[RIVAL WATCH] BATE Borisov will face FC Barcelona as League Champions

BATE celebrate winning the league / BATE
Barça’s next opponents in the Champions League claim the Belarussian league title for the tenth consecutive season thanks to a victory over Vitebski

Elsewhere there is a win for AS Roma and a draw for Bayer Leverkusen, Barça’s other rivals in Group E of the Champions League

Bate Borisov have claimed the league title for the tenth year in a row and so go into their third game of this season’s Champions League group stages against FC Barcelona next Tuesday in confident mood. The Belarus outfit sewed up the championship with a 2-0 win over FC Vitebsk, goals in the first half from Rios and Mozolevski handed Aleksandr Yermakovich’s team the win they needed with four games of the season still remaining.

A point for Leverkusen

Elsewehere, fellow Group E rivals Bayer Leverkusen have also returned to action after the international break. Roger Schmidt’s side picked up a point away from home at Hamburg, the contest ending 0-0 in the Imtech Arena. Their second consecutive draw in the Bundesliga leaves them down in eight place on 14 points at the moment with more games still to be played this weekend.

Roma victory in De Rossi’s 500th game

Finally, Barça’s other opponents in their Champions League group, AS Roma, have also been in action. The Italian side ran out 3-1 winners in Serie A at home to Empoli in a game that saw Daniele De Rossi make his 500th appearance for the club. The midfielder celebrated by scoring the second in the victory after Pjanic had opened the scoring in the second half. Salah added a third for Roma before Büchel pulled one back with quarter of an hour to go. The win leaves Rudi Garcia in second place in the table behind leaders Fiorentina who face Napoli away from home on Sunday.

Squad announced to face Rayo Vallecano

Adriano has been declared fit and is in the squad for Saturday's game / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Adriano Correia declared fit on Saturday morning and Gumbau also included in the list of 18

The FC Barcelona coaching staff have announced the squad that will take on Rayo Vallecano later today at the Camp Nou. The 18 players on the list for the 8.30pm CET kick-off are: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Douglas, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Dani Alves, Suárez, Neymar Jr, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Jordi Alba, Sandro, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Mathieu and Gumbau (of Barça B).

The Club Medical Services declared Adriano Correia fit to play on Saturday morning. The injured Iniesta, Messi, Vermaelen and Rafinha are all out, and there is no place for goalkeeper Masip either. Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal will not be able to play until January due to the FIFA suspension.

Match Preview: Barça v Rayo

Luis Suárez celebrating one of his two goals in Barça's last home league game against Las Palmas / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
League action returns to Camp Nou after the recent international break with the visit of Paco Jémez’s always entertaining side and a victory could see the blaugranes return to the top of the table in La Liga

The league is back with the visit of Rayo Vallecano to Camp Nou for a game which kicks off at 8.30pm CET on Saturday. The international break for World Cup 2018 and Euro2016 qualifiers is now behind us as Luis Enrique’s team look to keep pace at the top of the table against a visiting side who are in need of points after an inconsistent start to the campaign.

Team news

As always during breaks in the league programme for international matches, Luis Enrique’s preparations for the return to action against Rayo has been hampered by the absence of key players in training. It was only on Thursday and Friday did the Barça coach have all his available squad members back under his orders following several players participation in important qualifiers for their respective national sides. The blaugrana boss will name his final squad for the Rayo game on the morning of the match and he will still have to make do without the services of the injured Leo Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Rafinha. The good news is that there could be a return for Thomas Vermaelen after a month out with a calf strain.

Rayo boss Paco Jémez named his squad for the trip to Barcelona following the squad’s final training session on Friday. The team from Vallecas will be without the suspended centre defender Antonio Amaya. Cissé who has flu and the injured former Valencia winger Pablo Hernández. In the squad, however, are former Barça player Roberto Trashorras and new summer signings Javi Guerra and Patrick Ebert.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Barça coach Luis Enrique gave his view of Saturday’s game in the traditional pre-match press conference on Friday. The Asturian is only too aware of the dangers posed by Saturday’s visitors at Camp Nou: “Rayo Vallecano don’t let you have the ball easily and they make you very uncomfortable. If we aren’t sharp, they can take possession and control the ball.” Asked about the continued absence of Leo Messi on the 11th anniversary of his league debut for the blaugranes, Luis Enrique made it clear that the Argentine’s return should not be rushed: “The key is not to get him back for one game or another. The key is that he recovers well.”

Rayo boss Paco Jémez also appeared before the press on Friday, making it clear that Barça are a team who are a model for his team: “I think we have a lot to be jealous of in reference to Barça. They are a very good side who have been doing things the right way for many years now. They don’t need to be jealous of us. We try to do things the right way and we have a similar idea about the way the game is played.”

Form guide

A return to winning ways is the goal for Barça at home to Rayo following their second league defeat of the season at Sevilla in their last game before the recent international break. The performance that day was a good one but bad luck and Sevilla’s ability to take the few chances that came their way handed the blaugranes a 2-1 reverse. Nevertheless, a win at Camp Nou where they have not dropped a point so far this season against Paco Jémez’s team could see them return to top spot in La Liga as they are currently in fourth place in the table, just a point behind leaders Villarreal.

Rayo have had a characteristically sluggish start to the league season with Paco Jémez’s side currently in 15th place in the table, just a point above the relegation zone. The team from Vallecas have lost their last two league games, away at Sevilla and home Betis, but of their two wins this season, one did come on the road, Javi Guerra’s strike giving them a 1-0 win at Las Palmas.


Since Rayo’s return to the top flight in 2011, they have lost all four league games at Camp Nou, conceding 19 times and scoring just twice in the process. In last season’s fixture they went down to a 6-1 defeat, Leo Messi scoring a hat trick, Luis Suárez a brace and Gerard Piqué also finding the net. Saturday’s visitors have only ever won once at Barça in the league and that came back in the season 1999/2000 when they left Camp Nou with a 2-0 victory


No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. And remember, you can enjoy live commentary in English on Radio Barça. The link will appear at fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.


Behind the scenes at filming of the 'We play good football' video

A moment during filming / SANTI GARCÉS - FCB
A back stage look at the making of the promotional video for the team’s home debut in this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League

The FC Barcelona Women’s team took part in a promotional campaign ahead of their victory in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in which they came out 5-2 winners on aggregate against BIIK Kazygurt of Kazahkstan to move into the last 16 of this season’s competition. The video is titled ‘We play good football’ and it contains footage of the women in action in training and in competition.

Coinciding with the professionalisation of the team following on from four consecutive domestic league titles, the Club wants to develop the role of women’s football at Barça. For that reason, the Champions League is an excellent stage on which to highlight the potential of the women’s team.

Luis Enrique sizes up Saturday's encounter with Rayo Vallecano

Luis Enrique says Rayo Vallecano will be a tough opponent come Saturday. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The coach speaks to the press about this weekend’s league match, in Barça will once again be shorthanded due to injuries

Several players are logging significant minutes so far this season, something the coach says is tough change

Following FC Barcelona‘s last training session ahead of Saturday’s visit by Rayo Vallecano, blaugrana head coach Luis Enrique told the press in his weekly press conference that the game “will be very tough, as always.”

“Rayo Vallecano don’t let you have the ball easily and they make you very uncomfortable. If we aren’t sharp, they can take possession and control the ball. The key is to not lose the ball and to be good defensively. We will have to force them into making mistakes.”

The team and coaching staff face this new challenge after the recent hiatus for international qualifying matches. Neither Neymar nor Luis Suárez played with their national teams and both stayed behind to train in Barcelona.

“Having them not travel is something that suits us, because we need them to be in top form,” said the coach, while explaining that injuries are a headache.

“The idea is to keep an eye on the number of minutes players play, but it’s no excuse,” he emphasised.

One example is Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets, who are on the cusp of exceeding 1,000 minutes played so far this season. “It’s not an ideal situation. Both are key players for us. I want to find time to give them some rest, but I can’t find that time,” he assured.

He also talked about the role of the youngsters Sandro Ramírez and Munir El Haddadi, “two great players with potential who must contribute little by little, but without pressure.”

“They’re moving in the right direction and, despite playing more than they could have expected, I think they’re helping us a lot and can still give more.”

On Lionel Messi

Today marks the 11-year anniversary of Messi’s debut with FC Barcelona. Luis Enrique, when asked about his best memory of Argentinian star, wanted to make a general assessment: “Overall, I prefer the satisfaction and pleasure of having lived in the Messi era.”

But when asked about what pressure there might be to get Messi back as soon as possible, Luis Enrique demurred: “The key is not to get him back for one game or another. The key is that he recovers well.”

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