Xavi Hernandez: Rayo Vallecano 'were the better side' against Barcelona

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Coach Xavi Hernandez said Barcelona "deserved defeat" as they suffered their third loss in La Liga this season, losing 2-1 to Rayo Vallecano at Vallecas. The match was full of energy and atmosphere, but Barca missed the chance to capitalise on Real Madrid's loss to Girona 24 hours earlier. Despite the defeat, Xavi's team remains 11 points clear at the top with seven matches left to play. Barcelona's loss means Real Madrid may be looking over their shoulders as Atletico Madrid closes the gap on their neighbours to just two points with a 3-1 win over Real Mallorca. It was a great way for Atletico to celebrate their 120th anniversary. Xavi's side have won just one of their last four league matches, and they need to improve as they head towards the finish line and a first title since 2019. After the match, Xavi told reporters, "The league is not finished; this is the problem - we have to deserve La Liga, today we deserved defeat." Barca were without their captain Sergio Busquets, who was suspended, but they handed Pedri his first start since he was injured in February. Rayo broke the deadlock early on when Alvaro Garcia scored a goal across Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the bottom corner. Robert Lewandowski missed a chance to equalise for Barcelona, and then the Pole had a goal ruled out for offside. Rayo doubled their lead after the break when left-back Fran Garcia pressed Frenkie de Jong, collected the ball and drove on to score. Fran Garcia said after the match, "We knew that it was an important day for us, they say the giant-killers are back. The atmosphere can't be described... we want to give it back in the best way possible." Lewandowski finally scored a goal for Barcelona, ending his run of four games without one, but Rayo held on for only their second win in their last 11 league matches - and third in four games against Barca for coach Andoni Iraola. In other La Liga matches, Almeria climbed up to 15th with a 2-1 win at 10-man Getafe, while Celta Vigo earned a late win over bottom-of-the-table Elche thanks to defender Joseph Aidoo's diving header. Barcelona needs to regroup and come back stronger in their next match to prove that they deserve to win La Liga this season.

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