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Saturday April 23 2016
Rayo battling to safety

Rayo Vallecano have lost just one of their last six games and could well extend their stay in La Liga on their current path, argues Edin Halilovic.

Rayo Vallecano have become a La Liga regular in recent years and are currently in the midst of their fifth consecutive season in the top flight, their longest-ever stay in their 92-year history to date. It’s been a glorious period for the club from a small village based in Madrid as they’ve defied expectations and gained many admirers over the last few years because of the way they like to play football, which has worked out well for them.

They may have one of the smallest budgets in La Liga, but they play football akin to those with the largest and have scored impressive numbers of goals in every season since their return to the division, even if they also have conceded many too because of how they play. It’s been an enjoyable time for them and their fans, yet if they wish to extend their stay in La Liga even longer, they’ll have to overcome a relegation battle for a few more weeks.

Up until recently, it seemed like Rayo were looking very likely to go down, having produced just two League wins out of a possible 19 between November and March. However, two crucial home wins against Getafe and Villarreal, as well as several rallying draws in recent months, have improved their chances of surviving, and they suddenly they look to be in a decent-enough position to stay up once more.

Rayo may have let two extra points slip at Malaga midweek, which would have been vital to their chances of staying up, but when looking at their situation and comparing it to other survival bids, it doesn’t seem too bad.

With three points separating them from a relegation position, Rayo have the upper hand in head-to-head battles against every one of their rivals, which include Levante, Getafe, Granada, Sporting Gijon, and Espanyol. This is a huge advantage to have at this point in the season and it leaves Rayo with room for one more slip-up that won’t prove too costly. It’s good leeway to have, gien their tough upcoming schedule.

It also helps that they’re the highest-scoring team in the League outsideof those in the European positions, although they’re also the side with the worst defensive record in the division. Still though, with the head-to-head victories over their rivals and a home game against a Levante team who could be down before the final day, Rayo are still in a fairly good position to stay up and that is in large part thanks to their improved recent form.

Paco Jemez, whose stock is always rising, has done a fantastic job over his four years at Rayo, and with potentially several offers elsewhere awaiting him in the summer, he’ll look to potentially end his time at Vallecas on a high by keeping little Rayo in La Liga for a record sixth straight campaign.

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