Against Rayo Vallecano On Sunday, Jose Mourinho will lead Real Madrid out for the 100th time in La Liga, although speculation continues to swirl about for just how many more he will be present. There is a widespread belief that the Champions League is the only thing still fuelling the club and Mourinho this season, as well as the relationship between the two.
The midweek 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United kept their chances firmly in the balance of progressing to the quarterfinals and keeping alive their hopes of a much sought after 10th European Cup this campaign.
Yet there still remains a league season to completed and, while any chance of retaining their title has long since disappeared, there is still plenty for Madrid to play for in the remaining 15 games. The first objective must surely be tryseeing the league as a distraction is Diego Lopez. The goalkeeper, recently arrived from Sevilla, was excellent against Manchester United and is relishing every moment in a Madrid shirt.
“Every minute that I play with Real Madrid is a gift from heaven for me,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “I think that all of us ing to avoid finishing below city rivals Atletico for the first time since 1996.
One man that certainly isn’t on the squad can’t think that a La Liga match wearing this crest is a bother. There are three points that we have to try to win and play a great match. We have to build up our confidence. We know that it’ll be a complicated match.”
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Madrid will be without suspended trio of Gonzalo Higuain, Luka Modric and Alvaro Arbeloa for the visit of their city rivals, while Xabi Alonso is out with a groin injury.
Rayo have the opportunity to complete a memorable back-to-back Madrid double having recorded a victory over Atletico last weekend. It has been a fine season for Paco Jemez’s side to date and they remain firmly in the shake up for European places in seventh spot, level on points with both Valencia and Real Sociedad above them.
Rayo are expected to be able to call upon key forward Leo Baptistao despite an ankle injury sustained in training this week. Jemez will be unable to influence proceedings during the game, however, as he begins a two-game touchline ban.
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Essien, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao
M: Khedira, Modric
Callejon, Kaka, Ronaldo
Rayo Vallecano (probable)
D; Arbilla, Galvez, Amat, Casado
M: Trashorras, Fuego
Lass, Dominguez, Piti
Prediction: Mourinho could well rotate his side after the emotionally and physically draining encounter with Manchester United. Pepe could be given the chance to build up further match fitness after his return from injury, while Kaka may get another run out having looked impressed in the 4-1 win over Sevilla last weekend.
Madrid’s form has been far stronger at home, as has Rayo’s and a win for Los Blancos looks on the cards.
Real Madrid 3-1 Rayo Vallecano
Where to watch: The Liga clash will kick-off at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.