Three goals from Pique, Messi and Luis Suarez were enough to overturn a surprise lead by Rayo when Raul de Tomas smashed home in the first half.
Barcelona 3-1 Rayo Vallecano: match report
Lionel Messi created a goal and scored another as Barcelona came from behind to beat struggling Rayo Vallecano 3-1 at home on Saturday and stay seven points clear at the top of La Liga.
Rayo, who have now lost their last 12 games against Barca, took a shock lead midway through the first half when forward Raul de Thomas -- who is on loan from Real Madrid -- ran past two defenders before arrowing a shot into the bottom corner.
The Madrid side's unlikely lead at the Nou Camp lasted a quarter of an hour and ended when Messi whipped in a free kick for Gerard Pique to appear unmarked and head home.
Barca won a penalty early in the second half when Luis Suarez was fouled and Messi converted to put the league leaders in front and the Uruguayan forward made sure of the points with a simple finish from close range in the 82nd minute.
Coach Ernesto Valverde started without Ousmane Dembele and Ivan Rakitic but fielded an otherwise first-choice starting 11 even with a Champions League last-16 second leg against Olympique Lyonnais coming up on Wednesday.
The win restored Barca's seven-point gap over nearest challengers Atletico Madrid, who earned a 1-0 victory at home to Leganes.
Rayo are 19th in the standings and two points from escaping the drop zone as the pressure mounts on coach Michel.
Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano live online: match updates
90'+2' That's it. Rayo lose 3-1 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
90' Messi loses the ball in the penalty area after a lovely spin. Rayo lose it just after that though. They're a beaten docket here.
86' Messi free is just over the bar.
85' Malcom on for Busquets.
82' GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! That should do it for Barcelona. Suarez finishes off a move down the right. Suarez out to Dembele and he cuts back to Rakitic before Suarez slots home. 3-1 and all eyes turn to Lyon.
81' Cross in from the right from Rayo but it's too close to Ter Stegen as Embarba lurks around the back.
80' Rakitic on for Coutinho.
80' Alvaro off and Embarba on.
80' Busquets catches Imbula and that's a yellow. Rayo were on the counter.
79' Suarez arrives on the right. He might have had an angle for himself but he decides to chip it across goal in search of Messi. Cleared by Rayo but Barcelona pick it back up again.
78' Alvaro with a cross now down the left. Quite easy for Ter Stegen really.
78' Rakitic coming on for Barcelona.
77' Barcelona break from the corner. Messi messes it up though after some slick passing involving Dembele and Alba.
76' Raul de Tomas tries his luck. He wins another corner as his shot comes off Alba.
75' Imbula spins and runs. Corner for Rayo.
74' Babe with a cross that takes a deflection. Throw out the other side of the field.
73' Lovely touch from Suarez. He breaks free of two defenders and cuts back to the middle. Out for a corner.
72' Galvez gives the ball away quite cheaply and Suarez breaks with a long ball from Vidal. He wins a throw now.
71' Rayo throw now as they try to get the ball up the field. They'll have to create something soon. Advincula wins a throw.
69' Free for Barca and they try a new approach. Messi goes for the top corner and Moreno drops to head it off the line.
67' Yellow for Velazquez for a foul on Suarez.
65' Best chance Rayo have had in the second half.
65' Rayo corner and it breaks to Pozo. He strikes and it's offside but that went close.
63' Amat off for Pozo.
62' Rayo struggling down the right hand side as Semedo makes his way down the wing again. He cuts back and his cross is cleared.
60' Rayo chasing shadows now as Míchel prepares a switch.
60' Ball crossed in and Coutinho lays it off to Messi. He strikes with his right and Dmitrievski gets down to save.
58' Semedo gets a cross in and Velazquez cuts it out before Dmitrievski cleans it up.
56' Rayo struggling to break out of their own half now as Barcelona continue to pile the pressure on.
56' A number of Rayo players warming up now.
54' Acvincula looks for RDT and the pass is to close to the Barcelona player. Poor end to a decent looking counter. Barcelona dominating now.
53' Another corner for Barcelona.
52' Tough break for Rayo but Barcelona have been knocking.
51' It's not and Messi strokes home. 2-1 to Barcelona.
51' Messi going to take as VAR just double checks. Hard to see this one being turned around.
50' PENALTY! Semedo caught by Amat as he takes a touch and goes by the defender. Leaves his leg in there alright. Right decision.
49' Bebe standing over it. Way too far out to shoot but cross incoming. Bebe delivers and it's headed out. Comesana sends it back in towards goal and Pique clears eventually. Dangerous from Rayo.
48' Vidal concedes a free as he jumps into Comesana and blocks him from getting the ball.
47' Rayo win it back and break. Imbula leading! They have to settle for a throw in the end.
46' We are back underway.
45' Arthur replaced by Dembélé at the break.
Teams back on the field as Rayo huddle together and try to pep themselves up for the second half.
45' HALF-TIME! Rayo hold on for the draw for now.
44' Pique fouls RDT and gives Rayo a little bit of a breather. Can they make it to half time?
42' Messi with a really dangerous run into the penalty area. They might be looking at VAR now to see if Imbula impeded him as he set up to shoot. Would have been a really harsh penalty.
42' Advincula concedes a corner.
40' Dmitrievski down now after clashing with Pique for the goal. Alberto Garcia warming up.
37' 1-1 and you felt that goal was coming. Barcelona have plenty left in the locker too.
37' GOAL! Pique heads home a Messi free. From out on the right, Messi sends one in and Pique is free to head home.
37' Another corner for Barcelona. Makes its way to the back post and Suarez picks it up. He plays to Messi and the Argentina drives a shot over the bar.
36' Umtiti takes a kick to the leg off Raul de Tomas. The ball was coming over his shoulder and he didn't anticipate his boot catching Umtiti. Free for Barcelona. Might have been lucky not to get a yellow but harmless enough.
35' Jordi Alba looking to get the ball in the box but Advincula gets his body in front of him and Alba bundles him over.
34' Messi cross and it's too far out of reach for anyone in the box.
33' Corner for Barcelona now as they step it up. Messi looking for Suarez that time close in on goal and it's blocked out.
32' Lovely ball in and Pique heads wide. He couldn't direct it goalward and it went well wide.
31' Suarez clipped by Velazquez outside the box. Free for Barcelona in a dangerous position out on the left. Messi walks over to take.
29' Messi looks for Vidal. Over the top and the pass has too much pace on it.
28' Semedo's jersey ripped to shreds. Not sure how that happened but it's torn at the front.
27' Cross comes in from Alba. Dmitrievski saves.
26' Velazquez kicks the ball out for a corner and Coutinho pushes him in the process. Corner all the same. Barcelona just woke up.
23' GOAL! GOAL! GOAL De Tomas. He curls it past Ter Stegen after taking a couple of touches.
23' Coutinho wins the ball back off Advincula and he plays to Messi. He steps over and Vidal plays to Messi, who has moved inside. Ball back to Coutinho and that's a pitiful shot into Dmitrievski.
23' Cross comes in and Messi heads down but Dmitrievski saves.
22' Rayo organised but feels like Barcelona have another four gears to go up here when necessary.
21' Semedo breaks through on that right hand side too as the keeper comes out and closes his angle. He cuts back and Amat clears. Dangerous from the home side.
19' Arturo Vidal is limping now after picking up a knock.
17' Suarez cuts in on his right foot and shoots. Saved by Dmitrievski but Messi was offside and looked to be involved as he blocked the keeper's view.
16' Advincula fouls Coutinho as Barcelona try to break again.
15' Smeedo races through and Amat gets a hand across his chest. He hits the ground and wants a penalty. Referee says NO!
13' Rayo sitting really deep now. Barcelona just trying to figure out their defense and what the best way might be to breach it.
12' Really lovely cross from Messi into the box. Umtiti can't reach it and he was offside anyway.
11' They have another corner. Three in a row.
11' Free is clipped in by Messi. Dmitrievski is caught by Umtiti but no foul. Coutinho's shot blocked and out for a corner. Barcelona starting to pile on the pressure now.
10' Harmless Coutinho shot is blocked and Dmitrievski grabs it at the edge of his penalty area. Referee says it was outside and replays show it was indeed. Silly from the keeper.
9' Advincula versus Alba as Rayo defender takes off. Alba does well to get that back and wins it.
9' Messi looks for Alba over the top and he's offside.
8' Nice little spell of pressure from Rayo but Alba drives up the field now and Barcelona are back on the move.
7' Corner for Rayo and it clips a head in the middle with bodies everywhere. A couple of them even end up on the ground but Barcelona deal with it.
6' Lovely cross in from the right and RDT is at the back post. He chests it down but only into the path of a Barcelona defender. Cleared!
5' Raul de Tomas pulled down inside the area. No penalty. Nice run by Imbula to open up the middle. Referee said no and might need to see a replay but Raul de Tomas certainly thinks it was a foul.
4' Comesena picked off by Vidal but Moreno wins it back and Vidal fouls him. Tame start to this one.
3' Semedo looks for Suarez, who is drifting out to the left and right in search of space. Pass by the Portuguese is out for a throw though.
2' Suarez caught by Advincula as he tried a one-two. Suarez is saying Advincula caught him with an elbow. He checked him, for sure, but nothing more.
1' No pressure on Barcelona so far as Rayo sit back. Guess that will be the story of the game.
1' We are underway! Barcelona get us started.
Rayo revert to a back five tonight to handle Barcelona's attack. Messi and Suárez both start when Rayo might have been hoping one of them would get a break before the Lyon game. No rest for the wicked.
The teams take to the field. Rayo in their white jersey with the red strip.
Just minutes away from kick-off now.
Barcelona‘s Leo Messi has been involved in eight of Barça’s last nine goals in LaLiga (seven goals and one assist).
The game between these two sides was a goalfest and finished 2-3 to Barcelona in Vallecas. Rayo led 2-1 until late too!
Míchel says he is the man for the job but reports suggest Julio Velazquez is the man to replace him if they don't win. Valezquez manahed Udinese last and also coached at Alcorcon and Villarreal. Míchel says he has been told nothing by the club and says "I die with my work, with the day to day" and he plans on continuing to work despite the speculation. He says they did plenty of good work this week too. Let's see if it manifests itself on the field tonight.
Samuel Umtiti gets another start with Vermaelen injured and Lenglet suspended. He started against Sevills and was rested against Real Madrid as he comes back from a knee injury. A huge boost at the right time for Barca.
Rakitic is also rested in the middle for Barcelona today with Vidal stepping in.
Míchel says he is the best man for the job and he has made four changes to the line-up today with one forced - Ba is suspended. Meanwhile, Bebe comes in as does Galvez, Imbula and Velazquez.
Rakitic, Roberto and Dembélé all rested. Chance for Coutinho, who has struggled of late.
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Arthur, Arturo Vidal; Messi, Suárez, Coutinho.
Hello and welcome to our live online coverage of Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano. It's 1st versus 19th in LaLiga tonight at the Camp Nou. Kick-off at 18:30 CET.
Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano live online: preview
It's back to LaLiga and Camp Nou for Barcelona after 21 days playing away from home with a draw against Lyon, a win over Sevilla and two wins at the Santiago Bernabéu rounding out a successful spell on the road for the league leader. Rayo Vallecano have to win or else their manager, Michél, will be sacked in what seems a very tall task. Kick-off from the Camp Nou is at 18:30 CET.
Barcelona return to the Champions League during the week with Lyon visiting the Camp Nou and they might have one eye on that tie after the first leg finished in a draw. Ernesto Valverde's squad selection doesn't suggest that is the case, however, with all of his big-hitters named. Kevin Prince Boateng was left out again with qestions being asked over the need to buy him in January. Meanwhile, Rafinha is out long term and Vermaelen is also injured. Todibo started in the Catalan Cup against Girona but he is left out of the squad and Lenglet is suspended. The suspension of the French defender means Samuel Umtiti will likely get a start as he returned to action after a long spell on the sideline. Coutinho is likely going to be given a chance but his form has fallen off a cliff and he needs to rediscover it soon.
Rayo Vallecano are fighting relegation and they're trying to keep their manager in a job too. "I think I am the best person to bring this team forward," said Míchel before the game and he says he has been told nothing by the club about his future and plans to keep playing as though he will be the manager until the end of the season and beyond. Abdoulaye Ba is suspended after a sending off against Girona last week in Vallecas while Gorka Elustondo remains out with a long term injury.