Rayo Vallecano defender Ivan Balliu has revealed that Los Franjirrojos identified Jordi Alba as a weakness they could exploit against Barcelona in their La Liga match.
Barcelona kicked off their first full season under the management of Xavi on Saturday (August 13). They hosted Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou in their first La Liga match of the 2022-23 campaign.
However, the match did not go according to plan for the Blaugrana as they were held to a draw by Andoni Iraola's side. The hosts failed to find the back of the net despite having six shots on target.
Sergio Busquets was also given marching orders after receiving his second yellow card of the game in the dying minutes. Barcelona thus got their La Liga season off to a frustrating start.
Speaking after the game, Balliu disclosed that Rayo Vallecano targeted Alba in the match. The right-back said that Los Franjirrojos knew they can create space behind the Catalans star and had worked on that before the clash. He told Catalan radio stations RAC1 [via SPORT]:
"We knew that we could generate danger behind Jordi Alba, also with the aerial game, and we worked [ahead of the match] to be able to attack in that area."
Xavi replaced Alba with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the dying minutes of the match. The substitution appeared to be a tactical change as the Blaugrana stepped up their efforts to break the deadlock.
It is worth noting that Rayo Vallecano won both their matches against Barcelona in La Liga last season. Balliu suggested that Iraola's side found it comparatively easier to earn a result on Saturday.
"We knew we were going to suffer, but we had the feeling that last year we suffered more, even though we won. Barca impose themselves, we were not going to fool ourselves. But we got stronger during the game, we used our weapons and in the end, we managed to earn a draw."
Barcelona have thus failed to beat Rayo Vallecano in each of their last three La Liga matches against them.