In their quest for the La Liga title, Real Madrid were able to grasp a significant advantage on the points table after defeating Barcelona in a dramatic El Clasico affair.
The Merengues still have a long road ahead of them and will not be content to rest on their laurels just yet.
A formidable foe in the form of Rayo Vallecano presents itself this weekend, with Real Madrid aiming to reclaim top spot from Girona, who moved to the first position earlier today.
Meanwhile, Rayo Vallecano currently sit in eighth place in La Liga, and their coach, Francisco Rodriguez, via AS, gave his two cents on his side’s monumental clash against Real Madrid.
With the game being held at the iconic Santiago Bernabeu, Francisco claimed that the game being held in hostile territory has not disrupted their motivation.
“We are excited; it is always an extra motivation to go to the Bernabéu and we will compete to the maximum so that our fans feel proud of the team,” he claimed.
Jude Bellingham was not surprisingly the topic of discussion, having taken La Liga by storm and recently being named the winner of the Kopa Trophy.
The Englishman was the catalyst behind Real Madrid’s Clasico win, and thus, Francisco claimed the team would be extra wary about his presence.
“We all talk about him, not only does he have a goal, he appears in many spaces, he does an important job defensively… but we don’t forget the many other good ones out there,” he stated.
“Bellingham will have special attention, but we will also be aware of the others, who are the best players in the world.”
Speaking about Fran Garcia, who played more than 150 games for Rayo Vallecano before returning to Real Madrid this past summer, the opposition coach only had words of praise.
“He is a top player and he is there because he has to be. This is what the players who have been with him for many years tell me. If he is there it is for a reason. I wish him the best, but not tomorrow,” Francisco said.
“He has given so much to Rayo, that we are all grateful to him. He is a top player to be where he is.”
Grit and determination are seen as the primary ingredients by Francisco, who claimed the best way to hurt Madrid is to “Know how to take advantage of moments. We have to avoid losses and be competitive in duels in addition to our offensive weapons to harm them.”
The Rayo coach has never beaten Real Madrid, despite drawing once with Los Blancos once while in charge of Elche. Addressing the topic he said:
“We have a different profile, different situations… I’m looking forward to being able to experience winning. We are going with that ambition to get a positive result.”
Lastly, he made sure to acknowledge the strengths of the heavyweight he faces shortly, stating Madrid’s greatest danger is that:
“Madrid can hurt you in any situation, even in strategy. It is a very complete team, that is why it is where it is. Aware of what they can do, at the Bernabéu with its people it forces you quite a bit.”
Official: Real Madrid starting lineup against Napoli | UCL GW 5
Real Madrid are back in the Champions League following their impressive win against Cadiz on the weekend as they host Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu for gameweek five.
They have already secured qualification to the round of 16, and even a point today would secure first place in the group.
With several players still injured, Carlo Ancelotti has opted for his best available starting lineup, with Daniel Carvajal taking responsibility of the captain’s armband at right-back. He will be aided by Ferland Mendy, who starts on the other side.
Meanwhile, in between them, David Alaba returns to the fold as the starting centre-back, partnering Antonio Rudiger. This duo has the responsibility of screening Andriy Lunin, who continues in goal in Kepa and Thibaut Courtois’ absence.
With both Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni out, Toni Kroos gets the chance to play as the holding midfielder for two games in a row. Federico Valverde retains his spot, as well, while Dani Ceballos comes in for the injured Luka Modric in central midfield.
Rodrygo will spearhead the team’s frontline as one of the two twin forwards, while Brahim Diaz gets the nod over Joselu. Jude Bellingham is the final, and arguably the most important piece of the puzzle, playing behind the front-two.
Confirmed Madrid XI: Lunin; Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, Mendy; Valverde, Kroos, Ceballos; Bellingham; Diaz, Rodrygo