Rayo Vallecano: a mess, ‘problem after problem’ … and top four in La Liga | Rayo Vallecano

We’re leavin’ collectively
However nonetheless it’s farewell
And perhaps we’ll come again
To earth, who can inform?

Possibly. In all probability, in truth. Simply not now, not but. They’re having fun with this experience a lot an excessive amount of. After each aim Rayo Vallecano rating down in the Unbiased Individuals’s Republic of Vallekas, somebody presses play, the opening bars of The Final Countdown increase throughout the three sides of the bottom, and everybody bounces about, crumbling stands wobbling once more as they scat alongside and swirl their scarves, da-da da daa, da da da-da daa doing the rounds. They’ve been doing it for years, however by no means as usually as they’re nowadays. And if that was as shut as they have been ever going to get to Europe, it’s not any extra.

As a result of Rayo Vallecano don’t simply depart 2021 and go into 2022 in a European place; they achieve this in a Champions League place. They may as effectively be headin’ to bloody Venus, it’s no extra unlikely. It’s a minor miracle the tape participant nonetheless works – not a lot else does spherical right here – and a main miracle the crew are the place they’re. Rayo have performed in Europe solely as soon as, in 2000-2001, and that was by way of the fair-play league. They’d completed ninth in La Liga the season earlier than, their highest ever place. 13 years later, they have been eighth. Final season they have been sixth.

Within the second division.

Nevertheless it’s not simply that, and this isn’t simply “promoted membership overachieves”. It’s not even “promoted membership that sneaked up by way of the play-offs overachieves”. It’s all the things. One former coach described Rayo because the final of the barrio groups, not simply in their neighbourhood however of their neighbourhood. They’re additionally a mess. Within the words of captain Óscar Trejo – a man who insists: “If I used to be a fan, I might shout and swear as a result of it’s the one method to open eyes and ‘warmth’ ears” – that is a place the place it’s “problem after problem”. The smallest membership in primera, Rayo don’t have any cash, a ground that’s actually falling apart, no on-line ticket gross sales, a youth teamer with no contract sleeping on the floor, a ladies’s crew with out a physician, opposition medics treating their players, and an proprietor of whom followers now ask only one factor – repeatedly and to his face. To depart.

Someway the crew rises above all that. A facet whose regular beginning XI solely has two gamers that weren’t there in segunda final season – though one is a tiger – are fourth, a level forward of champions Atlético. Not way back, the opposite common – full-back Iván Balliu, a former La Masia graduate – joked that they have been “direct rivals of Barcelona”, who they at present lead by three locations. And with regards to dwelling, Rayo aren’t simply near Europe now, they’re forward of Europe. Having collected 25 factors from a potential 27, Rayo’s document isn’t simply higher than Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona, and Espanyol; it’s higher than PSG, Bayern, Dortmund, Manchester Metropolis, Arsenal, Liverpool, Internazionale and everyone else in the top five leagues.

“Just a few weeks in the past, I posted a message saying: ‘Dreaming of the Champions League,’” goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski admitted on Saturday night time. “All my teammates have been laying into me, saying: ‘Delete that.’ And now we go for Christmas in a Champions League place and I’m laughing at them a bit.” That afternoon, Vallecas had belted out one other acquainted tune from a repertoire wider than anybody else’s, rescued from again past 2000. “Subsequent 12 months, Rayo-Liverpool,” it runs, and though tongues have been wedged in cheeks it didn’t sound that ridiculous. Besides that the entire thing is ridiculous actually.

Possibly the disaster at membership stage truly helps, Trejo suggesting that each one the issues “make you’re feeling and defend the shirt”. Balliu talks about a group that eats collectively and provides one another items – “once I went to Catalonia I came back with wine, Isi arrived from Murcia with fruit, Fran García introduced cheese from La Mancha”– and insists that the followers who’re noisy, loyal and proper on top of them are “our energy”. It may also assist that Vallecas itself is a bit completely different, not precisely fashionable, not precisely snug, nonetheless the form of place it’s onerous to go, the pitch shorter than regular, the floor not perfect.

Esteban Saveljich brings his ‘don’t mess with me’ air to a challenge with Espanyol’s Raul de Tomas.
Esteban Saveljich brings his ‘don’t mess with me’ air to a problem with Espanyol’s Raul de Tomas. {Photograph}: Irina R Hipolito/Shutterstock

As for Andoni Iraola, the 39-year-old coach simply three years into his profession who introduced them up from segunda – coach of the 12 months by miles thus far – he retains saying that the fixture listing has been “benevolent”, saying: “I’m satisfied that this may flip and in the second half of the season you’ll ask me the alternative.” There’s one thing in that: away they’ve received simply as soon as – at San Mamés – and the perimeters Rayo have crushed in Vallecas are these in 14th, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, 18th and nineteenth, plus Espanyol and Barcelona, tenth and seventh respectively. In opposition to Celta, who’re thirteenth, they drew 0-0.

But that’s probably not it. Neither is this the story of a crew that may inevitably fall a great distance, all of this rapidly forgotten, regardless that they most likely will slip down the desk a little. If European locations are prone to be denied, that doesn’t make them deluded or any much less deserving. For a begin, you continue to must get these outcomes and with lower than half the season gone the crew thought-about a relegation certainty in August have 30 factors. “The coach reads video games very effectively,” Balliu says. “Two or three days earlier than he shares his concepts and you get there it’s precisely the identical: what he has carried out deserves a lot of credit score.” Then there’s one thing else much less tangible and perhaps extra essential, a purpose to need this to final.

Often when a crew comes up from the second division and over performs – at dwelling, on a tough pitch – it’s all about resisting. Rayo don’t resist: they rip into you. Sure, they’re robust at occasions – Esteban Saveljich has “don’t mess with me” written throughout his face – and, sure, they like a sort out: no crew enters extra duels. However they don’t seem to be soiled and they’re positively not defensive. They’re although very direct. They’ve scored 19 objectives at dwelling, joint second with Barcelona and Actual Betis behind Sevilla. Solely as soon as have they failed to attain in their very own stadium, and the truth that it ended 0-0 towards Celta nonetheless doesn’t make any sense; they could have had four or five. Solely two groups have taken extra photographs.

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There’s a vertigo about Rayo, one thing wild and fantastic to observe, the place packed and roaring each sport now. They arrive at you from in all places and from the beginning. Take a look at the minutes in which they scored a few of their opening objectives at dwelling: the third minute towards Granada, the ninth towards Getafe and Cadiz, minute 16 towards Mallorca. This weekend they scored each objectives in a 2-0 win over Alavés inside 26 minutes, hitting the publish once more quickly after. Saturday’s opener was a good portrait of their play, two males outnumbering their opponents on the left, an overlapping run past the defence, the ball pulled again throughout the field nearly from the byline, Sergi Guardiola arriving to complete first time.

Fast Information

La Liga outcomes


Celta Vigo 3-1 Espanyol, Sevilla 2-1 Atlético Madrid, Barcelona 3-2 Elche, Actual Sociedad 1-3 Villarreal, Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Alavés, Actual Madrid 0-0 Cádiz, Getafe 1-0 Osasuna, Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Actual Betis, Granada 4-1 Actual Mallorca

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No crew has accomplished extra crosses. Solely Athletic produce extra sprints, Rayo urgent quick in a first wave then racing again into a deep place if that doesn’t work, as relentless as they’re fast. Once they set off they stampede, footballers in all places. Of the 5 gamers to have coated most floor in La Liga, three are Rayo’s – full-backs Fran García and Balliu, plus Álvaro García huge. That listing tells you one thing: that is a crew that performs with double wingers, flying via on each side, even when – pleasingly – Rayo Vallecano are significantly joyful on the left wing. Nobody in La Liga has run quicker than García, the stats say. On the opposite facet, Isi Palazón has been very good. Off the entrance, nobody has extra assists than Trejo.

Organised chaos is likely to be the most effective description. “That’s a onerous factor to attain,” Iraola admits. “I choose an excessive amount of chaos to an excessive amount of organisation. I choose us to play at a excessive tempo, even when it means a contact of precipitation, than play at a decrease tempo and have a bit extra management. It fits us.” Breathless and sensible, it fits everybody else too. “We’ve to do our bit for the individuals to take pleasure in it,” the coach says, and finally that’s what it’s about: about hope and goals, the extra outrageous and out of this world the higher. Soccer is meant to be enjoyable and proper now there’s nothing in soccer extra enjoyable than a night time in Vallecas, the place Rayo have taken off.

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