Real Madrid will be aiming to stretch their lead at the top of the La Liga standings when they face off against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
Real Madrid will embark on a short trip to Estadio de Vallecas this weekend as they gear up to take on local rivals Rayo Vallecano on Matchday 26 of the 2021/22 La Liga.
Real Madrid are comfortable at the top of the league table, having opened up a six-point lead over second-placed Sevilla. However, their recent form has been patchy at best, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side picking up just two wins in their last six games across all competitions. But they did manage to secure a convincing 3-0 win over Deportivo Alaves last time out and will be hoping to build on that on Saturday.
Rayo Vallecano find themselves in the comforts of mid-table, sitting in the 11th spot with 31 points from 24 matches – eleven points clear of the drop zone. However, recent form does not bode well for Andoni Iraola’s side, considering that they have lost five of their last six games in all competitions (W1), including each of their previous four, with the latest fixture ending in a 2-1 defeat to Elche.
The reverse fixture, played in November last year, saw Real Madrid eke out a narrow 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano, with Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema scoring.
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— Rayo Vallecano (@RayoVallecano) February 25, 2022
Rayo Vallecano will be without Martin Merquelanz for the game against Real Madrid, while Unai Lopez is also a major doubt. Other than that, Andoni Iraola does not have any other injury concerns heading into Saturday’s contest. The manager is unlikely to make many changes despite the recent run of results.
The hosts are expected to stick with their usual 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Luca Zidane. Ivan Balliu, Esteban Saveljich, Alejandro Catena, and Fran Garcia ought to form the four-man backline shielding the shot-stopper. Garcia, who is a transfer target for Real Madrid, will be aiming to make a solid impression.
Santi Comesana and Oscar Valentin should form the double-pivot in the middle of the park and screen the backline while aiming to disrupt Real Madrid’s rhythm on the day. The playmaking responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of Oscar Trejo, who will also drop into deeper positions in midfield during the defensive phases.
Isi Palazon and Alvaro Garcia should be the two wide players for Rayo Vallecano, who will look to exploit the Real Madrid backline with their pace and create chances for the striker, Sergi Guardiola. Radamel Falcao will be an option from the bench for Iraola.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Zidane; Balliu, Saveljich, Catena, Fran Garcia; Comesana, Valentin; Palazon, Trejo, A. Garcia; Guardiola
Real Madrid will be without two players for the trip to Estadio de Vallecas as David Alaba and Gareth Bale have been ruled out with muscle problems. Besides that, Carlo Ancelotti has a fully-fit squad at his disposal and is unlikely to rotate his troops much.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) February 25, 2022
Thibaut Courtois, who has been critical to Real Madrid’s success so far this season, is a certainty to feature between the sticks. With Alaba ruled out, Nacho Fernandez is likely to step into the backline, partnering Eder Militao at the centre, while Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy slot in as the full-backs as usual.
Casemiro is the undisputed starter at the base of the midfield and will be key to asserting Real Madrid’s control on the proceedings with his ability to recover possession. Luka Modric will provide the forward thrust and creativity from the centre, while Toni Kroos will look to dictate the tempo of the game with his passing.
Up top, Karim Benzema, who was back among the goals against Alaves last time out, is certain to feature as the No. 9 for Real Madrid. Marco Asensio, who is also displaying a good touch in front of the goal, should occupy the right flank while Vinicius Junior is a certainty on the left. Eden Hazard and Rodrygo Goes will be options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius
- Real Madrid have lost just one of their last 21 games against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga (W19 D1).
- Real Madrid have been defeated in just one of their previous 13 derbies against Madrid teams in La Liga (W8 D4).
- Rayo Vallecano have lost each of their last four games in La Liga, just one fewer than they had suffered in their previous 18 matches in the competition.
- Real Madrid are winless in their previous two away games in La Liga (D1 L1), failing to score in both of them.
- Under Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid have lost just one of their 15 La Liga matches against newly-promoted teams (W13 D1).
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Back with 𝙖𝙣𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙜𝙤𝙖𝙡 this weekend. 🔥
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) February 21, 2022
As tends to be the case when Real Madrid step out on the pitch these days, all eyes will be on ace goalscorer Karim Benzema. Having recovered from an injury, the Frenchman struggled to make an impact in the defeat to PSG in Europe but put in a solid display against Alaves last time out in the league, even scoring a late goal.
Benzema has scored nine goals in ten league games against Rayo Vallecano, including his first La Liga hat-trick, which came in December 2015. With the hosts struggling for form of late, the veteran striker will back himself to add to his goalscoring tally on Saturday and help Real Madrid take a step closer towards the title.
Rayo Vallecano 1-3 Real Madrid
Rayo Vallecano’s early-season promise after earning promotion has waned in recent weeks, with Andoni Iraola’s side going through a lean patch. While Real Madrid haven’t been firing on all cylinders themselves, the recent win against Alaves will have come as a good boost and should act as a springboard for them to build vital momentum heading into the business end of the campaign.
David Alaba’s absence could mean that they might lose some of their solidity at the back and concede the odd goal. But Karim Benzema & co. should fire in the final third to clinch a win for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.