Madrid, Spain – With Barcelona licking its wounds after a disappointing Champions League exit Tuesday, Rayo Vallecano will be looking to take advantage and secure its La Liga safety with three points against the Catalans at the Teresa Rivero on Sunday.
Rayo sits nine points clear of the drop zone and can be mathematically safe with a win over Barcelona. Rayo defender Raul Bravo remains optimistic that his club can pull off the desired result at home.
"Big teams have come here and suffered, " Bravo said. "We are not going to gift Barcelona anything. It will be a very tough match. We will have to see how they are when they arrive. Whatever happens, we have to give a good account of ourselves and finish as well as possible."
Rayo, once in contention for a fourth-place finish, has lost three straight to cap a disappointing slide down the table. The poor run of form has invited a wealth of criticism, but Bravo does not let it affect him.
"Criticism has to be taken on the chin," the defender said. "The team has had a great season and we just need to secure league safety. It is in our hands and for the moment has escaped us. We have to be positive, things could be worse."
All three points will be highly coveted by Barcelona as well. The Catalans lost to Real Madrid in the Clasico last time out to fall seven points back of the leaders. A win at the Teresa Rivero is a must to stay alive in the title race.
A Barcelona win on Sunday means little if Real Madrid manages to come away from the Bernabeu with three points. Jose Mourinho's men will host Sevilla with a chance to preserve its lead atop Spain's top flight.
A pair of Europa League finalists will return to La Liga action Sunday as Athletic Bilbao faces Real Zaragoza at the Estadio La Romareda and Atletico Madrid heads to the Benito Villamarin to take on Real Betis. Malaga and Valencia will meet at the Estadio La Rosaleda to round out Sunday's league action.
Saturday will see Levante host Granada at the Ciutat de Valencia, Getafe host Mallorca at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Espanyol host Sporting Gijon at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat, Real Sociedad host Racing at the Anoeta, and Villarreal host Osasuna at El Madrigal.