x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Getafe and Rayo Vallecano ready to take the Madrid limelight

They may not have the status of their two bigger name city rivals, but they will make up for that in passion when they face each other.

Rayo Vallecano's coach Jose Ramon Sandoval, right, has ensured his side have kept their feet on the ground this season following promotion.
Rayo Vallecano's coach Jose Ramon Sandoval, right, has ensured his side have kept their feet on the ground this season following promotion.

The Madrid derby with a difference is played tomorrow, a cross-city clash which is the antithesis of the glamour of Real Madrid against Atletico.

Spain's capital, with six million in its urban area, is home to four top-flights clubs. The other two, Rayo Vallecano and Getafe, had never met in the Primera Liga until this season.

A look at the stadiums of both clubs helps one understand why they have spent more years in the lower leagues.

Squat blocks of social housing encroach so close at one end of Rayo Vallecano's stadium that no space is left for stands. Residents have a perfect view of the league's worst pitch and the three-sided, 15,000 capacity venue located four metro stops south of Madrid's main Atocha rail station.

They can watch visitors like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for free from the comfort of home, just three kilometres from the grandeur of Madrid's world-class museums and national institutions.

Much changes in the course of those 3km: the Vallecas barrio is proudly working class.

Rayo's home may not boast the glamour of their neighbours, but their left-wing fans would not have their home any other way.

There was much surprise when the team, whose kit features a distinctive red diagonal stripe on their white shirts, were promoted last season. That success came after an eight-year absence when they sank as low as the regional third division for four years, a long way from reaching the last eight of the Uefa Cup, as they had done in 2001.

Despite winning games week after week, their players did not receive their agreed salaries, with blame apportioned to a change in the club president.

But the club, whose coach Jose Ramon Sandoval had never coached above Spain's fourth division until 2010, did come up.

Sandoval, 43, has worked wonders, getting Rayo out of the second division in his first season at that level and while his players threw him in the air to celebrate, his feet remained firmly on the ground - as they could only ever be in Vallecas.

Sandoval, who peppers his interviews with references to bull fighting, still helps out in the family restaurant. Judging by his bulk, he is not adverse to sampling the food, either.

While Rayo were down, another club from Madrid's south crept past them and established themselves in the Primera Liga.

Getafe are from an industrial suburb to the south and have the dubious honour of being the league's worst-supported club, with average gates of 11,000. Rayo pull in just 1,000 more.

Both teams are in good shape for tomorrow's game.

Getafe are 10th on 27 points, Rayo 12th on 25. Getafe had won four and drawn two of their six games before last week's 1-0 defeat against Real Madrid, while Rayo, whose sole objective was to stay up, boast the fourth-best away record in the league.

One of their four victories on the road came at Getafe in September, but Rayo's home form is dire - just three wins.

"We're coming into this game in good form," said Rayo's central midfielder, Jose Maria Movilla. "We need to achieve more victories at home. Our stadium is not the biggest, but our fans are the most passionate." He described them as ranking "10" on a scale of 10.

He added: "They always give us the confidence to win."

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

Fixtures

Today

R Santander v A Madrid 9pm

Osasuna v Barcelona 11pm

Real Betis v A Bilbao 1am

Tomorrow

Espanyol v R Zaragoza 3pm

Malaga v Mallorca 7pm

R Vallecano v Getafe 7pm

Villarreal v Granada 7pm

Valencia v Sporting 9pm

Real Madrid v Levante 12.30am

Monday

R Sociedad v Sevilla 12am

Primera Liga table

Team P W D L GD P

Real Madrid 21 18 1 2 52 55

Barcelona 21 14 6 1 48 48

Valencia 21 10 7 4 9 37

Levante 21 9 5 7 2 32

Espanyol 21 9 5 7 1 32

Athletic Bilbao 21 7 9 5 5 30

Athletico Madrid 21 8 6 7 4 30

Malaga 21 8 4 9 -6 28

Osasuna 21 6 10 5 -10 28

Getafe 21 7 6 8 -5 27

Sevilla 21 6 8 7 -2 26

Rayo Vallecano 21 7 4 10 -7 25

Mallorca 21 6 7 8 -7 25

Granada 21 7 4 10 -12 25

Real Sociedad 21 6 6 9 -7 24

Real Betis 21 7 2 12 -7 23

Villarreal 21 5 8 8 -9 23

R Santander 21 4 10 7 -8 22

Sporting Gijon 21 5 4 12 -19 19

Zaragoza 21 2 6 13 -22 12