking to add to his tally, and he’s 3.80 to score first while Pedro, recently rested, should return and he’s at 2.25.
They’ll have to do it without both Xavi and Gerard Piqué who were injured during the Chelsea game. It will almost certainly be that players who featured those gruelling couple of games will be rested also, so the likes of Pedro and Seydou Keita are set to be handed starts.
Barcelona hasn’t lost two consecutive league matches since 2009, but if you fancy that to happen again then Rayo are 9.00 to win. The game does however represent a perfect chance for a backlash of sorts to the disappointment so keep that in mind.
PREDICTION: Barça to most likely win narrowly, though a draw is certainly not out of the question.
BEST BET: Rayo to get a draw at 5.00 is tremendous value.