Three days after thrashing Granada in their first game after the Clásico, Los Blancos visit their neighbors from Vallecas to try to win and keep chasing FC Barcelona in the race for the league trophy. Although they suffered a lot, the culés managed to beat Celta de Vigo last Sunday and, therefore, they still keep a four-point advantage over Real Madrid, still with nine games to be played.
Now that Isco's ban is gone, this was the first game in which Ancelotti was supposed to face the dilemma of choosing between him and James to be in the lineup but, as he said in the pre-match press conference, it is Gareth Bale the one who might be left out, as he has some minor problem on his left foot.
Other than that, Real Madrid's lineup seems pretty clear, as Varane will take Pepe's spot and Carvajal will come back as well. Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos, James Rodríguez and Luka Modric will need to be careful with yellow cards, as they are only a book away from a one-game suspension that would make them miss the game against Eibar next Saturday.
Rayo Vallecano, coached by the ultra-offensive Paco Jémez, get to this game in the middle of a great streak, as they have won their last three games to reach the eighth position in La Liga. The vallecans will for sure try to control the ball and win the possession, but they will need to take big risks to do that, and our players should not have big problems to take advantage of that and punish them via counterattacks, like they did back in November in the Bernabéu. Gael Kakuta, Jozabed and, above all, former Real Madrid player Alberto Bueno, who has already scored sixteen goals this season, will be Rayo Vallecano's men to watch.
There is no room for a mistake if Real Madrid want to keep fighting to win La Liga. We should not expect Barcelona to lose any points tomorrow, as they receive a very undermined Almería that will have Sergi Barjuán on the bench for the first time, but their next games against Sevilla and Valencia could put them in trouble. Los Blancos will need to keep pushing and hope for the culés to fail, at least, twice.