Real Madrid will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways after consecutive defeats against Manchester City and Valencia, when they take on Rayo Vallecano at the Santiago Bernabeu later tonight.
Having lost the La Liga title to arch-rivals Barcelona, the Merengues are also facing the risk of missing out on the runners-up spot as they are currently third in the table behind neighbours Atletico Madrid.
So, it is imperative that Carlo Ancelotti & co. pull up their socks in the remaining three league games and make sure there are no slip-ups while hoping that the Rojiblancos drop points.
Building up to the game, the headlines have been dominated by the racist attacks against Real Madrid winger Vinicius Jr that took place during the Valencia clash at the Mestalla last weekend.
Los Che have been hit with a partial stadium closure and fine while Vinicius, who had received a red card in the game, has seen it get rescinded due to VAR bias. In spite of that, the 22-year-old is a doubt for the game tonight as he is dealing with a minor knee issue.
Ancelotti has a nearly full squad at his disposal, with Mariano Diaz the only other player unavailable for selection and here we take a look at how the Real Madrid manager could set his team up against Rayo Vallecano.
No changes are expected in goal, with Thibaut Courtois expected to continue between the sticks once again as he looks for a clean sheet after conceding five goals in the last two matches.
Dani Carvajal should return at right-back ahead of Lucas Vazquez who got a rare start against Valencia over the weekend while Ferland Mendy is likely to continue on the left side of the defence yet again.
At the heart of the defence, Eder Militao should hold on to his spot but there will be a change of partners for the Brazilian, with David Alaba coming in to replace Antonio Rudiger in the starting XI.
Moving into the middle of the park, wholesale changes are expected from Real Madrid. Eduardo Camavinga should start as the No. 6 on the night against Rayo Vallecano, replacing his compatriot Aurelien Tchouameni.
Meanwhile, the veteran duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric should return to the starting lineup after making appearances from the bench during the weekend clash against Valencia.
Even though Vinicius Jr is no longer suspended, the knee issue could keep him out of the match tonight. In his place, Marco Asensio should start for the Merengues, with the Spaniard slotting in on the right flank.
It should see Rodrygo Goes move out to the left flank against Rayo Vallecano, while Karim Benzema occupies the No. 9 role as always.
Real Madrid Predicted XI: Courtois, Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy, Modric, Camavinga, Kroos, Asensio, Benzema, Rodrygo.
Dani Ceballos is a player who is certain to come on at some stage in the second half to relieve one of Luka Modric or Toni Kroos. Given that Ferland Mendy has only returned from injury, he might be given a breather late on as well, with Nacho taking over from him.
Young Alvaro Rodriguez has been named in the matchday squad for the game and could get a few minutes. There may be some action on the field in store of Eden Hazard as well, especially if Vinicius Jr is not fit enough to play any part.
Brahim, Modric start in a 4-4-2: How Real Madrid could line up against Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid have an excellent opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the La Liga table to eight points when they travel to Estadio de Vallecas to take on Rayo Vallecano on Sunday afternoon.
Real Madrid are currently five points clear of second-placed Girona and with the Catalans not playing until Monday night, Los Blancos have a chance to stretch their advantage with a win tomorrow.
Momentum is also on the side of Carlo Ancelotti’s men after they picked up two crucial victories against Girona (La Liga) and RB Leipzig (UEFA Champions League) over the past week.
But, Rayo Vallecano, who have a new manager in place in Inigo Perez, had managed to hold Real Madrid to a goalless draw in the reverse fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu. So, the game will not be straightforward on Sunday.
Here’s how Real Madrid could line up at the Vallecas as they look to take another step towards winning the La Liga title.
Andriy Lunin has firmly established himself as the preferred choice in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga. As such, the Ukrainian should again start for Real Madrid against Rayo Vallecano.
There will be one change in the defensive line that took the field against Leipzig in midweek as Fran Garcia will step into the team at left-back with Ferland Mendy out of the squad due to suspension.
Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba, and Eder Militao are still injured, which means Aurelien Tchouameni will once again have to fill in at centre-back where he will partner captain Nacho Fernandez. Meanwhile, Dani Carvajal should continue on the right side of the defence.
Tchouameni starting in defence means one can expect Eduardo Camavinga to occupy the pivot position in the middle of the park for Real Madrid.
However, there could be a notable change in midfield, with Luka Modric getting a rare start after a period of inactivity, with Toni Kroos getting a breather. Federico Valverde will occupy the other interior midfield position for the visitors.
Brahim Diaz came off with a fitness issue against RB Leipzig in midweek, but is not injured and has been named in the squad list. Given his form, the Spaniard should again start in the hole behind the two forwards in the absence of Jude Bellingham, who is injured.
Up top, there is no looking past the Brazilian dynamic duo of Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Jr, both of whom will be raring to get on the scoresheet after not scoring against Leipzig.
Joselu is certain to come onto the pitch at some point in the game to provide a different kind of threat in the attacking third. Toni Kroos should also come off the bench, especially if things are not going Real Madrid’s way.
There could also be minutes for Arda Guler, who has not seen as much action as one would have expected since returning from injury. Dani Ceballos is also an option for Ancelotti if he wishes to relieve one of his midfielders.