Preview and Prediction La Liga: Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid Apr 8, 2015

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Having witnessed city rivals Atletico Madrid lift the La Liga trophy last season, Real Madrid are now facing up to the prospect of Barcelona celebrating this time around.

With four points between themselves and the league-leading Catalans, there is a belief that Carlo Ancelotti's men must win all nine of their remaining matches - starting with Wednesday's night derby away at Rayo Vallecano - if they are to finish on top.

There has been the odd winless run throughout the course of the season to date, but Paco Jemez has been rightly lauded for not only the results that his Rayo side have picked up, but also the style in which they've done it.

They may have been hammered 6-1 by Barcelona early last month, but then that can happen to much bigger sides than Rayo. Since that humbling in the Camp Nou, Jemez's men have won three matches on the bounce and also recorded a 4-2 win over Levante prior to that when Alberto Bueno scored all four goals.

It must be said, though, that their home form has been mixed. There have been six wins - the most impressive of which came against Champions League-hunting Villarreal, but that is accompanied by seven defeats.

However, the fact that four of those wins have been achieved since February onwards would suggest that they have started to turn the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas into somewhat of a fortress.

While reaching the European places looks to be highly unlikely, there is still something to play for from Rayo's point of view. They are currently in ninth, with their highest ever La Liga finish being eighth. Between themselves and seventh-placed Malaga there is a seven-point gap and although tough, it is a gap that could be bridged if they were to end the campaign strongly.

What is the best way to respond to your critics? Scoring nine goals will probably do it! Prior to Sunday's meeting with Granada, Madrid had won just one of their previous four La Liga outings - a run which included an El Clasico defeat and also a disappointing 1-1 draw at home with Villarreal.

The knives were out for Ancelotti, while the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Iker Casillas were all roundly criticised, both inside the Bernabeu and in the media. In fact, if reports are to be believed, there is little that Ancelotti can do now to save his job, with Zinedine Zidane said to be waiting in the wings.

Granada, though, were like lambs to the slaughter as a Ronaldo-inspired Madrid run riot, winning 9-1 with the Portuguese talisman scoring five times. It took his tally for the season in all competitions to 47 goals and also moved him on to the 300 mark in Los Blancos colours. Only Raul and Alfredo di Stefano have found the net on more occasions in the famous white shirt.

On Wednesday they will remain in Madrid, albeit in the surroundings of Rayo's Campo de Futbol de Vallecas, which has a capacity of just over 14,000.

While Ancelotti's men have recorded 10 victories on the road this term, there has also been five losses. What's more, three of those have been suffered in their last four outings away from the comforts of the Bernabeu. During that period, they've shipped seven goals and scored just three.

For the first time in two months, Ancelotti will have both Isco and James Rodriguez available for selection, although there is only likely to be space for one of them in his starting lineup.

Rodriguez had spent eight weeks on the sidelines with a broken foot until he returned against Granada - a game which midfielder Isco missed because of suspension. There have been suggestions in the Spanish capital that Isco will be given the nod to ensure that Rodriguez does not over burden himself so quickly after returning from injury.

Elsewhere, Dani Carvajal could earn a recall at right-back at the expense of Alvaro Arbeloa, but the game is likely to come too soon for the injured Pepe.

News of Pepe's likely absence will be a boost to Madrid's chances of keeping hold of Raphael Varane this summer as the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United. The French centre-back is known to be keen to gain more regular action from the start.

The visitors are bound to include Bueno up front. The striker, who has scored 16 goals this season and is believed to be on the verge of joining Porto, made three appearances for Madrid as a youngster.

He could well be joined in attack by former Manchester United striker Manucho, with Chelsea loanne Gael Kakuta also in contention.

Rayo Vallecano possible starting lineup:
Alvarez; Tito, Ze Castro, Ba, Insua; Baena, Jozabed, Embarba, Kakuta; Manucho, Bueno

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Casillas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Isco; Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema

Tag : La Liga
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