Rayo Vallecano - Real Madrid Preview: League leaders aim to end hosts' three-game winning streak
Los Blancos look to extend their already-commanding advantage over Barcelona to 13 points when they return to La Liga action with a short trip across town to Vallecas
By Karthick Arvinth
Tito, Arribas, Pulido, Casado
Piti, Michu, Trashorras
Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo
Ozil, Kaka, Ronaldo
Rayo Vallecano are boosted by the return from suspension of key trio Michu, Jose Casado and Alejandro Arribas for the visit of Real Madrid on Sunday.
Captain Michel is unlikely to feature after pulling up in training with a hamstring problem, while defender Mikel Labaka is also a doubt with a muscle injury.
The game is also likely to come too soon for goalkeeper Dani Gimenez, who has returned to training after four weeks on the sidelines with a thigh injury. Atletico Madrid loanee Joel is expected to continue in goal in his place.
Real Madrid have been hit by the news that Angel Di Maria could be sidelined for up to four weeks after he aggravated a leg injury in last weekend's win over Racing Santander.
In-form striker Karim Benzema will also miss the weekend clash due to a groin injury sustained in the 1-1 Champions League draw at CSKA Moscow, while Lassana Diarra is a doubt as he struggles to shake off a back problem.
Coach Jose Mourinho could opt to rotate his squad for the trip to Vallecas after a tiring midweek game in the bitter cold of the Russian capital. Defender Alvaro Arbeloa is available again after serving a one-match suspension and may feature.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Rayo Vallecano are on a three-game winning streak that has seen them climb to eighth in the Primera Division standings.
- Los Franjirrojos have lost six of their last 10 league fixtures played at Vallecas.
- Rayo midfielder Michu (pictured) scored against Real after just 17 seconds in the reverse fixture in September - the fastest-ever goal scored at the Bernabeu by a visiting team.
- Real Madrid have won eight of their last nine meetings with Rayo Vallecano.
- The Castilian club's last defeat at Vallecas came way back in 1997, when Lorenzo Sanz was club president and Fabio Capello was in his first coaching spell at the Bernabeu.
- If Cristiano Ronaldo scores a hat-trick, he will become the first player in 18 years to score two hat-tricks against the same opponent in a single La Liga season.
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Top 3 Predictions
Rayo Vallecano 0-4 Real Madrid CF
- 15.77 %
Rayo Vallecano 0-5 Real Madrid CF
- 13.22 %
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Real Madrid CF
- 10.94 %
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Nov 2, 2013||Rayo Vallecano 2 - Real Madrid CF 3|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Feb 17, 2013||Real Madrid CF 2 - Rayo Vallecano 0|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Sep 24, 2012||Rayo Vallecano 0 - Real Madrid CF 2|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Feb 26, 2012||Rayo Vallecano 0 - Real Madrid CF 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Sep 24, 2011||Real Madrid CF 6 - Rayo Vallecano 2|
|Dec 19, 2013||Rayo Vallecano 3 - Valladolid 1||ESPC|
|Dec 14, 2013||Rayo Vallecano 0 - Granada 2||LIGA|
|Dec 6, 2013||Valladolid 0 - Rayo Vallecano 0||ESPC|
|Dec 1, 2013||Betis 2 - Rayo Vallecano 2||LIGA|
|Nov 24, 2013||Rayo Vallecano 1 - Espanyol 4||LIGA|
The Oviedo-born midfielder is Rayo's top scorer this season with 13 strikes and notched both goals in the club's 6-2 defeat at the hands of Real earlier in the season. The former Celta Vigo man can realistically hold out hope for a move to a bigger club if he can keep up his good form until the end of the campaign.
The Argentine striker looks set to make a rare start after playing second fiddle to Benzema for most of the season. The 24-year-old, who has been linked by the British press with a summer move to Manchester City, has a respectable goal tally of 17 in 33 appearances, and Benzema's injury gives him an opportunity to reclaim his status as Real's first-choice forward.
The trip to Rayo represents a potential banana skin for the league leaders, who are coming into this derby after a draining midweek game in Moscow. However, the gulf in class between the two teams is vast, and, barring a dramatic reversal of the hosts' woeful home form, Real should run out comfortable winners and go 13 points clear at the top of the table.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed