Evening all! Sports Mole
's live Copa del Rey
coverage continues from the Vicente Calderon as Atletico Madrid
welcome Rayo Vallecano
for the second leg of their last-16 clash. Atletico will enter this match as the strong favourites to advance into the last eight, but the tie is currently delicately balanced following a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Rayo last week. Here's to a good game in Madrid!
Rayo's league form has left a lot to be desired in recent months, but they were impressive in the first leg last week and actually led 1-0 on the night after Nacho Martinez struck 10 minutes before the break. Atletico, as they often do, responded through Saul Niguez, however, to restore parity in the second half. That was how it ended at the Vallecas and this competition will provide a welcome distraction for Paco Jemez's Rayo as they bid to end their rotten run of form in the league.
In terms of the recent meetings between the two teams, Atletico have won three of the last five, while there have also been two draws. The last time that the pair met at this stadium was in January 2015, when Atletico run out 3-1 winners in the league. Rayo have also struggled for goals in the recent meetings – only netting two in their last four matches against their Madrid rivals.
Right, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news tonight. As expected, both managers have made changes from their lineups in the league at the weekend...
ATLETI: Moya; Gamez, Savic, Godin, Luis; Kranevitter, Koke, Thomas; Carrasco, Martinez, Correa
RAYO: Yoel; Quini, Llorente, Ze Castro, Nacho; Trashorras, Baena; Lass, Embarba, Montiel; Guerra
So there we have it. Atletico boss Diego Simeone has made a whole host of changes tonight, with Miguel Moya, Jesus Gamez, Stefan Savic and Thomas Partey among those coming into the team. Matias Kranevitter also returns, while Jackson Martinez starts through the middle in place of Luciano Vietto. Diego Godin, Felipe Luis and Koke, however, all keep their spots in the XI.
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As for the visitors, the surprise name in their team is 17-year-old Joni Montiel, who made his league debut in Rayo's 10-2 thumping at Real Madrid last month and is extremely highly-rated at the Vallecas. On-loan Real Madrid defender Diego Llorente will also start, while Javi Guerra, who has been in decent scoring form this season, leads the line, with Manucho and Bebe only on the bench.
So there we have it. The two teams are in and we are now little over 35 minutes from kickoff on this mild evening in the Spanish capital. Atletico are bidding to win their 11th Copa del Rey title this season and with Real Madrid dropping out of the competition, they will fancy their chances of challenging holders Barcelona for the crown once again. Atletico's last Copa success occurred in the 2012-13 season, when they beat rivals Real Madrid 2-1 in the final at the Bernabeu.
Atletico also reached the final in 2010, but on that occasion were beaten 2-0 by Sevilla. There is no question that Diego Simeone will see La Liga and the Champions League as more important than the Spanish Cup this season, but it is a major trophy and the Argentine has sent out a strong team for this match. Atletico are a long way off Barcelona in terms of Copa wins, however, with the Catalan side triumphing on 27 separate times in this prestigious competition.
It seems strange that victory tonight would take Atletico into the quarter-finals when considering that they have only played one tie to reach this stage. That particular two-legged affair came against Reus Deportiu and Atletico were 3-1 winners on aggregate, including a 1-0 win at the Vicente Calderon. Rayo, on the other hand, beat another capital side, Getafe, on away goals in the last round – winning 2-0 at home, before losing 3-1 on the road two weeks later.
Unsurprisingly, Rayo have never won the Copa del Rey, nor reached the final and this competition will not be seen as too important this season. While Atletico are flying high at the top of the La Liga table, Rayo currently sit 19th on just 15 points. The strugglers have only won four of their 19 league games this season and lost six of their last seven in the top flight.
At the weekend, Jemez's side were beaten 2-1 at fellow strugglers Levante and they were thumped 10-2 at Real Madrid in their last trip across the capital. In fact, Rayo have not won in any competition since recording a 2-0 victory over Getafe in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-32 clash. Their last win in the league was back at the start of November – a 2-1 success against Granada.
Rayo are facing a battle to remain in the league, but Atletico currently lead the division. Simeone's side have won 14 of their 19 league matches this season, with a total of 44 points leaving them top ahead of Barcelona. That said, the Catalan side do have a game in hand. Incredibly, Atletico have only scored 27 league goals this season, but they have conceded just eight, which is stunning.
The 2013-14 La Liga champions travelled to Celta Vigo at the weekend needing all three points to return to the summit and they were mightily impressive during their 2-0 success. Led by Diego Godin, they were sensational at the back, while Antoine Griezmann
shone in the final third. Make no mistake about it, this is a three-way battle for La Liga as we approach the final few months.
Atletico did lose 1-0 at Malaga on December 20, but they have not been beaten in this stadium since Benfica recorded a 2-1 winning the Champions League at the end of September. Since then, they have played nine times at the Calderon and won eight of them, drawing the other with Real Madrid. They might not have the attacking talent of the big two in Spain, but defensively, they are outstandingly good.
Earlier this afternoon, it was confirmed that Atletico, along with Real Madrid, had been hit with a transfer ban
after FIFA found irregularities in relation to the registration of players under the age of 18. Club president Enrique Cerezo, however, has revealed that the ban will be appealed
It is a big game for Jackson Martinez tonight. He has to start making a serious impression. At Porto, the Colombian netted 92 goals in 132 appearances, but he has managed just three goals for his Spanish club. Talk of a move away continues to grow, but he has a chance to impress here...
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PREDICTION! I am finding it difficult to look past Atletico tonight. Rayo impressed in the first leg, but Atletico just do not concede many goals and they have enough fire-power down the other end to secure a win. I am backing Atletico to win 2-0 on the night and progress 3-1 overall.
Just a reminder that the two teams are currently level at 1-1 from the first leg last week. It is always better when the tie is still alive ahead of the second leg. Barcelona were impressive as they won 2-0 at Espanyol last night, but they had all but progressed after a 4-1 win the week before!
KICKOFF! You sense that the first goal - if there indeed is one - will be vital here. For the neutral, an early Rayo goal would really light the fire. The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken, flags exchanged and it is the home team that get the first period underway in Madrid...
... far from a full house inside the stadium, but there is a decent atmosphere. Rayo have come out of the traps very quickly here and Embarba's pace threatens to cause problems inside the Atletico box, but the Spaniard cannot keep the ball in play after finding a route past Savic.
Rayo, despite their struggles, are a team that like to pass the ball and that has been apparent in the opening four minutes. Martinez has been lively for Atletico, meanwhile, with the Colombian making a couple of bright runs. The early indications are that we will have an open game tonight.
Rayo continue to pass and probe and Paco Jemez can be pleased with his team's start to this match. The capital side play nice football, but they concede far too many goals and Atletico will fancy their chances of notching a couple tonight. Still no real chances inside six minutes at the Calderon.
Half-chance for Atletico as Correa finds all sorts of space inside the Rayo box after collecting a deep free kick from Koke, but Correa's first touch is poor and the chance quickly evaporates.
Not an awful lot to report in terms of chances in the opening nine minutes, but Rayo are placing some nice stuff in the final third. The likes of Embarba, Montiel and Lass have been nice and bright, while Guerra is providing a strong presence in the final third. Nice balance to this Rayo XI tonight.
Luis breaks down the left for Atletico after the referee plays a good advantage, but his loss cross towards Martinez is blocked for a corner. The resulting set piece is met by Martinez, but Yoel is on hand to make the save. Not sure about the marking from Rayo's defence once again!
It is early in the match, but Martinez has been much better for Atletico thus far. The striker is causing problems with his movement and has also been dropping deep in a bid to create. This is much more like it from the experienced striker, who was sensational during his time at Porto.
SAVE! Just a reminder that away goals do count in the Copa del Rey and therefore if this match finishes 0-0, Atletico will advance courtesy of their 1-1 draw at Rayo last week. The visitors continue to cause problems and Moya is forced to get down to save a low strike from Embarba.
I must admit that this game is being played at a faster pace than I imagined it would. Rayo's willingness to commit players forward is making it a little bit uncomfortable for Atletico, but the home side are so strong at the back. No yellow cards thus far, but there have been some fierce challenges!
Neither side has created what you would consider to be an excellent chance in the opening 20 minutes, but there have been a couple of half-chances and both teams are moving the ball well in the final third. Rayo look extremely dangerous when the likes of Lass and Embarba pick up possession.
Carrasco shows super feet to dance away from a couple of challenges before attacking the space behind Rayo, but Embarba is the player covering and he makes a super tackle!
Lass continues to make the pitch big for Rayo, but the service into the pacey attacker has not been too impressive in the last few minutes. Both managers are on the touchline issuing instructions, but you sense that Jemez is the far happier with the opening 24 minutes here.
Martinez finds space in a wide position for Atletico, but his cross is far too strong for Carrasco, who had found space inside the box. Rayo have been a little sloppy at the back in the last couple of minutes, which will be a concern to Jemez, whose team are guilty of losing concentration!
We are still waiting for the first clear opportunity of this match at the Calderon, but it has been an entertaining contest, with both teams showing bits and pieces in the final third. Just a reminder that as it stands, it is advantage Atletico due to their away goal in the 1-1 draw last week.
Little under 15 minutes of the first period remaining and we are still goalless on the night. Embarba, who has been bright for Rayo, manages to work a yard of space outside the Atletico box, but his effort was always moving over the crossbar. Rayo are just about shading this at the moment.
SAVE! Super save from Yoel in the Rayo goal as the stopper tips a Thomas header over the crossbar. It was an excellent connection from Thomas, but Yoel was equal to it!
Well, that Thomas header is the closest that either side have come to scoring in the opening 35 minutes. It might be goalless, but there is a fascinating match taking place at the moment here.
BOOKING! Ze Castro (Rayo) is booked for a foul on Martinez.
Strong hold-up work from Martinez creates some danger for Rayo as the striker feeds the ball wide to Gamez, who delivers towards the near post, but Ze Castro is on hand to block. The resulting corner is met by Godin, but the visitors manage to scramble clear following some panic!
Good goalkeeping from Yoel as the Rayo stopper spots the danger of a through pass and comes out to clear ahead of Martinez. Atletico have upped their intensity in the last few minutes, but Rayo are still moving the ball well in the final third. We remain locked at 0-0 on the night in Madrid.
GOAL! Atletico 1-0 Rayo (Correa)
Oh my word what a goal! Atletico take the lead in the 40th minute as Correa cuts inside his full-back before hammering one into the top corner via the crossbar! Just unstoppable there!
Atletico really have their tails up now and Rayo will need to ride out this spell of pressure before the break. Rayo still need just one goal to level it up and they needed that anyway this evening.
Half-chance for the away side as Quini works a yard of space before attempting to find the bottom corner, but his effort was always wide of the post. Should have crossed it from there.
CHANCE! Stunning chance for Atletico to score a second as Correa beats the offside trap before squaring low to Martinez, but Quini comes from nowhere to make a stunning challenge! Very unselfish from Correa, but that is just how it is going for Martinez at the moment!
HALF-TIME: Atletico 1-0 Rayo
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Atletico leading 1-0 courtesy of a wonderful strike from Correa five minutes before the break. Rayo were impressive for the opening 30 minutes or so, but Atletico did take control as the half entered its latter stages and perhaps should be further ahead. As it stands, the home team lead the tie 2-1 overall here.
STATS! Possession-loving Rayo have had more of the ball here - 64% - but they have only managed one attempt on target. Atletico, meanwhile, have hit the target with three of their five attempts. Just the one yellow card to report and that came for Rayo's Quini after a foul on Martinez.
BENCH WATCH! Atletico have an embarrassment of riches on their bench tonight, with the likes of Griezmann, Gabi, Oliver Torres and Vietto all available. Rayo, meanwhile, have options in the shape of Manucho, Bebe, Hernandez and Jozabed. Plenty of attacking talent there!
Here we go then - both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second period. Can Rayo find the goal they need to level the tie? It is the visitors that resume the action here...
... no changes from either side at the interval, which is not much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both managers will look to make alterations if the score remains 1-0 for the next 20, 25 minutes here. Just a reminder that one goal for Rayo would completely level up the tie.
Koke delivers a dangerous free kick into the Rayo box, but Ze Castro does well to hold off Martinez and Yoel is out to claim. Atletico seem to have more purpose at the start of this second period and another for the home team would make it very difficult for Rayo to respond.
Koke once again has the chance to deliver from a dead-ball situation, but the cross is just too high for Savic, who had made his way forward from the back. The resulting corner is then delivered with real quality, but Yoel, who has been very positive tonight, punches clear of the box.
Llorente goes down for Rayo after launching into a challenge with Luis and this does not look good. The on-loan Real Madrid defender let out a huge scream and there is some concern...
... potentially a false alarm. Llorente is not comfortable, but he is up and walking now!
Some very nervy defending from Rayo as a cross from Thomas causes all sorts of problems inside the box, but the visitors manage to clear as Yoel takes charge. Panic set in there!
RAYO SUB! A change is indeed made as Llorente is replaced by Dorado.
Thomas delivers another dangerous cross towards Martinez as Rayo struggle to clear once again, but Yoel manages to palm clear. At 1-0, the visitors will always stand a chance of getting back into this tie, but another for Atletico and in truth, it would be curtains for Paco Jemez's side.
Still no movement on the Atletico bench, but Simeone does usually like to make changes around the 65-minute mark and it would not be a surprise to see some fresh legs. Martinez has been better for the home side tonight, but still some way short of the level he showed at Porto.
RAYO SUB! Manucho replaces Montiel for the home side.
Rayo will not sit back and accept a 1-0 defeat here - it is simply not their style under Paco Jemez. It is for that reason that I would be surprised if there were no more goals in this match. Space will be open for Atletico and they have plenty of pace in the final third of the field.
BOOKING! Luis (Atletico) is booked for diving inside the box!
Rayo have adopted a shoot-on-sight policy in the last few minutes, but Atletico continue to get bodies in the way and as expected, Godin is first in the queue to throw his frame at the ball. Still more than 25 minutes of normal time remaining here - plenty of football left to be played in Madrid.
RAYO SUB! Bebe replaces Lass for the away side.
Half-chance for Atletico as Martinez finds time and space outside the box, but his strike from distance is straight into the arms of Yoel, who has had a fine game between the sticks here.
Nacho fires high and wide of the crossbar for Rayo after meeting a bouncing ball.
ATLETICO SUB! Antoine Griezmann replaces the goalscorer Correa here.
A late challenge from Godin presents Rayo with the chance to threaten from a free kick and Bebe delivers a super cross towards Manucho, but Savic is on hand to head clear of the box.
Embarba fires wide of the Atletico post as Rayo continue to commit men forward.
ATLETICO SUB! Gabi is now introduced in place of Kranevitter.
Little over 15 minutes of this second leg remaining and Rayo need a goal if they are to take this tie into extra-time. Atletico are not exactly in control of the possession at the moment, with the visitors really forcing the issue. That said, Simeone's side are having some joy on the counter attack.
You still get the feeling that there is another goal in this match as both teams commit players in the final third. I would not be against seeing another 30 minutes of this game, that is for sure. It might only be 1-0, but it has been absorbing and Rayo deserve something for their troubles here.
SAVE! Martinez once again goes through on goal, but the Atletico striker cannot squeeze his effort past Yoel, who stands strong to make the save. Martinez denied once again!
GOAL! Atletico 2-0 Rayo (Griezmann)
Atletico have their second of the match as Griezmann converts from close range after a corner had caused all sorts of problems inside the Rayo box. A little untidy, but they all count!
SAVE! Yoel gets down to save from Thomas as Atletico break once again!
ATLETICO SUB! Martinez is replaced by Oliver Torres.
Rayo have a sense of urgency about themselves at the moment, but they need two goals in order to turn this tie around. It is difficult to see that occurring against this Atletico defence.
Not an awful lot to report in terms of chances in the last few moments, with Rayo pressing forward without really threatening to score. Atletico have been very professional tonight and they will be the team marching on to the quarter-finals. They are such an economical team.
Bebe and Manucho are doing their best to make something happen for Rayo, but Godin and Luis once again win their individual battles and more seconds drift away at the Calderon.
Three minutes of added time to be played here.
GOAL! Atletico 3-0 Rayo (Griezmann)
Atletico have their third of the night and Griezmann has his second as the Frenchman beats Yoel to the ball before poking it past the stopper and converting from close range!
FULL-TIME: Atletico 3-0 Rayo
So there we have it. Atletico win 3-0 on the night and book their spot in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 4-1 aggregate win over capital rivals Rayo Vallecano. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action from the Calderon. See you again soon!