Barça takes on Rayo after Champions League drama

Reaction after AC Milan match PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
9 pm, C+: Barça hosts the team from the Madrid suburbs following the comeback against AC Milan and ahead of the international break.

Barça welcomes Rayo to the Camp Nou for a league match that runs the risk of being an anticlimax after the high drama of the CL quarterfinal second leg. There’s a danger of relaxation – and tiredness – following Tuesday evening’s incredible comeback against AC Milan. The match is even more important than usual as the three points would allow the team to enjoy the international break from the league schedule in relative calm. Right now Barça sits comfortably in first place in the league table with a X points lead over Real Madrid, who have played a match more.

Without Puyol or Xavi

Tito Vilanova and Jordi Roura will be missing three key first team regulars for tonight’s match: team captains Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández and Víctor Valdés. The defender had surgery on his right knee on Friday while the midfielder is still carrying a thigh strain. Goalkeeper Víctor Valdés is suspended. The coaching staff have 21 players available including Marc Bartra – recently back from injury – and Oier Olazábal, who will provide cover for Pinto in goal.

Barça has an impeccable home record this season in the league with 12 wins and just the one draw. In these 13 matches they’ve scored 44 goals and conceded 10.

Rayo looking safe

Rayo Vallecano comes to the Camp Nou with their main objective for the season – first division safety – virtually guaranteed. They currently have 41 points and sit in eighth position, just two points off a Europa League spot. Manager Paco Jemez has produced a team that plays good football as well as getting results and the fans are now used to seeing a team that wants the ball and is not afraid to go with a three-man defence when the occasion demands.

Rayo are also missing three important players – fullback Casado, midfielder Javi Fuego and Brazilian forward Leo Baptistao are all suspended.