Barcelona will be bidding to make the perfect start to their 2022-23 La Liga campaign when they welcome Rayo Vallecano to Camp Nou on Saturday night.
The Catalan giants finished second in the table last season, 13 points behind the champions Real Madrid, while Rayo impressed on their return to Spain’s top flight from the Segunda Division, claiming 13th position.
FC Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 1
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Jules Koundé (out), Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti (doubt)
Rayo Vallecano Outs & Doubts: None
Date/Time: Saturday, August 13, 2022, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Sunday)
Venue: Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
VAR: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva
How to watch on TV: ABC (USA), Premier Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Not Available (Spain, Canada), others
How to stream: ESPN+ (USA), Premier Player (UK), others
Following a busy preseason and a wild, club-transforming transfer window that is still not over, Barcelona takes the field for the first time this season for a game that matters when they welcome Rayo Vallecano to the Greatest Stadium On Earth, Brought To You By Spotify, for the opening match of the 2022-23 La Liga season.
Because this week was completely dominated by a billion stories regarding the (now mostly completed) registration of players, it’s easy to forget just how good the Blaugrana were in the preseason. They were unbeaten in six games and won five of them, mostly in a pretty dominant fashion with a breathtaking attack and a much more solid defensive structure compared to last season.
Xavi Hernández made specific requests regarding signings and the new players who got significant playing time looked very comfortable in the coach’s system, and Robert Lewandowski needed just four preseason games to erase any doubts about his ability to fit with his new team and lead the line very effectively.
Barça made great strides on and off the pitch since the end of last season, and expectations are sky high for this one. There is true hope in the fanbase and the players have spoken publicly about a great environment in the dressing room with a deep squad pulling in the same direction and interested in the same thing: winning games and lifting trophies.
This will be a season like no other with a World Cup right in the middle of it, and a busy schedule between now and November will truly test Barça’s depth. Every game will matter in a tight race for the league title. Real Madrid will never go away, and Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid remains quite the formidable force.
Dropping points at home are almost prohibited, and Camp Nou must be a fortress all season long. Rayo Vallecano had a wonderful season and retained all of their best players, and will cause problems to a Barça side still trying to figure itself out with so many changes. This doesn’t promise to be easy, but strong performance and victory will be an important statement of intent.
This could be a great season, but it has to start with a bang.
- Barcelona have lost their last two La Liga games against Rayo Vallecano without scoring a goal.
- Barcelona have won their opening fixture in 12 of the last 13 La Liga campaigns (L1).
- Rayo Vallecano have not won any of their previous four matches on matchday one of a La Liga campaign, losing the last two.
- Barcelona are winless in their previous two La Liga matches (D1 L1), failing to score in both those games.
- Rayo Vallecano’s Radamel Falcao has scored four goals in five meetings with Barcelona in La Liga.
Player to Watch
While there will be a plethora of quality players on display when Barcelona takes the field on Saturday, all eyes will be glued to a certain Robert Lewandowski. Arguably the biggest transfer of the summer so far, the 33-year-old joined Barcelona from Bayern Munich in a deal worth €50 million, including bonuses.
The Polish hitman comes into the season after having plundered 50 goals for Bayern Munich in 2021/22. On top of that, Lewandowski has scored in his first game of the season in each of his last seven Bundesliga campaigns, and he will be gunning to keep that streak alive, albeit in La Liga this time out. He scored once and set up two more for Barça against Pumas in the Joan Gamper Trophy, and more of the same could be on show this weekend.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Eric, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Raphinha
Rayo Vallecano (4-2-3-1): Dimitrievski; Balliu, Lejeune, Catena, García; Valentín, Comesaña; Isi, Trejo, García; Falcao
I am beyond excited for this season and way too optimistic based on preseason and how well the new signings fit together, but I’ll try to be sane and go with a reasonable prediction because Rayo has a really good team: 16-2 Barça. Just kidding: 3-0 to the good guys.
Barcelona 2-0 Rayo Vallecano
Rayo Vallecano managed to get the better of Barcelona on two occasions last season. However, they will be coming face to face with a much-changed Barça side with a deadly attacking trio spearheaded by Robert Lewandowski with support from the dangerous Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha.
All three have displayed good form in pre-season, and with the likes of Ansu Fati, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gavi available as options on the bench, Barcelona should have enough in the tank to start the season on a winning note.