MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid runs past Diego Costa of Rayo Vallecano during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid at Estadio Teresa Rivero on February 26, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Last season, Real Madrid was able to come away with a 0-1 win in Vallecas, one of the toughest teams for Mourinho's team. Rayo did not deserve the loss, but Cristiano Ronaldo's back heel goal allowed his team to get the three points.
Paco Jémez has taken over for Sandoval as head coach. The team's star of the 2011-2012 campaign was Michu, but the Asturian player completed his move to Swansea this past transfer window. Leo Baptistao, Lass Bangoura and former Valencia player Chori Domínguez are now their most reliable players. The team is currently sixth in the Liga table, but they haven't played well the past two games.
Sandoval's Rayo wasn't a very strong team defensively, but It's fairly easy to create good chances against them, and that should be a good thing for Real Madrid.
Rayo has been playing with a three-man defensive line and two offensive fullbacks. That should leave a very wide space on the wings to work around. Di María is locked in to start this game, as he's Real Madrid's most dangerous player on the wing.
Michu will definitely be missed in Vallecas. He's scored four goals in four games with Swansea, and Leo Baptistao or Delibasic can't compete with his goal-scoring skills. He was also very important for Sandoval on defense.
Nobody knows what to expect from this Rayo Vallecano team. Lass Bangoura is arguably the best talent there, and some powerful teams like Valencia wanted to sign him. But Jémez doesn't seem to like him very much. It's true that the African winger doesn't have a very tactical-oriented game, which is very important when you play as a winger in a 3-5-2 formation.
Trashorras will be the key man in Rayo's midfield. He's a very decent player who will try to prevent Özil or Modric from gaining possession. Brazilian player Baptistao is skillful while Delibasic is a typical striker. Both have two goals each.
Jémez said their plan wasn't going to change against Real Madrid. But Mourinho's team should be able to get most of the possession and force Rayo's players to work defensively, something they aren't used to doing this season. This 2012-2013 Rayo Vallecano should be easier to beat than the 2011-2012 team.