Sure, the headline might be an over-reaction, what with both all-important clásicos still on the la Liga docket, but a loss at home to Rayo Vallecano would sure make FC Barcelona's quest for a fourth la Liga championship in as many years complicated. Dropping the three points to lowly Rayo--in the only game this week because of the Club World Cup--would mean the blaugrana would head into December 10th's clásico rematch with arch-rival Real Madrid down by six points and a game (which, in this duopoly essentially means three more points). In that scenario, if Madrid were to win their makeup game, los blancos would be able to lose both matches against Barcelona and still win la Liga. Nerve-wracking stuff for Barça fans.
But, luckily, this scenario is pretty unlikely: Barça have been absolutely unbeatable at home, with only a draw against Sevilla staining their record, while Leo Messi has scored 15 of his 16 Liga goals in the confines of the Nou Camp. Lowly Rayo Vallecano are coming off a disheartening loss to Valencia, though they have thoroughly exceeded everyone's low expectations for this season, as they are currently in 10th place, ahead of terrible-but-no-one-seems-to-remember-it Atlético Madrid and no-one-really-saw-it-coming-but-wow-they-suck Villarreal.
In even better news for Barcelona, it looks like Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas will be back for the blaugrana against Rayo: they have both been injured for the better part of two weeks now, and should make a significant impact on Pep Guardiola's tactical preparation. In similarly favorable news, in Rayo's twelve visits to the Camp Nou, Barça have won nine, drawn two and lost only one.
Ultimately, this game will come down to how much Leo Messi and company really want to win: the talent level is there, and the system is in place (though it has its holes, some more gaping than others), but none of that matters if you lose the will to win, that deep desire that propels great teams over mediocre ones on their bad days. On Saturday, it wasn't there. Players mixed their marks, seemed listless and bored, and only reacted when it was too late (and got really unlucky).
For Barça's sake, Pep Guardiola needs to work on his players' minds as much as on their footwork.