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Dec 5, 2021 at 1pm UK
Rayo VallecanoRayo Vallecano
Cabrera (54' og.)
Trejo (40'), Nteka (90'), Valentin (90+2')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Puado (9'), Vidal (69'), Cabrera (90+1')
Merida (90+4')

Preview: Rayo Vallecano vs. Espanyol - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Rayo Vallecano vs. Espanyol - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's La Liga clash between Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Two newly-promoted sides enjoying life back in the top flight will lock horns on Sunday afternoon as Rayo Vallecano host Espanyol.

Both teams head into this La Liga contest after scraping past fifth division outfits to progress into the second round of the Copa del Rey in midweek.

Match preview

Just under halfway through the 2021-22 La Liga campaign, Rayo Vallecano are surprisingly sitting in the European places with 24 points from their 15 league matches, an impressive feat for a side who were promoted to the top flight last season.

Their most recent point was claimed away against Valencia last weekend, when Isi Palazon's 64th-minute strike cancelled out Carlos Soler's first-half opener from the penalty spot to secure a 1-1 draw.

Since then, Los Franjirrojos managed to avoid a major upset in the Copa del Rey on Thursday night, as they scraped into the second round with a 4-3 victory on penalties against fifth tier outfit Guijuelo, following a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes.

Andoni Iraola understandably rested a number of first-team players in midweek but was forced to rely on a few of his stars to get them over the line. A much stronger squad will now return to action this weekend to ensure that their La Liga form continues.

Vallecano head into Sunday's clash with a poor top-flight record against Espanyol, winning only two of their last 19 matches. They have, however, avoided defeat in each of their last seven La Liga home games this season so they can be confident of securing a positive result this weekend.

Like Rayo Vallecano, Espanyol have also adapted well to life back in the Spanish top flight, after accumulating 20 points from their 15 matches and currently sit ninth in the table, much closer to the top six than the relegation zone.

After suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat to Catalan rivals Barcelona at Camp Nou, the Periquitos bounced back with an impressive 1-0 victory at home against high-flying Real Sociedad last weekend, thanks to a 77th-minute strike from Yangel Herrera.

Espanyol were back in action again just three days later, this time in the Copa del Rey where a much-changed lineup were tested against fifth division outfit Solares. However, Vicente Moreno's men did enough to advance into the second round as a Loren Moron hat-trick helped the visitors win 3-2 on Wednesday.

The Periquitos now turn their attention back to La Liga with an intriguing encounter against Rayo Vallecano, who they lost against in both Segunda Division fixtures last season.

Espanyol are also one of four top-flight teams who are yet to win away from home this season, losing four and drawing three. They have, however, won four of their last seven La Liga away games against Los Franjirrojos, which will give them some confidence of success this weekend.

Rayo Vallecano La Liga form:
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D

Rayo Vallecano form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W

Espanyol La Liga form:
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W

Espanyol form (all competitions):
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W

Team News

Rayo Vallecano forward Martin Merquelanz continues to recover from a knee injury, while Radamel Falcao, Pathe Ciss and Randy Nteka are all doubtful with knocks.

Santiago Comesana is suspended following an accumulation of yellow cards, so Oscar Valentin is set to start in centre-midfield alongside Unai Lopez.

Attackers Palazon, Oscar Trejo and Sergi Guardiola are all expected to return to the starting lineup, after being rotated in midweek.

As for Espanyol, Oscar Gil remains out with a muscle problem, while Landry Dimata and David Lopez will be assessed ahead of kickoff to see if they will be fit to feature.

Moreno is unlikely to make too many changes, if any, to his starting lineup that beat Real Sociedad, so the likes of Adrian Embarba, Javier Puado and Raul de Tomas are all expected to keep their places in attack.

Keidi Bare played for just under an hour on his return to full fitness last weekend and will be hoping to start once again in centre-midfield alongside Herrera.

Rayo Vallecano possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; Balliu, Saveljich, Catena, F. Garcia; Lopez, Valentin; Palazon, Trejo, A. Garcia; Guardiola

Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Vidal, Gomez, Cabrera, Pedrosa; Bare, Herrera; Embarba, Darder, Puado; De Tomas

We say: Rayo Vallecano 2-2 Espanyol

Both Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol are expected to name their strongest possible sides for Sunday's encounter and the two teams will fancy their chances of claiming all three points.

Espanyol did the double over Los Franjirrojos last season, however they may have to settle for just a point this weekend, a result that both sides would seemingly be content with.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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