Rayo Vallecano were worthy 3-0 winners against Celta Vigo last weekend, ending a run of eight matches without a win, their worst sequence since they were relegated in 2003. So, naturally, momentum is the buzzword around Vallecas right now, that victory over the Galicians coming on the back of a 2-2 draw at Valencia that deserved more.
But such is life in the heat of a Spanish relegation battle, Paco Jemez’s men head into this game back in the bottom three after Sporting Gijon’s surprise victory at the Mestalla yesterday, which was immediately followed by a last-gasp win for Las Palmas. The scheduling isn’t ideal. When a struggling team is handed the Monday night graveyard shift, events elsewhere have a tendency to compound the pressure.
However, we can rest assured Rayo will meet that pressure head on, approaching this game like every other: playing on the front foot, pressing high up the pitch and leaving themselves open to the counter. And that should be right up Depor’s street because they happen to be one of the most adept counter-attacking outfits in the division, sitting ninth in the table with a 51 per cent shot ratio despite seeing only 47 per cent of the ball.
Victor Sanchez’s men haven’t been at their best since the winter break but their success tends to go hand in hand with the scoring form of local lad Lucas Perez and the former Rayo striker was back among the goals in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Valencia, scoring the opening goal and having a second incorrectly chalked-off midway through the second half that would have put the Galicians out of sight.
It’s no coincidence that Rayo have lost 10 out of 11 matches against top-half opposition this term, conceding 34 goals in the process. They are the ultimate philosophy team, sticking to their principles in a kamikaze fashion no matter what the occasion and who the opposition. Deportivo were comfortable 3-1 winners in the reverse fixture last September - with Perez on the scoresheet - and there’s value in pursuing a similar outcome here.
Take the 3/1 available on Deportivo to win and both teams to score. Only twice in 11 matches have Rayo failed to find the net and there’s enough talent in their ranks force a breakthrough at some point. But when you play with such intensity and three of your best players are over 33, then 90-minute performances are hard to come by and Depor’s discipline should enable them to pick off their gung-ho visitors more than once.
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