The last time we played Rayo Vallecano was January 29, 2020 in the Copa Del Rey and the goals were had by Fer Nino and Santi Cazorla. A lot has changed for these two clubs since then and the club that were a lower division foe back then are now in the European spots we covet in La Liga. They are eleven points ahead of us, though we do have a game in hand, and we are at the point that if we ever want to think about making up that kind of gap a win streak is in order.
On the whole season, Rayo’s place in the table is a little fluky from an expected goals perspective as they average -0.2xG difference per 90. That’s tenth best in La Liga, and though only one spot below Villarreal it’s a significant gap. However, if you take away just their first two matches (against Sevilla and Real Sociedad) then they jump up to +.24 per 90 which is better than both us and Valencia. They’ve truly been pretty good.
We, fortunately, don’t have to face Radamel Falcao in this one, but Alvaro has five goals this campaign and Oscar has 7 assists so there’s still plenty of danger to be found out there.
Against Atalanta, Unai Emery gave a template for his thos roster should be used. Gero Rulli was knocking the ball long at every opportunity, the team played on the counter attack, and Danjuma and Gerard formed an absolutely lethal pairing up top. If he will stick with that style of play we can cut through most of La Liga like a hot knife through butter. That said, Unai has heavily rotated for this one:
Very few of this lot started against Atalanta, but other than Mandi I have a lot of confidence in most of the players out here. What most deeply concerns me is having Parejo, Iborra, and Trigueros all on the pitch together, because that midfield has shown itself to be unbelievably slow. If we go back to dinking it around six yards at a time we are going to be in for yet another frustrating afternoon.
At this point, I have no idea what Samu Chukwueze needs to do to get a start but his pace and ideas will be badly needed in this one.
While many of the individual parts give me confidence, the lineup as a whole does not. 1-1 draw.