Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano Santiago Bernabeu at 15:00 live on Sky Sports 2

Real Madrid wasted an excellent chance to move to within two points of top spot in La Liga last weekend when losing 1-0 at Villarreal. Under-pressure boss Rafael Benitez insists all is not lost in the title race but the significance of the defeat gave cross-city rivals Atletico and defending champions Barcelona a major boost.

It was Real’s third league loss of the season and leaves them third, five points adrift of Barca and Atleti. Benitez, who received a vote of confidence from president Florentino Perez last month, believes their fellow title contenders will also slip up at some stage but he’ll have been concerned by his side’s inept display.

Roberto Soldado’s ninth-minute goal proved enough to secure the Yellow Submarine’s victory on an evening when Benitez’s team disappointed in front of goal despite an improved showing in the second half.

Jonathan Dos Santos had already struck the post for Villarreal before Soldado gave them the lead when Luka Modric was dispossessed in midfield by Bruno Soriano, who in turn passed to Cedric Bakambu, whose square pass to Soldado was impressively finished.

The Yellow Submarine overwhelmed Madrid in their own half for the majority of the first period. It took until early in the second half for Real to truly threaten, with Karim Benzema missing a couple of chances while James Rodriguez came close late on.

There’s now no margin for error for Los Blancos although I am expecting them to roar back into action when they meet capital rivals Rayo Vallecano on Sunday at the Bernebeu.

In midweek, Rayo boss Paco Jemez said, “I bet my balls that we’ll play well at the Bernabéu on Sunday. On the day they were handing out brains, I ended up with a small one, but when they handed out balls, I got the biggest”, and to be fair, there’s plenty of truth in those quotes.

The visitors are one of the most romantic clubs in Spain and Paco exemplifies that. Hailing from the southern suburbs of Vallecas, the club represent the working-class surroundings. A strong left-wing identity, Rayo are a penniless team punching above their weight in La Liga.

Under Paco, Rayo fear no one and look to implement their attractive possession-based ideology in each fixture, often to great success. However, his rigid approach has its pitfalls. Los Franjirrojos, unwilling to remodel themselves to suit La Liga’s big-hitters, attempt to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona and Real Madrid and always end up on the wrong end of a battering.

It’s a brave but often a head-banging philosophy as Rayo’s clutch of free transfers and loans get blown away by the planet’s best. Since being handed the reigns at Vallecas, Jemez has overseen 13 league fixtures with La Liga’s big-two and on all bar two occasions the L-L double result has banked. The aggregate score of those 13 defeats has been 7-50 with 12/13 losses by at least a two-goal margin and seven by three goals or more.

Looking at Rayo’s seven away days at the Catalan giants and their Madrid neighbours, the minnows have lost 5-32 with their most recent four trips on the road resulting in defeats by at least three goals. It’s bleak. Naturally, the Real Madrid -2.75 stands out in the Asian Handicap market.

During the same period (since 2012/13) Los Blancos hold a remarkable W34-D2-L0 return from home fixtures against bottom-half clubs in La Liga. A huge 22/36 (61%) have been victories by three goals or more, making the current price a big value selection.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Real Madrid -2.75 at 1.88

Price correct at the time of writing.

By @MarkOHaire

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