Rayo Vallecano will be looking to pick up where they left off in 2018, as La Liga returns from its winter break this weekend.
The side from the south of Madrid, are currently second from bottom in the La Liga table, three points adrift of safety, with a five point cushion over basement club Huesca.
Michel’s side were in real need of a positive note to end 2018 on, following a Copa del Rey elimination at the hands of Leganes, and back to back league defeats at Real Betis and Real Madrid.
However they did receive a boost in the form of a 2-1 end of year win over mid table Levante.
Michel and his players might have preferred to keep the season, and the momentum gained from that result going, but now they must reignite themselves for a crunch run of fixtures in January.
With half a season of football still to play, it is difficult to assess how definitive the opening games of 2019 will be for Rayo, however there is the sense that Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal, currently in 17th and 18th respectively, will get their act together sooner rather than later as they bid to avoid a relegation battle.
It is vital that Rayo do not allow a gap to form, cutting them adrift from their rivals in the league table.
Their form and performances towards the back end of 2018 merited more than the results gained, particularly against Real Madrid, where they should have snatched a famous point.
With points on the road likely to be hard to come by in 2019, home form will hold the key to whether or not Rayo can retain their top flight status for 2019-20.
They have lost just once in their last five home games in La Liga action, that being against Barcelona, with Rayo leading until the final five minutes.
That ability to turn the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas into a fortress is vital, and home games against Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad in the coming weeks must yield maximum points.
Rayo will need striker Raul de Tomas in consistent form for the remainder of the season, with five goals already for the Real Madrid loanee, despite Rayo’s inconsistencies.
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