The Spotify Camp Nou brimmed with excitement for the first time in several months as Barcelona took on Rayo Vallecano in their La Liga curtain raiser.
The focus was on the starting lineup as the world waited to see whom Xavi would pick on the night out of his mine of talents. In the end, the manager opted for an Ousmane Dembele, Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha combination with Gavi, Pedri, and Busquets in midfield.
Ronald Araujo played at right-back while Eric Garcia and Andreas Christensen took charge of central defence. ￼
The game began with the hosts dominating possession and creating early chances. The buildup went primarily through the wings with Raphinha particularly active on the right flank.
The first big scoring chance for the Blaugranas came in the 12th minute when Lewandowski was set free in the box. The striker neatly lobbed the ball past Dimitrievski but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Five minutes later, Dembele and Raphinha linked up to create a chance out of nothing. The Frenchman provided a cutback to the Brazilian but the latter’s shot from the edge of the box was too high.
The next ten minutes leading up to the cooling break saw the hosts dominate proceedings. The wingers were the protagonists, toying around with Rayo Vallecano’s defence and it was astounding that Barcelona did not have a goal to show.
The 34th minute saw Pedri and Gavi combine to eliminate the opposition defences. The latter played a ball to Dembele but his shot was timid. Less than a minute later, Pedri’s effort went inches wide of the post.
The visitors put their foot on the gas in the final five minutes of the half. They created a couple of back-to-back chances, but the biggest one fell to Sergio Camella. The 21-year-old was one-vs-one against Ter Stegen but could not capitalise.
Rayo Vallecano had a huge chance in the 51st minute when Cabello once again had the goal at his mercy. However, the Atletico Madrid loanee once again wasted his chance.
Almost immediately after, Lewandowski had a massive chance to score off the rebound but Dimitrievski was there to collect the ball in time.
Xavi made three changes at the hour mark, bringing on Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong, and Ansu Fati.
Almost immediately, Fati had a chance to score when Dembele found him in the 65th minute. Only a great save from the goalkeeper kept the scores level.
Franck Kessie replaced Pedri in the 70th minute, making his League debut.
The hosts amped up the pressure in the final fifteen minutes hoping to find a winner. Aubameyang replaced Jordi Alba in what was a clear indication that Xavi was gunning for the win.
Aubameyang and Lewandowski had chances in the 84th minute but both the strikers failed to find the back of the net. Frank Kessie’s goal in the 88th minute was ruled out because of an offside move in the buildup.
Sergio Busquets was sent off in the 93rd minute for a second yellow card after fouling Radamel Falcao. Down to ten men, the pressure was on Barcelona to save the points.
Rayo Vallecano scored immediately after Busquets’ sending off but Radamel Falcao’s offside position in the buildup led to the goal being canceled.
For all their valiant efforts and chances created, Barcelona failed to find the back of the net. Football is a cruel game, for the Catalans would have buried the same tie with the same performance on any other day.