Real Madrid will be gunning for the top spot in the La Liga standings when they face off against Rayo Vallecano at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.

Real Madrid will have their eyes on the summit of the La Liga table as they prepare to take on newly-promoted Rayo Vallecano at home on Saturday night on Matchday 13.

After a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions, Real Madrid have made good progress, moving to the top of the UEFA Champions League group and the second spot in La Liga, just a point shy of leaders Real Sociedad. Los Blancos beat Elche 2-1 away from home in their most recent league assignment, which was followed by yet another 2-1 win, this time over Shakhtar Donetsk in Europe.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping that his team can carry this momentum forward and bag all three points on Saturday, which will take them to the top of the table, at least until Sunday when Sociedad play Osasuna. However, it will not be straightforward for Real Madrid as they face a resolute Rayo Vallecano side at home.

The newly-promoted La Liga outfit have made a fine start to the season since returning to the top-flight. Andoni Iraola’s men are sixth in the table, ahead of teams like Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, having managed 20 points from 12 games. Los Franjirrojos have been unbeaten in three of their last four games, a run that includes a 1-0 win over Barcelona, while they were held to a goalless draw by Celta Vigo last week.

Ahead of this Madrid derby between Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Real Madrid have five players missing for this contest as Federico Valverde, Dani Ceballos, Rodrygo Goes, Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz sidelined. Other than that, Carlo Ancelotti has a full squad at his disposal and will set out a strong XI as he looks to go into the international break with morale high.

The Merengues should line up in a 4-3-3 formation on Saturday, with Thibaut Courtois protecting the goal. Eder Militao and David Alaba will shield the Real Madrid goalkeeper while Dani Carvajal could be given a breather, allowing Lucas Vazquez to move to the right-back slot. Ferland Mendy, meanwhile, should hold on to his place on the left.

Casemiro is a certain starter at the base of the three-man midfield unit for Real Madrid. He will have his usual partners-in-crime, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, alongside him in the middle of the park. While Casemiro will be in charge of breaking up play, Kroos and Modric will act as the creative hub for Los Blancos

Moving into the attacking unit, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are sure to start, given their form. Marco Asensio should get a chance out on the right flank, while Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic remain options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius

Rayo Vallecano

Unlike Real Madrid, Rayo Vallecano do not have many injury absentees, with Martin Merquelanz the only player sidelined. Meanwhile, Esteban Saveljich is touch-and-go for the contest due to a minor fitness issue but is expected to come through. Andoni Iraola is unlikely to change things much, considering that his side beat Barcelona and drew against Celta Vigo in their last two matches.

The visitors will line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski, with Saveljich and Alejandro Catena pairing up at the heart of the Rayo Vallecano defence. Ivan Balliu and Fran Garcia ought to be the two full-backs who will stay compact at the back and not venture forward a great deal.

Santi Comesana and Oscar Valentin ought to form the two-man midfield pivot for the visiting side, where they will look to cut out the influence of their Real Madrid counterparts, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. Oscar Trejo should occupy the No. 10 role and look to hurt the hosts when his team does have possession.

However, the chance-creation should mainly come from the wide areas through Isi Palazon and Alvaro Garcia, who will look to supply crosses for Radamel Falcao to attack in the box.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Dimitrievski; Balliu, Saveljich, Catena, Garcia; Valentin, Comesana; Palazon, Trejo, Garcia; Falcao

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have lost only one of their 18 La Liga home games against Rayo Vallecano (W15 D2).
  • Having won 17 La Liga games in a row against Rayo Vallecano between December 2000 and December 2018, Real Madrid lost their last game against the Franjirrojos in the competition in April 2019.
  • Rayo Vallecano have only won one of their last 15 away games in La Liga (D2 L12).
  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 10 La Liga games against Madrilean sides (W6 D4), keeping a clean sheet in eight of those matches.
  • Rayo Vallecano’s Radamel Falcao has scored in two of his three La Liga appearances against Real Madrid (two goals). 

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

Back from injury in midweek, the 33-year-old Frenchman was once again the star of the show for Real Madrid. Benzema’s brace fired the Merengues to a crucial 2-1 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk. And, heading into Saturday’s game, Carlo Ancelotti will again look up to his superstar striker to produce the goods in the final third.

Benzema has scored eight goals in nine La Liga games against Rayo Vallecano, including a hat-trick in December 2015. He will be aiming to add more to his tally come Saturday night and fire Real Madrid to the top of the La Liga standings.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-1 Rayo Vallecano

Rayo Vallecano have given a very good account of themselves since returning to La Liga. Their 1-0 win over Barcelona last week was a standout result, which showed that they could pull off upsets. However, this Real Madrid side, led by the in-form Benzema and Vinicius, will be difficult to stop for the minnows. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Carlo Ancelotti & co. taking them to the top of the La Liga standings.

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