Attacking abundance for Madrid at Rayo despite Bellingham blow

Attacking abundance for Madrid at Rayo despite Bellingham blow

© AFP 2022
February 16, 2024 at 1:50 AM
Brahim Diaz (R) scored a vital goal for Madrid at RB Leipzig after filling the boots of the injured Jude Bellingham
Brahim Diaz (R) scored a vital goal for Madrid at RB Leipzig after filling the boots of the injured Jude Bellingham. Photo: Odd ANDERSEN / AFP
Source: AFP

Real Madrid are without top scorer Jude Bellingham for the visit to face Rayo Vallecano in La Liga on Sunday, but Carlo Ancelotti has plenty of options.

Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo have found top form after early season struggles, while Brahim Diaz and Joselu have established themselves as superb back up.

La Liga leaders Madrid pumped second-place Girona 4-0 last weekend to take a five point lead at the top of the table.

Bellingham netted a brace but was then taken off with an ankle injury that could keep him out for three weeks.

Madrid's defence has been badly depleted by injuries this season but in attack the coach has a host of other options.

Diaz has needed deep reserves of patience, spending three seasons on loan at AC Milan, but has finally proven he can be a weapon for Ancelotti ahead of the derby clash at Rayo's Vallecas stadium.

The Spanish playmaker, 24, is set to start against Rayo Vallecano if he recovers from a knock sustained after scoring a brilliant goal against RB Leipzig in midweek.

Diaz's strike earned Madrid a 1-0 Champions League last 16 first leg win on the road and was further proof he can become a vital component for Los Blancos.

The former Manchester City midfielder stepped in for the injured Bellingham and offers skill and mobility in attacking areas to unpick defences.

"I saw him come back (from loan) more powerful, stronger, with more character," said Ancelotti on Tuesday.

"He had confidence in himself, he scored a spectacular goal, he brought a lot and he worked hard... when he started the move (before scoring), I shouted at him not to lose the ball, and he didn't lose it."

Joselu has also earned high praise from the coach.

Although his arrival on loan from second division Espanyol raised eyebrows, the 33-year-old target man has been an important source of goals with 12 in all competitions.

"He's doing everything he needs to stay at Real Madrid," noted Ancelotti earlier in February.

"He's been spectacular, it's a blessing to have someone with this quality ... he's a serious and very humble person who we love."

Vitally for Madrid their dynamic Brazilian duo Vinicius and Rodrygo are finding their top form in the business end of the season.

Vinicius shone against Girona and gave Yan Couto such a torrid afternoon he ended the match in tears.

"When he plays like this and with this attitude, he's the best in the world, in my personal opinion," said the Italian.

Despite a slow start to the campaign, beset by various injury issues, Vinicius has 12 goals across all competitions and is on course to at least match his best tally of 23, last season.

While Madrid will miss Bellingham, clearly Rayo Vallecano are not off the hook.

They are 14th and sacked coach Francisco Rodriguez after seven months at the helm earlier this week, on a five match winless run.

Inigo Perez replaced him and the coach's first job is to find a way to stop Madrid's attacking force -- Ancelotti's side have now scored 52 goals, level with Girona as the division's top scorers.

Player to watch: Borja Mayoral (Getafe)

Getafe striker Mayoral has the chance to catch up with injured Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham at the top of Spain's scoring charts. Mayoral, formerly a Los Blancos player himself, has 15 goals and trails Bellingham by one ahead of his side's visit to face an inconsistent Villarreal outfit on Friday.

Key stats

13 - Cadiz winger Ivan Alejo has the most bookings in the top flight

95.8 - Barcelona defender Andreas Christensen leads the league on pass completion percentage

139 - Alaves winger Luis Rioja has crossed more than any other La Liga player

Fixtures

Friday

Villarreal v Getafe (2000)

Saturday

Atletico Madrid v Las Palmas (1300), Osasuna v Cadiz (1515), Celta Vigo v Barcelona (1730), Valencia v Sevilla (2000)

Sunday

Rayo Vallecano v Real Madrid (1300), Granada v Almeria (1515), Real Mallorca v Real Sociedad (1730), Real Betis v Alaves (2000)

Monday

Athletic Bilbao v Girona (2000)

Authors
© AFP 2022 photo
© AFP 2022