After an impressive 3-0 midweek win against Villarreal, Real Madrid take to Vallecas without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo in hopes of securing all three points in this final stretch of the season. Zidane’s men currently sit one point behind co-leaders FC Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid with only four remaining matches.
Goals from Benzema, Vázquez, and Modrić against the fourth-placed Villarreal ensured that Los Blancos’ title hopes remain alive. Still, what was supposed to merit celebration resulted in cause for worry as Real Madrid’s talisman CR7 limped off the pitch late in the game with an apparent injury in his right thigh. While the Portuguese attempted to downplay concerns, an official medical report confirmed a muscle strain in his right thigh. "He’s had an ultrasound and an MRI scan. It’s nothing serious, but he’s got a strain and he can’t play tomorrow. We'll monitor it in the coming days," Zidane said.
At this point, Ronaldo looks certain to return for the crucial Champions League showdown against Manchester City at the Etihad, but must nevertheless be wary of worsening his injury as Real Madrid battle for silverware in these last few weeks. On a more positive note, Gareth Bale’s return from injury will surely be a sigh of relief for the Bernabéu hierarchy, as the Welshman has continuously been sidelined for lengthy spells throughout his tenure at the club. Casemiro meanwhile, who has proven to be a pivotal part of Zidane’s team, will be unavailable due to suspension after picking up a booking against Villarreal.
FC Barcelona’s emphatic return to winning ways against Deportivo de La Coruña midweek does indeed mean that the Catalan giants are back to business, but Luka Modrić has nonetheless urged his teammates to continue their superb run of form. "We have to continue putting pressure on the other teams," said the midfielder. "We have to do our thing and see if anyone above us slips up. We must focus on what we have to do – we are playing well."
A run of 10 wins in their past 11 matches means that Real Madrid are unsurprisingly favoured to edge their city rivals this weekend. Additionally, the Whites have won each of their last fifteen league games against Rayo, which marks their best run in the competition against any team. Taking into account that Real Madrid boasts the most powerful attack in the league with 101 goals to its name and Rayo the worst defense in the league, having conceded 66 goals, a high-scoring game is surely on the cards for Los Blancos.
Paco Jémez’s last trip to the Bernabéu saw him witness his side concede ten goals, albeit having played with nine men for nearly an hour. This time, however, the Rayo coach hopes that the relegation battle will motivate his men to upset the Liga giants. "Against Madrid, we have to make the perfect match," he said.
Zidane must thus be cautious, knowing that Villarreal slipped up at the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas in what resulted in a 2-1 home win. Moreover, Rayo have only lost on six out of 17 occasions at home, and coupled with Zidane’s shaky away performances, Madrid must go out and play with the utmost intensity and focus from the first minute if they are to record another victory.
Still, expect Madrid’s superior attacking prowess to feast on the Vallecans’ defensive helplessness and hand Zidane all three points.
Rayo Vallecano possible lineup: Juan Carlos, Quini, Amaya, Llorente, Tito, Hernández, Baena, Trashorras, Embarba, Miku, Guerra
Real Madrid possible lineup: Keylor Navas, Danilo, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Isco, Modrić, Vázquez, Benzema, Jesé
Managing Madrid staff predictions:
- Om – Rayo Vallecano 2 – 3 Real Madrid
- Andrejs – Rayo Vallecano 0 – 2 Real Madrid
- Lucas – Rayo Vallecano 0 – 2 Real Madrid
- Jared – Rayo Vallecano 0 – 3 Real Madrid
- Kevin – Rayo Vallecano 0 – 2 Real Madrid
- Mike – Rayo Vallecano 1 – 4 Real Madrid
- Kiyan – Rayo Vallecano 2 – 3 Real Madrid
- Timm – Rayo Vallecano 0 – 4 Real Madrid
- Nate – Rayo Vallecano 1 – 3 Real Madrid
- Orlando – Rayo Vallecano 0 – 2 Real Madrid