So Barca go top, a point above Real with the Clasico in a couple of weeks and Atletico Madrid with one game in hand. In truth the way Rayo and Jemez approached this game meant Luis Enrique and Barca would’ve been thoroughly ashamed of themselves if they didn’t fill their boots in this one, but this was still a fairly clinical dismantling of an admirably adventurous side.
That’s yer lot for this one - cheers for reading and that.
Full-time: Barcelona 6-1 Rayo
90 mins + 3: Suarez is nearly in for his hat-trick but Alvarez does well to block it. It might sound absurd to say a keeper who’s let in six has played well, but Alvarez really has.
90 mins + 2: Seven goals and two red cards. Can’t say fairer than that. Although a massive fight and some rain wouldn’t go amiss.
90 mins: More cartoon passing from Barca finds Messi on the right edge of the box, he slips in Suarez who shimmies past Alvarez and tucks the ball home.
GOAL! Barcelona 6-1 Rayo (Suarez 90)
88 mins: Adriano gets a booking on the basis you’re not really allowed to boot players in the calf. Specifically, in this case, Insua’s.
87 mins: Barca nearly in again as the defenders Rayo have left go for a stroll, but Adriano’s cross from the right channel is neatly intercepted by Alvarez, who deserves a good long bubble bath after this one.
85 mins: Oh, lord, Barca should have another. Rakitic clefts the Rayo defence in twain with a magnificent through-ball for Suarez and he’s sprints towards Alvarez with the goal at his mercy. However, for some reason he squares to Messi, but the pass is just a little too strong and a little too far ahead and the wee genius can only toe-end the thing just wide of goal. Shoot, Luis, you big dafty. Messi’s already got three. Tsk.
82 mins: Barca nearly in for a sixth, but overcomplicate things a little as Rakitic is through but squares to Suarez, and the pass is just, just a little behind the Uruguayan, his left-footed shot is still decent but Alvarez makes a good save. Aquino is then booked for hauling down Messi.
81 mins: Final sub for Rayo, as Manucho comes on for Baptistao.
GOAL! Barcelona 5-1 Rayo (Bueno 81)
He slams it home, and there’s some consolation.
PENALTY RAYO! RED CARD TO DANI ALVES!
78 mins: Well, erm, no. Rayo make rare inroads into the Barca defence and Baptistao slips through for Bueno, but Alves makes a brilliant tackle to stop the shot. But no! The referee thinks it was a foul, points to the spot and dismisses the Barca man. Harsh, to say the least.
74 mins: Alvarez needs some treatment. Can you be ruled out for any length of time with ‘heavily stung palms’?
73 mins: Rafinha does good work through the middle and dashes towards the box, then slips it to his left for Adriano but his shot is nicely saved by Alvarez. The ball then breaks for Dani Alves about 30 yards out, and his powerful shot zoots just over the bar.
72 mins: We’re into ‘taking the piss’ territory now. Pique plays a pass forwards along the ground from the right-back area, but Messi is offside and leaves it, so Pique takes it upon himself to barrel forwards and close down Alvarez in the Rayo goal.
70 mins: Apparently Jemez said before the game that he didn’t mind if Rayo conceded one or seven. Presumably he’ll be cool with how this one pans out, if it pans out the way it looks like it’s going to pan out.
69 mins: A final sub for Barca, as Adriano replaces Jordi Alba.
68 mins: Lordy, he’s absolutely, utterly absurd. A treble for Messi as he picks the ball up in a crowded penalty area, ghosts past one and with a barely perceptible feint rounds the goalie, and he slides it home from a tight angle.
GOAL! Barcelona 5-0 Rayo (Messi 68)
And that’s the hat-trick.
67 mins: Messi drives the free-kick in low, but it’s pushed away by Alvarez.
66 mins: Alves megs Insua delightfully, he crosses and the ball eventually makes its way to Messi just outside the box, but he’s felled by Trashorras. The Rayo midfielder has to be careful as he was booked in the arguments during the penalty farrago.
64 mins: Changes for both sides - Jozabed is off and Quini on for Rayo, while Rafinha replaces Iniesta for Barca.
62 mins: Rayo still streaming forwards, remarkably, as Kakuta curls a shot at goal but it’s cleared and Barca counter. Eventually a cross comes over that Messi goes up for, possibly fouls Amaya but gets away with it, the ball falls to Suarez who shoots on the spin, it’s saved and Messi is there to gobble up the rebound like a hungry turkey.
GOAL! Barcelona 4-0 Rayo (Messi 62)
We’re wandering into rout territory now.
60 mins: Barca could have some fun now. Pedro bolts into the area from the left but Alvarez does well to smother the danger, with Ba tidying up.
59 mins: Sub for Barca - Ivan Rakitic is on for Mascherano.
57 mins: Alba goes into the referee’s notebook for going right through the back of Kakuta. Not that we’d suggest anything untoward, but that booking (along with Mascherano’s earlier in the game) means he misses the next game, which is against Eibar, but is back and has a clean slate for the one after that. Which is against Real Madrid.
56 mins: Weird spell, that. Messi and Alvarez were chuckling away to each other between those two penalty kicks, the second one was much more emphatic, low into the keeper’s bottom left corner with some gusto.
GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Rayo (Messi 56)
He puts his foot through that one a little more.
MESSI PENALTY SAVED!
Alvarez saves a weak kick to his right - but wait! The referee orders a retake due to encroachment of some sort!
PENALTY TO BARCA - TITO RED CARD
A cross comes over from the left aiming for Suarez, who only doesn’t get on the end of it as he’s wrestled to the floor by Tito. The linesman gives the penalty, the ref hands out a second yellow to the full-back.
54 mins: More space opens up for Xavi advancing towards the box, who suddenly has a couple of options out to the left, one of which is Iniesta, but his left-footed shot is blocked.
52 mins: It’s Barca’s turn for some silly defending, as Kakuta hoys over a free-kick from the right that Amaya is allowed to head at the back stick, but it’s eventually just about cleared.
50 mins: “Keep it tight for the first 15, lads,” Paco Jemez presumably told his side at the break. Yeah, not gone brilliantly, that.
49 mins: More non-defending from Rayo, but this time from a corner as Alves is left free to head at goal which clangs off the far post, and Pique is there to snaffle the rebound and tuck the ball home.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Rayo (Pique 49)
There we go.
46 mins: And we’re away for the second 45, with no changes for either side. Hopefully that includes this maverick approach to defending Rayo are taking.
Half-time: Barcelona 1-0 Rayo
Peeeeeeeep. Well, it’s quite surprising that it’s only 1-0 given the frankly absurd way Rayo have been defending, that defensive so high it’s basically been an invitation for Suarez, Messi et all to dance in behind whenever they damn well please. The visitors have shown a fair bit of attacking jazz as well, so it’s been an entertaining game that really could/should have some more goals. Hopefully they’ll come after the break.
44 mins: Excellent. Iniesta gets the ball on the left and skips around Kakuta, so Trashorras responds with beautiful simplicity by simply hugging him from the back, bundling him to the floor then lying on him, like a bully would the owner of some juicy lunch money.
41 mins: Iniesta picks the ball up in the left channel and snake-hips his way into the box, but his stabbed pass in Messi’s direction is into a small crowd of defenders and it’s cleared.
40 mins: That lob aside, Messi has been quiet today. He picks the ball up on the right and runs forward, but can’t make progress with the thing almost getting stuck under his feet, eventually having to off-load to Alves, who plays a poor pass back to the No.10 and the attack ends.
37 mins: Xavi stabs another ball through that again splits the Rayo defence, but this time Suarez is flagged offside. The replays suggest he was just on that time, though. Dangerous game from the visitors in this one.
35 mins: Suarez gives the ball away in his own half, but totally redeems himself by fouling Baptistao. Oh, no, wait, hang on a minute...
33 mins: Oh me-o oh my-o, what a goal that would’ve been. Suarez picks the ball up on the right, waits, waits, waits and finally dinks a ball over the top as Messi springs yet another offside trap and tries a sort of first-time, reverse lob thing on the volley with his left foot, running towards the right post, which goes over Alvarez but drops just wide.
30 mins: Trashorras steps up to take the free-kick, curls it over the wall and it goes barely half a yard past the post, with Bravo scrambling.
29 mins: Neat work from Bueno about 25 yards from goal, but just as he’s taking the shot Mascherano takes him out, for which the Argentinean leg-biter receives a yellow card.
27 mins: Yellow card for Tito, which could make things interesting as he’ll be dealing with Suarez for much of the game. His caution was for pulling Pedro back out on the Barca left. Messi dinks over the resultant free-kick, but Alvarez punches out with some gusto.
26 mins: Insua then tries his luck with a blooter from range, but although it’s low and powerful, Bravo gets down to save it.
25 mins: After some nice build-up and smooth passing, Rayo spoil it somewhat as Insua booms over a deep cross from the left which plops straight into Bravo’s raised palms.
22 mins: So much space behind this Rayo defence. Alvarez is doing a so-so job of mopping up thus far, but they might need a couple of Manuel Neuers to keep a clean sheet in this one.
21 mins: Xavi dinks a beautiful ball over the top for Pedro, but there is what you might euphemistically call ‘enough pressure’ and accurately call ‘a push’ from Tito to put Pedro off his stride and prevent the shot.
19 mins: Barca win a free-kick over on the left, and there’s some great and lengthy pondering about what is to be done about this. They look like they have a plan. Something cunning. Although if they did, it didn’t work, as Xavi curls the thing straight to Cristian.
17 mins: Mascherano fouls Baptistao then complains at length to the referee, for what is slightly unclear. Trashorras crosses over but it’s cleared easily.
15 mins: To compound his misery, Suarez is penalised for a a foul on Tito in the Rayo box. One for schadenfreude fans, there.
14 mins: Oooh, Ba is lucky to get away with one as Suarez turns Ba and gets free on goal coming in from the left. He cuts across the defender but just as he’s about to shoot Ba bundles the forward over in the box, and a penalty - and red card - seems like a formality. But for some reason the referee says no. At best that was clumsy from Ba, but it was certainly a penalty.
11 mins: Woof - a palm-stinger and no mistake from Trashorras who batters one at goal from about 25 yards, but Bravo gets enough behind it and in fact holds on. Cracking start, this.
10 mins: Oh, man. This could be carnage as Barca spring the offside trap again, with Suarez once more racing through in the left channel. Alvarez charges out of his goal to meet the Uruguayan, who skips around him but is forced out wide, he tries to cross to Pedro in the middle who has an open goal, but the pass is weak and Ba is there to clear.
8 mins: Rayo almost back in it straight away as Bueno slips a pass to Baptistao who looks to be in some space, but Alba arrives as if from nowhere to put in a fine saving tackle.
6 mins: Clinical stuff from Barca, with Xavi slipping a beautiful pass between right and centre-backs, which Suarez latches onto and strokes a wonderful finish past Alvarez with the outside of his right foot.
GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Rayo (Suarez 6)
Well, that didn’t take long.
4 mins: Busy start to the game, not quite settled down yet. Rayo keeper Cristian Alvarez dashes out of his box to intercept a long through pass, heading it out of play. Always nice to see a goalie head the ball.
1 min: We’re away, and Rayo attack straight from the off, with Tito swinging a cross over from the right that Claudio Bravo deals with uncertainly, palming it down for himself off the back of Dani Alves’s head.
The players are out on the pitch, the sun is shining, it’s good to be alive. Unless you’ve just made a mistake, like spending a lot of money on a pair of trousers which in retrospect you don’t actually like. Something huge like that.
Seems Rayo are taking a ballsy approach to this one...
“My most vivid memory of Luis Enrique is his (mis-)treatment by an Italian defender in a World Cup game,” writes Charles Antaki. “I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but the elbow to the face went unpunished, and Spain went on to lose and be eliminated. So he’s been through the odd vicissitude.”
Ah, we can help you there Charles. The Italian in question was Mauro Tassotti at the 1994 World Cup, and as you can see he made quite a mess of Enrique’s nose. Tassotti got away with it at the time but was banned for eight matches, and never played international football again.
Of course, you might want to remember Luis Enrique as just a brilliant player, so here he is scoring and getting into a fight against Real Madrid...
...and here he is annoying some Real fans...
...and here’s a compilation of his goals against Real. He seemed to enjoy doing that.
Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Xavi, Mascherano, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Pedro.
Cristian; Tito, Abdoulaye, Amaya, Insua; Jozabed, Trashorras; Licá, Bueno, Kakuta; Leo.
Being Barcelona manager must be like having a particularly demanding parent. One who, no matter what you do, will always demand more. Nothing is ever good enough. Got an A? Why wasn’t it an A*? Won a trophy? Oh, just one? And if you’re Luis Enrique, you’ve got an over-achieving older brother to cope with too. Oh, Pep won three trophies. Pep played the most amazing football you’ve ever seen. Pep speaks five languages. Pep’s so handsome. Pep smells so good.
Of course, Enrique is just about meeting the absolute bare minimum at the moment, and at a club like Barcelona, the ‘absolute bare minimum’ is ‘not getting sacked’. He’s just about surviving with a place in the Copa del Rey final, almost certain progression in the Champions League and 2nd place in La Liga. Poor Luis. Nothing is ever good enough.
Now though, he has a chance. They have a chance. Real Madrid’s foul-up on Saturday at Athletic Bilbao has offered Barça a chance to go back top of the Primera, and perhaps Luis can absorb some of the love. Maybe get that A*. Perhaps be thought of in the same way as Pep.
The team in the way is Rayo Vallecano, ostensibly comfortable in 11th place but only five points from the bottom three in an absurdly crammed bottom half of the table, and Enrique is wary. “All opponents pose their own threat,” he said. “But Rayo are one of the teams with most personality in the league … They are one of the few teams who will be challenging for possession. We are really looking forward to this game … If they pressure us well and we aren’t at our very best then we will suffer. Just like when we play teams who come and park the bus, we’ll have to find a solution or the game could get difficult.”
Team news will be with you shortly, but Barça are without Sergi Busquets who banjaxed his ankle, and Neymar who collected a fifth yellow card last week and is thus suspended.
What more pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunchtime than with this MBM? Well, with your family or in the arms of a new lover, obviously. But this is a reasonable fifth or sixth choice.
Kick-off: 11am GMT.
Nick will be here shortly.