Sunday, December 12
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Dec 12, 2021 at 1pm UK
Rayo VallecanoRayo Vallecano
Mandi (32'), Moreno (36' pen.)
Torres (23')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Catena (37'), Isi (38'), Garcia (61')

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

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

After advancing into the knockout stage of the Champions League earlier this week, Villarreal can end a three-game winless run in La Liga when they host Rayo Vallecano on Sunday from Estadio de la Ceramica.

The Europa League winners from a season ago sit 14th in the standings, four points ahead of the relegation zone, while the club from Vallecas have been one of the surprise stories in Spain domestically, currently in sixth with 27 points, unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions.

Match preview

After tasting victory last season in Europe, the expectations were high for Villarreal to compete for the domestic title, but to this point, that has not materialised for Unai Emery and his team.

The hope was that their success on the international stage in 2020-21 could help this club shake their reputation of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride.

So far domestically however, they have won only three of their opening 15 league fixtures, collecting 16 points, their joint-lowest tally to this point of a top-flight campaign, alongside their achievements in 2002-03, 2011-12 and 2018-19.

The former Arsenal boss has put forth a counterattacking philosophy for this group with a focus on being sound and well-organised defensively, although early on that approach has not been very effective for them in league play, collecting only one victory in their previous eight La Liga affairs.

Emery has always preached intensity and total commitment, but those two elements have not always been evident when you see this team take to the field as they only fired two shots on target in their previous two league fixtures, which ended in defeats to Sevilla (1-0) and Barcelona (3-1).

Far too often in recent matches, this group have failed to deliver that killer blow that can put a game out of reach, which has to be a concern as they nearly gave up a 3-0 lead, winning 3-2 against Atalanta in midweek and then squandered an early advantage in a 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo last month.

The return to the top flight for Rayo Vallecano has been a memorable one, to say the least, as they have a real opportunity to compete in Europe next season, as they are currently positioned to claim a spot in the Europa Conference League qualifiers next year.

Andoni Iraola has done a splendid job of getting this team focused and prepared for every game, sitting only three points back of Real Betis for third in the league.

They are the little-known club from Madrid, who do not hog the spotlight like their rivals Atletico and Real Madrid, but who have shown a tremendous fighting spirit throughout this campaign.

This group of players are not afraid to get physical and throw in their share of challenges, committing at least a dozen fouls or more in each of their previous nine games in all competitions.

Last weekend, despite not being able to fire a single shot on target, they pulled out a 1-0 win, thanks to an own goal from Espanyol defender Leandro Cabrera, putting them in a strong position near the top of the table.

One area that needs improvement is their ability to maintain a high intensity away from home, going winless in four straight road encounters in La Liga.

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

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

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

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

Team News

Arnaut Danjuma notched a brace on matchday six of Villarreal's Champions League campaign, while the winner came courtesy of Etienne Capoue, who has not scored in league play this season.

Yeremi Pino leads them in assists in 2021-22 with three, while Manu Trigueros and Alberto Moreno have chipped in with three and two goals respectively in the Spanish top flight so far.

Emery made several changes to his starting 11 on Thursday as Pervis Estupinan replaced Alfonso Pedraza in defence, Alberto Moreno began in midfield rather than Pino, and in attack, Danjuma and Gerard Moreno took the place of Paco Alcacer and Manu Trigueros.

Radamel Falcao has enjoyed a lovely opening season in Madrid with the Colombian international leading the team with five goals in the league, the same amount as Alvaro Garcia, while Oscar Trejo is tied with Karim Benzema for the league lead in assists with seven.

Goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski has been a big part of their success early on this season, with the North Macedonian allowing an average of one goal per game, putting him fourth in line for the Zamora trophy, which is handed out to the keeper with the lowest goals-to-games ratio in Spain as he currently trails Diego Lopez, Thibaut Courtois and Matias Dituro for that award.

Iraola made wholesale changes to the starting lineup last Sunday from the side who began in their Copa del Rey victory against Guijuelo with Dimitrievski, Ivan Balliu, Esteban Saveljich, Alejandro Catena, Fran Garcia, Oscar Valentin, Isi Palazon, Oscar Trejo, Alvaro Garcia and Sergi Guardiola all getting the call to start versus Espanyol.

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Rulli; Estupinan, Torres, Albiol, Gaspar; A. Moreno, Parejo, Capoue, Pena; Dia, G. Moreno

Rayo Vallecano possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; Balliu, Saveljich, Catena, F. Garcia; Bebe, Comesana; A. Garcia, Pozo, Palazon; Guardiola

We say: Villarreal 2-2 Rayo Vallecano

El Submarino Amarillo have only won one of their last five matches versus Vallecano, but they do not have any problems finding the back of the net against the Segunda Division winners from last season, averaging 2.8 goals per game in their previous six home fixtures against them in La Liga.

Los Vallecanos have a lot of momentum and a desire to be right up there with the top teams in Spain, and even though they have struggled away from home, they have plenty of quality to put a couple past Villarreal, who are not feeling great about their form domestically at the moment.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win 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.Home Win:data

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La Liga Table
1Real Madrid17133139152442
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4Atletico MadridAtletico168532718929
5Real Sociedad178541917229
6Rayo Vallecano178362418627
11Athletic Bilbao174941312121
14Celta Vigo174581721-417
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1Inter Milan17124143152840
2AC Milan17123236191739
3Atalanta BCAtalanta17114237201737
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