Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 April 2019

Real Madrid depart for Abu Dhabi after unconvincing La Liga win over Rayo Vallecano - in pictures

European champions travel to the UAE to defend the Fifa Club World Cup title following a third successive league victory

European champions Real Madrid will make their way to Abu Dhabi for the Fifa Club World Cup following a third successive Primera Liga win, although the 1-0 result against Rayo Vallecano did not satisfy large parts of the Santiago Bernabeu crowd.

Madrid moved up to third in the Primera Liga table thanks to Karim Benzema's 13th minute goal, although Sevilla can move back above them if they avoid defeat against Girona on Sunday. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid lead by two points, with Barca aiming to move clear when they travel to Levante.

Madrid, who were also booed off on Wednesday after losing 3-0 to CSKA Moscow in the Uefa Champions League, their worst-ever home defeat in European competition, continued to suffer defensively at the back.

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They leaked plenty of chances to their neighbours, who are fighting relegation and have won only twice all season. Rayo defender Emiliano Velazquez came close to equalising with a bullet header from a corner shortly after Benzema's goal.

Then, as the visitors laid siege to Madrid's goal in the closing stages, it took an impressive double save from Thibaut Courtois in stoppage time to prevent Rayo from grabbing a point.

Even though the European champions weathered the storm, it did not stop the infamously demanding Bernabeu crowd from booing their team.

It was a far from ideal send-off in their final league game of 2018 before they fly to Abu Dhabi to defend their Club World Cup title.

Despite the frantic ending and the home fans' angry reaction, Madrid manager Solari said he was happy with his side's performance, adding that the team would travel to the UAE in good spirits.

"We're feeling very good, we have won nine games out of 11, we've cut the gap with the teams at the top, we finished first in our Champions League group, we're still in the Copa del Rey and now we're going to a tournament which makes Madrid fans very excited," he said.

Solari dismissed fitness concerns about Benzema and Marco Asensio, who were substituted in the second half, saying he thought both players had only sustained knocks.

Madrid begin their Club World Cup campaign with a semi-final against Asian champions Kashima Antlers on Wednesday at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

The winners will then face either South American champions River Plate or host champions Al Ain, who thrashed African champions Esperance de Tunis in Saturday's quarter-final.

Updated: December 16, 2018 08:54 AM

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