MX23RW : Thursday, May 23 13:30:08| >> :600:13150842:13150842:
Dec 15, 2018 at 5.30pm UK at ​Estadio Santiago Bernabéu (Madrid)
Attendance: 55,229
Real Madrid
Rayo Vallecano
Benzema (13')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Rayo Vallecano - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Saturday's La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano.

Real Madrid will be looking for their ninth La Liga win of the 2018-19 campaign when they welcome Rayo Vallecano to the Bernabeu on Saturday night.

Los Blancos currently sit fourth in La Liga, five points off division leaders Barcelona. Rayo, meanwhile, have struggled this term and currently occupy 19th spot in the table.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid attacker Gareth Bale in action against Huesca on December 9, 2018.© Reuters

Madrid will be looking to bounce back from Wednesday's shock Champions League defeat to CSKA Moscow when they welcome Rayo to the Bernabeu this weekend.

Los Blancos were booed off the field by their own supporters on Wednesday night, with CSKA completing a Champions League group-stage double over the reigning European champions by recording a 3-0 win.

The result was their worst ever home defeat in European football, but Santiago Solari's side had already booked their spot in the next round as group winners, and they will be looking for their third straight La Liga win this weekend.

As it stands, the capital giants are fourth in La Liga, two points off second-placed Sevilla but five points from division leaders Barcelona. The clash with Rayo will be their final domestic match of 2018 as they prepare to head to the United Arab Emirates to compete in the Club World Cup once again.

When considering that Madrid have lost five of their 15 league matches this season, it is incredible that they are only five points off the lead at this stage. Los Blancos really should be out of the title race, but that is simply not the case.

Solari's side only just squeezed past Huesca in the league last weekend, but they have now won four of their last five in Spain's top flight, and a victory against Rayo would ensure that they would enter the winter break in Spain no more than eight points off Barcelona with a game in hand.

It has been a turbulent start to the 2018-19 campaign, but they have made the next round of both the Champions League and Copa del Rey and are in a better position in the table than their results would suggest.

Recent form: LWWLWW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWL

Rayo Vallecano

Jose Pozo celebrates after scoring for Rayo Vallecano against Barcelona on November 3, 2018© Reuters

Rayo spent five straight seasons in La Liga between 2011 and 2016 before dropping into the Segunda Division. They finished a disappointing 12th in the second tier at the end of the 2016-17 season, but secured a return to La Liga by winning the league last term.

The Madrid minnows have long been seen as the great entertainers, but it does appear that they are in for a difficult season. Indeed, a record of two wins, four draws and nine defeats from their first 15 matches of the 2018-19 campaign has left them down in 19th spot in the division.

Only Huesca have fewer La Liga points than Rayo at this stage, but the visitors to the Bernabeu this weekend are only four points off the safety of 17th position, and are far from a lost cause with a lot of football still to be played.

Rayo have only managed 15 goals in their 15 league matches this season, and have conceded 30, which is the joint-worst defensive record in the division alongside basement side Huesca.

The team's leading scorer this season is on-loan Real Madrid forward Raul de Thomas. The 24-year-old has four La Liga goals to his name this term but will not be eligible to face his parent club this weekend, which is a big blow.

Rayo did pick up a 1-0 win over Eibar at the end of last month, but will enter this match off the back of a 2-0 defeat at Real Betis last weekend. The clash with Real Madrid will be their penultimate game ahead of the winter break, finishing 2018 at home to Levante on December 23.

Rayo have actually lost each of their last 16 games with Real Madrid, and have been victorious in just one of their last 24 away La Liga matches, which will not fill their fans with confidence ahead of the clash at the Bernabeu.

Recent form: LLDLWL
Recent form (all competitions): DWLWLL

Team News

Gareth Bale has a sip on December 1, 2018© Reuters

Nacho and Casemiro remain on the sidelines for Real Madrid, but Toni Kroos made his comeback from a knee problem in the defeat to CSKA.

Kroos should return to the starting XI alongside Luka Modric and Dani Ceballos in a midfield position, while Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal will also return to the starting team this weekend.

Lucas Vazquez has arguably been Real's best attacker in recent weeks, and the Spaniard will make the side having not featured against CSKA.

Gareth Bale picked up an ankle problem during the second half of Wednesday's affair, but the Welshman should be fit to start alongside Karim Benzema in attack.

Isco, though, was booed off by the Real Madrid fans against CSKA, and the Spaniard is unlikely to feature.

As mentioned above, Rayo will be unable to call upon on-loan Real Madrid forward De Tomas this weekend. As a result, Alvaro Garcia and Adri Embarba could start in the final third of the field.

Gorka Elustondo and Gael Kakuta will again miss out with knee and hip problems respectively, but on-loan Stoke City midfielder Giannelli Imbula will start for the away side.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Ceballos, Kroos, Modric; Lucas, Benzema, Bale

Rayo Vallecano possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; Advincula, Galvez, Amat, Moreno; Trejo, Pozo, Imbula, Comesana; Embarba, Garcia

Head To Head

Rayo have lost each of their last 16 matches against Real Madrid, and incredibly suffered a 10-2 defeat when they last travelled to the Bernabeu in the league in December 2015.

Madrid have actually scored 20 times in their last three home games with Rayo and 28 in their last five home league fixtures with their neighbours, which is a stunning record.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Real Madrid 3-0 Rayo Vallecano

We are not expecting Real Madrid to put five or six past Rayo this weekend, but still believe that Solari's side will have far too much for their neighbours. Home win, 3-0.

Who will win Saturday's La Liga clash in Madrid?

Real Madrid
Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid
Rayo Vallecano
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Karim Benzema celebrates scoring during the Champions League group game between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen on October 23, 2018
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