Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde insists a win against Rayo Vallecano would be as significant as the victory in El Clasico.
Barca, who beat Real Madrid 5-1 on Sunday, are seeking a fifth straight win in all competitions but will be wary of their next opponents after suffering a loss to similarly placed Leganes in September.
Quoted in Marca, the manager said: “The three points that are on offer at Vallecas are the same amount as you get for beating Madrid.”
He also warned against underestimating Rayo despite Barcelona’s recent good form.
“Our previous defeat against Leganes can be a message for us, without a doubt,” Valverde added.
“The fact that we lost that game gives us a lesson to learn from and we will do that.”
After an impressive performance against Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey, young midfielder Carles Alena has been given a place in the starting line-up for Saturday, with Chumi also retaining his spot.
Barcelona will be without Lionel Messi for a fourth game in a row, as the striker broke his arm on October 20 against Sevilla.
On Messi’s absence, Valverde said: “He still has a problem with his arm. It is normal for him to want to get back into training quickly to maintain his form.
“We’re going to wait and see but it has only been two weeks since he injured it so we’re still going to wait.”
Messi joins Sergi Samper, Thomas Vermaelen and Samuel Umtiti on the injury list.
Rayo have won just one match all season and having taken just two points from their last five outings they sit just one place above the bottom of LaLiga.
Manager Michel told his club’s official website that the match would be very difficult.
“It is a game in which we have very little to lose and a lot to gain,” he said.
“We’re down in the standings and can show that we can win. The players have the necessary motivation and we need to be close to our best performance.”
Michel added that, despite being without star striker Messi, Barcelona’s other players in an “exceptional squad” pose a threat.
Barcelona parted ways with one of the most important staff in their club’s history, Joan Villa. Joan Vila is a La Masia trainer who was an integral part of the Catalan club for over four decades.
Vila was involved in the development of a host of generational talents such as Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and a few other players from the golden generation.
Xavi once placed Vila on the same pedestal as Pep Guardiola and praised his trainer as one of the best.
“Guardiola and Luis Aragones are the coaches who I have been closest to, personally and in a football way,” said Xavi.
“Along with those two is Joan Vila, in terms of development I owe him for being what I am”, Xavi said.
It is said that Barcelona and Vila reached a disagreement over the type of players the club needs to promote, with the former preferring physicality over technique.
Xavi has expressed his concern over the future of youth development at the club after Vila’s dismissal.
“The situation with youth football at Barcelona worries me,” said Xavi. “It’s bad they have sacked Joan Vila. What’s going on at Barcelona? He’s the person with the most knowledge of Barcelona’s positional play. I don’t understand it,” he told Catalunya Radio.
Good morning Barcelona fans, and welcome to Friday’s Blaugrana blog.
The Sport360 team is here today bringing you all the latest news coming out of the Camp Nou.
5pm – Malcom in a muddle
Maybe Malcom should have joined Roma after all. Ditched for youth product Carles Alena for Saturday’s Rayo Vallecano clash, the 41m euro signing is just not a favourite of Ernesto Valverde’s at all.
4pm – Lionel Messi and Samuel Umtiti spotted at Barcelona training
Barcelona went undefeated in October without their best defender, as well as coping with the absence of Lionel Messi for two crunch games against Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
The bad news for the rest of Europe is that they are nearly back to full fitness, though neither are expected to participate in the trip to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
2pm – Barcelona must act fast as Man City sniff around wonderkid
Man City seem intent on hoovering up every hot prospect in Europe, and the latest may affect Barcelona yet again.
Pelayo Morilla, of second-tier Sporting Gijon, has long been admired by Barca. It turns out that Pep Guardiola’s City also fancy joining the chase.
11am – Ousmane Dembele rumours won’t go away
There has been constant speculation surrounding Ousmane Dembele’s future seemingly ever since he stepped foot in the Nou Camp.
The rumours are heating up as the January transfer window approaches, with Rafinha having been preferred to Dembele in light of Lionel Messi’s injury.
10am – Xavi: Lionel Messi can keep playing into his 40s
The great man has been missed after being sidelined through injury, but there’s a lot more to come from Lionel Messi.
At least that’s according to Xavi, who believes his former team-mate can keep playing at the highest level for Barcelona for up to another decade.
Read more on what the midfield maestro had to say here.