Campo de Futbol de Vallecas
Sunday, September 23rd, 19:30 GMT
As the hype and hoopla around Jose Mourinho’s sliding celebration dies down, Real Madrid welcome Rayo Vallecano in a very crucial encounter in the La Liga. Real Madrid are already eight points behind Barcelona in the league and this has been Mourinho’s worst start to a campaign in a glittering career so far.
The victory against Manchester City was more than important than the three points Real Madrid registered. It was a victory which could not have come at a better time considering the entire circus around the team. The sliding celebration of Mourinho was more than a celebration; it was a sigh of relief, a release of all the tension surrounding the team.
Rayo Vallecano, on the other hand have had a fantastic start of the campaign. After having sold their best player, Michu, to Swansea, everybody expected them to struggle but they seem to be coping without him just fine. Though they will be frustrated with the loss against Atletico, it sure was a positive sign that this team can very well give a hard time to the big boys.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Paco Jemez does not have many injury problems to worry about. His first choice goal keeper, Ruben Martinez will be back for this game after serving a one match suspension against Atletico Madrid for the red card he obtained against Sevilla.
Jemez prefers to play a three man central defense meaning he likes to keep the game narrow and ensure that there is less penetration from the opposition. Jordi Amat will ensure that his team can stop Real Madrid with Tito and Casado alongside him. Rayo will play with a five man midfield with Adrian and Javi Fiego acting as cover to the defenders and also ensuring that the team keeps ticking with their short passes. Piti, Trashorras and and Jose Carlos may start ahead of them acting as attacking midfielders. Nickie Nilson and Leo will probably start upfront as strikers.
Paco Jemez will like to keep it as narrow as possible to deny any space in front of his goal which will mean that Real Madrid will need to be dependent on their wingers to provide width and stretch the defense. Xabi Alonso will be crucial in switching plays to the flanks and Rayo will need to press Alonso and deny him time on the ball to ensure Real’s game plan doesn’t work.
Expected Starting XI(3-5-2): Ruben; Casado, Amat, Tito; Pito, Fuego, Adrian, Trashorras, Juan Carlos; Nilson, Leo
The victory against Manchester City aside, the biggest shock came as the exclusion of Sergio Ramos from the starting XI. While Mourinho clarified that it was a tactical decision, it certainly was anything but that. Ramos is one of the best defenders in the world and offers much more than Raphael Varane. He is better in the air, quick and even better going forward. It was a punishment for certain remarks Ramos made post the Sevilla match after Mourinho criticized the team publicly.
According to reports from Marca, Varane trained alongside Pepe meaning Pepe, Varane, Arbeloa and Marcelo will hold the backline in front of Iker Casillas. The Spanish captain has not had the best start to his season and has made quite a few errors but there is no replacement to arguably the best goal keeper in the world. Fabio Coentrao serves the last of his four match suspension with this encounter.
Jose Mourinho started with Michael Essien instead of Mesut Ozil against Manchester City but against Rayo Vallecano, the team will need more penetration and so expect the German playmaker to reclaim his place in the starting XI. Xabi Alonso, as expected, will pull the strings and his role will be the most crucial in this encounter. Sami Khedira is expected to partner Alonso and Luka Modric will come off the bench for either Ozil or Khedira.
Angel di Maria had a horrible game against Sevilla but he made up for it with a brilliant performance against City in which he ran rings around the City defense and created chances for his team mates. He will partner Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil in the attacking midfield.
While Gonzalo Higuain too had a bad game against Sevilla, his performances and goals in the earlier games may work in his favor. While Karim Benzema has been in poor form, his excellent goal against City may just bring back his confidence. Higuain needs to pull up his game and make sure that he remains the preferred striker over Benzema.
Expected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo; Alonso, Khedira; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Higuain
Player to Watch Out For
The German international has not been in the best of form since the start of the season. With Luka Modric pushing for a place in the starting XI, Ozil needs to bring his best game to ensure that he retains his spot as the primary playmaker.
Rayo Vallecano 1 – 3 Real Madrid
Rayo may be in very good form but Real Madrid can afford to make no more mistakes. Jose Mourinho will be on hand to ensure that the team does not lose focus and these three points could probably be the most crucial in the title race.