Rayo Vallecano 2-1 Barcelona: Xavi laments “lack of intensity” in title slip-up

Barcelona boss Xavi was concerned by his side’s attitude as Rayo Vallecano defeated the La Liga leaders 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Andoni Iraola’s side took the lead in the 20th minute – an advantage that they would not relinquish. Alvaro Garcia grabbed the first goal of the game with a driven effort past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

Barca did threaten to subdue the partisan Vallecas crowd, though, with Robert Lewandowski forcing a save from Stole Dimitrievski. Despite their on-ball dominance, the visitors found themselves further behind shortly after the interval.

Fran Garcia pounced on a loose ball that sent him racing toward the Barca goal. The Spaniard then showed great composure to put his effort out of the reach of Ter Stegen and make it 2-0.

Lewandowski’s 18th league goal threatened a comeback, however, Rayo stood strong to take a 2-1 victory.

This defeat to Rayo Vallecano meant that Barcelona failed to capitalize on Real Madrid’s loss yesterday. Their coach, Xavi, particularly rued this slip-up during the title race.

Xavi demands more intensity from his side

The Blaugrana manager was candid about his side’s display in the post-match press conference.

“We have not played a good game; we have not been comfortable,” admitted Xavi, via Marca. “They [Rayo] have been aggressive and intense, they’ve not let us play.”

The coach then expressed hope that their lead in La Liga won’t lull Barca into letting their foot off the gas.

“I don’t want to think about that,” he added. “But it’s difficult to win this league. We cannot lack intensity or rhythm – we can’t afford to. The points total we had up to now is not normal.  Also, La Liga hasn’t finished; that’s the problem, it hasn’t finished.

“We must generate things. Rayo have done the things that we had to do. We haven’t played the game that is required at this stage of the competition.

“It was an intense game where we didn’t have control. We were never comfortable at any time, and we played a bad game. So, the team has to give more intensity. They want to win La Liga, but the difficulty is clear. This game required excellent intensity, and we did not have it.

“It is one of the reasons for us taking a deserved defeat.”

Thankfully, Madrid also losing means that Barca stay eleven points clear at the top of the standings. But they will be grateful to see the back of Rayo Vallecano, who have become a bit of a bogey team for Barcelona.

Rayo Vallecano: the Achilles’ heel of Barcelona?

As coach of Los Franjirrojos, Andoni Iraola has an excellent record against the Catalan club. According to La Liga, he and Rayo are undefeated against Barcelona throughout their four clashes.

Rayo have beaten Barca three of the last four times in which they have played them, with the other match ending in a draw.

This tie came all the way back on the opening day of the 2022/23 season. Iraola’s side travelled to Camp Nou to begin this campaign – a daunting prospect for any team. Nevertheless, the side from Vallecas held their own and came away with a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.

This proved a solid building block upon which Rayo have built a solid season. They are ninth in La Liga, but tantalizingly close to the European places. Maybe this win against Barcelona will be a late-season catalyst to inspire Rayo Vallecano to Europe.

Featured image credit: Getty