La Liga 26-27/02/2022: Real Madrid on road against Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona entertain Athletic Bilbao
There was a glut of goals in the last round of La Liga fixtures, with Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona both cruising to heavy wins. In this preview, we will look ahead to two intriguing fixtures this weekend – Rayo Vallecano v Real Madrid on Saturday, followed by Barcelona v Bilbao the next day. We will also pick out some tasty tips for you to explore.
Real Madrid back on song after comfortable win over Alaves
After a perhaps disappointing week in which they endured a goalless draw against Villarreal in Spain’s top-flight, followed by a 1-0 Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain, Real needed to get back to winning ways. Carlo Ancelotti’s men put on a show against Alaves over the weekend. Well, they put the game to bed in the second half anyway.
Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior, and Karim Benzema – who returned from injury – all got in on the act, to leave Los Blancos six points clear at the top of the table. The Champions League has always been the holy grail for Real, but the bare minimum this season will be to wrest the title from Atletico Madrid, which they are on track to do.
Carlo Ancelotti reveals how Real Madrid ‘needed’ that win against Alaves
For a side that has been so impressive in La Liga this season, it seems strange to think that Real ‘needed’ to beat Alaves. But that was the honest assessment of Ancelotti. When asked for his thoughts after the game, he said: “We were in need of a game like that. We found it tougher going in the first half.”
Rayo Vallecano need to arrest losing streak
With Rayo Vallecano hovering in mid-table, they will want to have a strong end to the season. However, they have lost their past four matches in all competitions, and they haven’t tasted victory in La Liga since December. Currently, they are 11th in the table, but a top-half finish is still eminently possible.
Rayo Vallecano v Real Madrid: A look back on past fixtures
As you might expect, Real Madrid have found wins easy to come by against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga. However, the last time the two sides met at Vallecano’s ground, Vallecano won 1-0. An Adri Embarba penalty gave Vallecano all three points, and they will be hoping to spring an upset.
Barcelona continue to make fine progress under Xavi
Barcelona have continued to improve under Xavi, and their emphatic 4-1 victory over Valencia last weekend further underlined this. Barca had too much for Los Che, as they tore their opponents apart with consummate ease. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who joined the Catalan giants from Arsenal during the January transfer window, scored a hat-trick on his full debut.
Frenkie De Jong was also on target, as Barcelona were out of sight by the interval. Although Carlos Soler pulled one back for the hosts, it proved to be too little, too late. Barca are now in the top four, and they are just four points behind third-placed Real Betis, with the luxury of a game in hand.
Meanwhile, Bilbao will be hoping to secure European football for next season. Bilbao are just two points adrift of Villarreal, and they are currently eighth in the table. And Bilbao will be full of confidence after keeping a clean sheet during their 4-0 thrashing of Real Sociedad last weekend.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could give Athletic Bilbao a rough ride
Aubameyang quite literally got off to a bang on his full Barcelona debut. If we see the sort of player that was prolific while at Borussia Dortmund, rather than the one that faded away in the past year at the Gunners, then Barca could potentially be challengers for the La Liga title next season.
The Gabon international looked hungry and sharp against Valencia last weekend, and Bilbao could be in for a rough afternoon. Under Xavi, Barca appear to have found themselves, and the markets seem to point to a Barcelona win. As the saying goes, winning breeds confidence, and Barca need to continue to make strides forward.