Real Madrid will be hoping to get back to winning ways, when they face off against relegation battlers Rayo Vallecano this weekend.

Real Madrid will be aiming to recover from their worst ever home defeat in Europe, when they welcome local rivals Rayo Vallecano to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday in matchweek 16 of the La Liga.

Los Blancos were thrashed 0-3 by Russian outfit CSKA Moscow at home earlier this week in the UEFA Champions League. Following the shock defeat, manager Santiago Solari finds himself under pressure to spark a turnaround at the earliest and a third win in a row in La Liga would help alleviate some of the pressure.

Real Madrid are currently seated in the fourth spot in the league standings, five points off of leaders and arch rivals Barcelona. And a victory on Saturday would set the rhythm and help build momentum for their FIFA Club World Cup campaign lying ahead.

Rayo Vallecano, on the other hand, are struggling towards the bottom of the table. Currently 19th in the standings, Michel’s side are four points adrift of safety, having collected just 10 points from 15 matches so far.

Los Franjirrojos have won just one of their last 12 matches in the league and face a gargantuan task at their hands to take away any points from the derby. However, they should not be taken lightly, given how close they came to beating leaders Barcelona last month.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Gareth Bale is set to miss out on Saturday owing to an ankle issue he seemed to have picked up in the previous fixture against CSKA. Defender Nacho is a definite absentee for Real Madrid, while Casemiro, Sergio Reguilon and Mariano Diaz are major doubts to be involved at the weekend.

Solari is likely to make a number of changes to the side that took the field in the European encounter earlier this week. Thibaut Courtois should, however, hold on to his spot in the starting XI and look to bounce back strongly, having let in three goals in the last game.

In defence, Dani Carvajal should be reinstated to the starting XI at right-back, while mainstay Marcelo will hold on to his spot on the left. Raphael Varane and captain Sergio Ramos, both of whom did not start in Europe, should return at the heart of the defence.

Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric is another who wasn’t involved in the midweek fixture. He should feature in the centre of the park on Saturday, with Marcos Llorente expected to continue at the base of the midfield in Casemiro’s absence. Dani Ceballos is likely to be preferred over Toni Kroos for the third midfield slot at the weekend.

With Bale likely to miss out, Vinicius Junior, who impressed the most for Madrid against CSKA, might get a starting berth out on the left flank. Lucas Vazquez should feature from kick off on the right side, with Karim Benzema spearheading the attack for the home team.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Llorente, Ceballos; Vazquez, Benzema, Vinicius;

Rayo Vallecano

The visitors will be without defender Jordi Amat, who is suspended for the match. Gael Kakuta, Lass and Gorka Elustondo are all out with injuries, while striker Raul de Tomas, on loan from Real Madrid, is ineligible to feature against his parent club. Midfielder Oscar Trejo has also been omitted from the squad by manager Michel.

Stole Dimitrievski is likely to feature in goal for Vallecano on Saturday. He will be shielded by a back four comprising of Luis Advincula and Alex Moreno as the full-backs on the right and left sides respectively, with Alejandro Galvez and Emiliano Velazquez at the heart of the backline.

22-year-old Santi Comesana will start at the base of the midfield for Los Vallecanos. Former Stoke City midfielder Gianelli Imbula should feature from the get go on Saturday, while Alvaro Medran should take up another slot in the middle of the park, replacing the injured Trejo.

Jose Pozo is in line to start at the tip of the diamond formation in the centre. Upfront, with De Tomas ineligible, Adrian Embarba will partner up with Alvaro Garcia.

Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Dimitrievski; Advincula, Galvez, Velazquez, Moreno; Comesana; Medran, Imbula; Pozo; Embarba, Garcia;

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have won their last 16 matches against Rayo Vallecano in the La Liga – their best streak against a single team in the competition.
  • Rayo Vallecano conceded 10 goals in their last game versus Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabéu – the first time they’ve conceded double figures in their top-flight history (10-2 in December 2015).
  • Real Madrid have conceded two goals in the opening 15 minutes in each of their last two La Liga meetings with Rayo Vallecano, however, they won both games (10-2 and 3-2).
  • The Merengues have kept a clean sheet in back-to-back La Liga games (Valencia and Huesca). They haven’t done so in three consecutive matches in the competition since September 2015 (four, under Rafa Benítez).
  • Rayo Vallecano have only won one of their last 12 La Liga games (D4 L7), conceding 25 goals.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

A goal drought that just won't end. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

A goal drought that just won’t end. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

The Frenchman was expected to take over the goalscoring mantle for Real Madrid this season, following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer. But, after a bright start to the campaign, Benzema has struggled to deliver on a consistent basis for the European champions.

The 30-year-old has scored just five times in 15 La Liga appearances, scoring just once in his last 12 league outings. However, Benzema possesses an exceptional record against Vallecano, having scored seven goals in his eight La Liga appearances against the local rivals. He will be hoping to get back to firing on all cylinders against the relegation battlers on Saturday.

Prediction

Real Madrid 3-1 Rayo Vallecano

Real Madrid suffered an embarrassing defeat earlier this week against CSKA Moscow and will be eager to bounce back with a strong performance on Saturday. Their record against Rayo Vallecano is extremely impressive, but the visitors will not be there just to make up numbers, as they showed against Barcelona last month.

However, despite their limp performance in Europe last time out, this Real Madrid side possess great quality across all areas of the field. And the gulf of class between the two sides should shine through at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Solari’s men tipped to run away with a comfortable home win.

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