After a big midweek defeat, Los Blancos suddenly find the spotlight back on them as they head back into domestic action
Real Madrid host Rayo Vallecano in La Liga on Saturday as they aim to cut the gap to leaders Barcelona to two points before the Catalans tackle Levante on Sunday.
There is certainly a sense that Los Blancos owe their fans after they suffered a humiliating 3-0 loss to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday – the club’s worst ever European reverse at the Bernabeu.
Against a side who sit second from bottom in the Primera Division with just two wins to their credit, there will be trouble for Santi Solari and his men if they stumble once more.
|Game||Real Madrid vs Rayo Vallecano|
|Date||Saturday, December 15|
|Time||5:30pm GMT / 12:30pm ET|
|Stream (US)||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
In the United States (US), the game can be watched live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial) .
New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|beIN Sports||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
IIn the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be streamed via Eleven Sports 1.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|N/A||Eleven Sports 1|
|Position||Real Madrid squad|
|Goalkeepers||Navas, Casilla, Courtois|
|Defenders||Carvajal, Vallejo, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Odriozola|
|Midfielders||Kroos, Modric, Valverde, Llorente, Asensio, Isco, Ceballos|
|Forwards||Benzema, Lucas Vazquez, Vinicius Jr.|
Gareth Bale is missing for Real Madrid with a minor ankle injury so Lucas Vazquez starts alongside Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio.
Vinicius Jr makes the bench after getting the nod against CSKA Moscow in mid-week.
Solari has made six changes from that 3-0 defeat, bringing back Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos as well.
Real Madrid starting XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Llorente, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Vazquez.
|Position||Rayo Vallecano squad|
|Goalkeepers||Dimitrievski, Alberto Garcia|
|Defenders||Amat, Galvez, Velazquez, Ba, Leon, Dorado, Moreno, Akieme, Advincula, Tito|
|Midfielders||Imbula, Elustondo, Comesana, Medran, Pozo, Trejo|
|Forwards||Alvaro Garcia, Kakuta, Bebe, Embarba, Bangoura, De Tomas, Alegria, Guerra|
Rayo Vallecano head to the Bernabeu with a handful of significant selection problems, including a suspension for defender Jordi Amat and an injury for Gorka Elustondo.
Emiliano Velazquez has been brought into the defence, as has Tito, with the visitors expected to spend long spells without the ball at Santiago Bernabeu.
Raul de Tomas, one of the club’s star performers this season, is ineligible to play against his parent club, so Alvaro Garcia leads the line.
Rayo Vallecano starting XI: Dimitrievski; Advincula, Galvez, Velazquez, Tito, Moreno; Comesana; Embarba, Imbula, Medran; Alvaro.
Despite their midweek defeat, Real Madrid are still heavy 1/7 favourites with bet365. Rayo Vallecano are priced at 14/1, while a draw is 8/1.
Click here to see more offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more.
If Santi Solari was not aware of the pressures of being in the Real Madrid hot seat when he took on the job, he is now. Madrid might have closed out top spot in Champions League Group G, but their miserable midweek performance has sparked a sense of uncertainty in the camp.
Rumours that Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is being lined up for the job will not go away – and are even being encouraged by the Spurs manager – while Dani Carvajal hit out at the club’s younger players following the 3-0 loss in midweek.
Speaking to Movistar+, he said: “Three weeks ago there was talk that the homegrown players could play.
“But it turns out that they might not be worthy of the first team.”
Meanwhile, the crowd took their frustration out on Isco, who has not been favoured by Solari, by booing the Spain international star.
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Solari was philosophical over the situation, stating: “It is not a path of roses.”
With eight wins from 10 matches, the coach faces no immediate pressure, but it was a defeat against CSKA in Moscow that sparked the run that saw his predecessor Julen Lopetegui sacked and he and his side must work to ensure history does not repeat itself.
Certainly, it is not expected to against a Rayo Vallecano side who have beaten only Huesca and Leganes this season, and who crashed out of the Copa del Rey 10 days ago against Leganes.
Only Huesca lie below the side from the Madrid suburbs in the standings – but they pushed Madrid close in a 1-0 defeat last weekend.
More than ever, the Bernabeu side will have to be on the ball before the travel to the UAE to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup.