Five talking points from Barcelona 0-0 Rayo Vallecano – Barca Blaugranes

Five talking points from Barcelona 0-0 Rayo Vallecano - Barca Blaugranes

Xavi’s new-look Barcelona suffered a frustrating start to the new 2022-23 season after being held to a 0-0 draw against Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou. Only four of Barcelona’s XI on Saturday started their La Liga opener last season.

Expectations were high ahead of kick-off as the 81,104 fans packed into the Camp Nou got to see Xavi’s team in competitive action for the first time in the Spanish top flight.

Barca continued to enjoy 68% possession and managed 21 shots in the 90 minutes, compared to Rayo’s four, but could not find the back of the net despite the presence of new signings Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski.

Indeed, the hosts needed goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make some important saves to ensure they held on for a point against the visitors.

Xavi admitted after the game that “everyone was upset” because of the result, which was certainly not what the Catalans were looking for, but was an improvement on last season’s home and away defeats to Rayo.

Barca registered four of their new signings 24 hours before kick-off and they all saw game time against Rayo. Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Andreas Christensen all started, while Franck Kessie came off the bench.

Of course, all eyes were on Lewandowski, but there was to be no goal for the Polish international in his La Liga debut. After all, the former Bayern Munich man had a very quiet first half.

Lewandowski had a great chance after the break but shot wide after a neat turn. He also got the ball in the net but saw it ruled out for offside. It is the first time in eight years that the attacker has failed to score on the opening day of a new campaign.

Raphinha had some lively moments, and thought he might have won a penalty early on after appearing to be clipped in the box, but was well defended by Fran Garcia and a switch in the side didn’t really help matters.

At the back it was a clean sheet for Christensen during his La Liga debut. Interestingly, the Dane made 61 passes during the game but 21 of those were back to Marc-Andre ter Stegen and only 25 went to midfielders or forwards.

Barca’s new signings will take time to settle, but could still be joined by more arrivals, with Xavi claiming more transfers after the draw. He explained, “I’ve already said that we have to keep getting stronger and we have until August 31st.”

If Barca are to strengthen, it is likely to be at full-back where the Catalans continue to have problems. Sergino Dest appears to have little future at the club after being completely left out of the squad, which led to Ronald Araujo starting on the right.

The Uruguayan will certainly not spend the season at full-back as he enters the new campaign with Sergi Roberto, as the only other right-back option looks short-sighted at best.

Barca have already missed out on Cesar Azpilicueta but, for now at least, it seems more likely that the Catalans will sign a new left-back. Marcos Alonso looks set to be the next player to arrive at the Camp Nou and is expected to complete a move next week.

Alonso’s arrival is unlikely to excite too many supporters but will put pressure on Alba for his place in the starting XI. The Spaniard was targeted by Rayo as Ivan Balliu admitted after the game.

He said after the final whistle, “We knew we could create danger behind Jordi Alba, also with the aerial game, and we worked to be able to attack in that area.”

Another player fighting for a place in the starting XI is Frenkie de Jong. The Dutchman started the match on the bench where Xavi prefers a midfield three of Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Gavi.

De Jong came on for the final half hour and showed some real fight as he fights for his future at Barcelona. The midfielder even drew praise from Xavi after the match, although the coach didn’t exactly rule out an exit.

“His role is not as a substitute, he is an important player, I have said that many times,” he said. “He came very well today – like last week. I don’t know what will happen in the transfer market, but if he stays, he will be very important for us. Especially with the attitude he has and his performances.”

It’s not yet clear what will happen with De Jong, although you suspect the only realistic option if he leaves is Chelsea given Manchester United’s latest horror show against Brentford.

Meanwhile, Xavi will have to change his midfield for Barça’s next game against Real Sociedad. Captain Sergio Busquets will be suspended after his late red card against Rayo, which opens up at least one spot in midfield.

Rayo’s draw at Barcelona is the latest in a string of excellent results against the Catalans since Los Vallecanos returned to La Liga. Coach Andoni Iraola has done a good job with Rayo and seems to like playing Barcelona.

Goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski, who has been linked with a move to Barcelona in the past, also looks set to reserve his best form for the Catalan giants.

The stopper’s time-wasting was annoying, but he left the Camp Nou a happy man after keeping another clean sheet against Barca.

Barca will probably be relieved they don’t face Rayo again until April but will face another tough test later at Real Sociedad. The Catalans used to struggle at Real but are unbeaten at Anoeta in La Liga after breaking the infamous curse in 2018.

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