It was meant to be the Cristiano Ronaldo show, the match he had been waiting for. He delivered - in a fashion.
A header which could have been freeze-framed, such was the time he seemed to linger in the air. Manchester United had held the lead for just ten minutes before their former hero pulled his side level.
He wasn't poor - yet something was missing. Those that had seen his hour-long performance against Sevilla will understand what I mean. Granted it was a disparate calibre of opposition and as he later admitted the emotion affected him, but there were times when he over-elaborated. Cristiano Ronaldo at his simplest, is when he is at his most effective.
They have the lowest budget in the division, are in administration and lost 13 players last summer, including the Premier League’s new favourite player Michu, yet Rayo Vallecano are flying. Up-to sixth in the league, the club continue to unearth gems that are enticed by love. Sporting director Felipe Miñambres explains: "We can't offer potential new players anything tangible; what we can offer them is affection and a shop window."
Suspensions hamper José Mourinho's selection with Álvaro Arbeloa, Luka Modrić and Gonzalo Higuaín all missing. Michael Essien, Pepe and Kaká are all expected to start.
You should expect few changes for Rayo given their good run of form. Mikel Labaka and Rodri are unavailable for selection. Atlético Madrid-bound Léo Baptistão will once again lead the line.
It may have been the domestic campaign from hell for Madrid, but they have remained unstoppable at the Bernabeu. Only Valencia and Espanyol have left with anything. The fans have witnessed goals aplenty, with Real Madrid scoring four in each of their last three matches. Over 3.5 goals is 1.65.
Rayo now have four wins from their last six games, including last weekend’s defeat of second placed Atlético. It's no coincidence three of those came at home. Paco Jémez team are a different prospect on their travels, with only four away triumphs.
Vallecano has lost all of their last six meetings with Real Madrid, with their last visit ending in a 6-2 defeat. A bit of déjà vu will fetch you 60.00.
For someone who has rarely featured this season - just four starts in all competitions - Kaká was exquisite versus Sevilla. Unfairly branded in the same category as Fernando Torres, the Brazilian displayed a standard that would see him start for most clubs in La Liga, if not Europe.
Having been sent-off the last time he appeared against Osasuna, it was important he displayed composure and patience if he was to see the Bernabéu pitch again. With Los Blancos trailing so far behind in the league, he might just get the chance to show potential suitors and new Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari that there is life in this 30 year-old yet. Kaka is 7.75 to get on the score-sheet.
Rayo Vallecano’s tendency to attack, will fall into the hands of one of the best counter-attacking forces in the world. With Rayo pressing aggressively,spaces will appear behind their defence and Real have the perfect players to capitalise. There should be goals and entertainment in equal measure, ultimately finishing with a Real Madrid victory at 1.18.
Karim Benzema netted his 50th league goal for the whites last Saturday, with Higuaín out of this game, alongside Ronaldo he will be their biggest goal threat. At least two goals from Frenchman can be found at 4.50.
Score Prediction: Real Madrid 3-2 Rayo Vallecano (16.00)
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