Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano: Perez demands intensity
Florentino Perez has called on Real Madrid to recapture the intensity of past seasons when they face city rivals Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Rafael Benitez's team have suffered three defeats in their last five league outings, with last weekend's 1-0 loss at Villarreal seeing them slip five points adrift of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who are level at the summit.
Madrid lacked conviction in the final third in their trip to El Madrigal, despite putting eight past Malmo in the preceding match in the Champions League.
Club president Perez feels the current crop is one of the best he has overseen, but was critical of their recent displays.
And he singled out Gareth Bale, who has scored twice in his last three appearances, for his inability to perform when the team needs him most.
"Bale is a magnificent player, but if the team's all-round level drops, so does Bale's," Perez told Cadena SER.
"He and the rest of the players had a level of intensity three years ago that is lacking now and which we have to get back
"We've got the best in every position and that goes for them as people too. It's not easy handling a squad like Real Madrid's, but they're good professionals. This is one of the best squads I've had."
Rayo travel to the Santiago Bernabeu following three straight top-flight defeats, though a 3-1 loss in the second leg of their Copa del Rey encounter with Getafe was enough to ensure progression on away goals.
However, Paco Jemez was frustrated by his team's display and knows they cannot afford a similar performance against Benitez's men.
"If we do what we did in the last two games we can't compete. If we do what we've done on other occasions we can be competitive," he said.
"You can't switch off for a whole half against any team in La Liga, and less so against Madrid."
Rayo have won just one of their 16 league trips to the Bernabeu, with that victory coming almost 20 years ago when Guilherme Cassio's double earned a 2-1 triumph.
Benitez will have Toni Kroos available once more following his recovery from flu, but Dani Carvajal (hamstring) and Raphael Varane (thigh) trained apart from the group on Friday and will not feature.
Jemez will be unable to call upon Diego Llorente against his parent club, but Raul Baena is back from suspension and should play alongside Roberto Trashorras in midfield.
Key Opta stats:
- The last time Real Madrid had just 30 points at this point of a La Liga season was in 2002-2003 and they won the title that year.
- Should Rayo Vallecano lose this game, this would be their second longest run of defeats in La Liga under Paco Jemez: 4 (the worst was 6 games between August and September 2013).
- Madrid have failed to score in just one of their last 19 league derbies at Santiago Bernabeu: their defeat against Atletico in September 2013 (0-1).
- Madrid are the side with the most players involved in goals (16) in La Liga this season and Rayo are the one with the fewest (7).
- Cristiano Ronaldo is the player with the most big chances missed in La Liga this season (12).