Yet the Madrid-based side are on a high at the moment having recorded three wins in a row, and would move level on points with fourth-placed Malaga with another win.
Such notions will of course be far from the mind of Rayo boss Paco Jemez, with his team primarilly targeting survival, an aim which was achieved only in the last minute of last season's final Liga match.
However, they have given themselves an excellent chance of avoiding such a nail-biting end to this campaign and Paddy Power price them at 3/1 (4.00) to claim a victory in Bilbao.
Athletic's downward trajectory meanwhile shows no signs of abating, with the Basques losing both their last game of 2012 and their opening match of the current year.
But if they are to get themselves out of this rut, this is exactly the kind of fixture they must win and they can be backed at 5/6 (1.83) with the draw offered at 5/2 (3.50).
Athletic's high tempo attacking style which won so may plaudits on their dazzling Europa League run last season has been noticeably lacking so far, with the most obvious by-product of this diminished intensity being a lack of goals scored.
Indeed the Basques have failed to score more than once in any of their last seven league matches, and whereas last season their games were almost always bankers to go over 2.5 goals, the price of 4/5 (1.80) for three or more to be scored does not overly appeal anymore.
Instead back against both teams scoring at 11/10 (2.10) which looks like a much more attractive option.
This bet has paid out in five of Atheltic's last eight matches, and in seven of Rayo's last eight games in all competitions.
For a value bet trying backing 0-1 goals to be scored in the game available at 5/2 (3.50).
|Both teams not to score at 11/10 (2.10) with Paddy Power
||0-1 goals in the game at 5/2 (3.75) with Paddy Power|
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Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on TV in Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.