Their raft of new signings may play in that game. They may not. Or some of them could, but not others. Nobody knows at this point. Oh, and two of their players from last season find themselves in the same boat.
That is because Barcelona have been unable to register their summer arrivals — Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Jules Kounde — with La Liga because of their pressing need to balance their books.
Similarly, Barcelona have not been able to re-register Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto, who signed new contracts this summer after their previous deals expired, nor Pablo Torre, who agreed to join from Racing Santander in March.
La Liga’s registration system — LaLiga Manager — does not allow new players to be added unless that deal complies with their club’s spending limits.
Here, The Athletic explains this registration system, why Barcelona can’t add new players and what happens next.
What is LaLiga Manager?
LaLiga Manager is the league’s player registration system.
It was introduced by La Liga president Javier Tebas in the summer of 2016 and is intended to make the buying and selling of players more streamlined.
Once a player is successfully registered or deregistered, the transaction appears in the publicly accessible transfer portal of La Liga’s website.
How does it work?
Club officials can use LaLiga Manager like a normal app. They can fill in the requisite details from anywhere in order to register a new signing.
Such details will include any transfer fees involved, the terms of player contracts, any agent details and all taxes due.
This process must be followed for all transactions, whether a club is doing business with another La Liga side, a foreign club, and also when a youth player is being registered with the first team.
All transfers are checked and signed off by La Liga officials to see if everything is correct, including if they conform to the league’s financial limits. These are set by La Liga at the start of the season (and adjusted midway through) to ensure clubs don’t spend beyond their means.
What is Barcelona’s spending limit and how is it decided?
Barcelona were given a spending limit of €97million (£82m, $110m) at the beginning of last season — almost eight times less than rivals Real Madrid, who had a limit of €650million — due to their dire financial situation.
To make matters worse, they were last given a -€144million limit by La Liga in March, meaning they had to drastically cut spending.
The simple part of La Liga’s registration rules is public — the clubs supply documents relating to all their income and expenditure for the current season and into the future, everything from sponsorship deals to match-day income to each player’s contract.
The more interesting part is when it gets into interpretation — such as projections for future income, like when Barcelona sell a part of their domestic TV rights deal in a complicated way.
For these parts, La Liga doesn’t share its exact criteria and there are conversations between dedicated staff at La Liga and the club’s financial officers to decide the attribution.
This limit is the total amount that clubs can spend on their first-team players, first-team coach, assistant coach and head physio, as well as their reserve teams, academy and any non-registered squad players. Clubs may choose how the money is split between transfers or wages, provided the overall limit is not exceeded.
Why can’t Barcelona register all these players?
Barcelona have not created enough room in their spending cap to register the new players because La Liga’s player registration system is intrinsically linked to the club’s finances.
Barcelona need to generate income from player sales, wages being trimmed or activating their “economic levers” – selling part of their domestic TV rights deal or Barca Studios arm to private firms – before registering more players.
Will they be able to play against Rayo Vallecano?
We do not know. If Barcelona can balance their books by activating more economic levers or shifting salaries from their squad, they may be able to register one or more of their new signings.
As yet, none of their new signings or players whose contracts expired have been registered.
The Athletic understands the deadline for registering a player is the moment the club hands their team sheet to the referee on the day of the match.
So, in theory, Barcelona have until around an hour before their game on Saturday to either activate more economic levers or sell players to open up more space on their wage bill.
Has this happened before?
Yes. Last season, Barcelona were in a similar predicament, which led to Lionel Messi joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.
Club stalwarts Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba also took pay cuts to allow new signings Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia and Memphis Depay to be registered.
They were, however, all registered in time for the start of the season.
Pique, meanwhile, has again agreed to a salary cut to aid Barcelona’s financial situation.
Where can I find out more?
(Photo: Javier Borrego/Europa Press via Getty Images)