Barcelona release matchday squad for Rayo Vallecano clash: Carles Alena included

LEON, SPAIN - OCTOBER 31: Carles Alena of Barcelona kicks the ball during the Spanish Copa del Rey match between Cultural Leonesa and FC Barcelona at Estadio Reino de Leon on October 31, 2018 in Leon, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
LEON, SPAIN - OCTOBER 31: Carles Alena of Barcelona kicks the ball during the Spanish Copa del Rey match between Cultural Leonesa and FC Barcelona at Estadio Reino de Leon on October 31, 2018 in Leon, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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The midweek Copa del Rey tie against Cultural Leonesa has certainly had an influence on Ernesto Valverde’s decision-making for this matchday squad.

Barcelona come into this fixture on a wave of good form after effortlessly navigating through an eight-day period where they faced Sevilla, Internazionale and Real Madrid. Lionel Messi went off injured early on against Sevilla, but that didn’t stop them from taking maximum points and a heavily rotated side managed to beat Cultural Leonesa in midweek.

Promoted side Rayo Vallecano are up next. They are in 19th place with a three-point gap from safety as they struggle to replicate the success from last season’s promotion campaign. They are yet to win at home and their only victory of the campaign was against fellow promoted side Huesca who are at the bottom of the table. Their ambitious, proactive approach hasn’t been rewarded with results.

Ernesto Valverde has a midweek fixture in Europe to consider as they face the Nerazzurri at the San Siro. Therefore, he could opt to rest a few players in order to keep them fresh because recent fixtures have been energy-sapping. A win against Inter would guarantee passage to the knockout stages in top place, which would be beneficial for the rest of the group matches because Valverde could rotate key players out without consequence.

The Catalans still need to be wary of their upcoming opponents, though; Leganes are the only side to beat them in all competitions this season and they were at the bottom of the table coming into that fixture at the Butarque.

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Carles Alena has earned his first league call-up of the season after being one of the better performers against Leonesa while Malcom struggled which means he drops out. Denis Suarez also made little impact in midweek so he hasn’t received a promotion to the matchday squad.

Juan Miranda stays with the B side to ensure he has consistent playing time even though he performed well in the last match while Samuel Umtiti, Thomas Vermaelen, Sergi Samper and Lionel Messi are all unavailable due to either injury or still being in the recovery phase. Messi is back in training, though, so he could make a return to the first-team much quicker than initially thought.

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Potential rotation options are the right-back position and one of the forward roles. Nelson Semedo and Ousmane Dembele could fill those separate roles respectively while Alena or Arturo Vidal are options to replace one of the midfielders. This should be a match in which Barca can play a weakened lineup while also securing the result.