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Know Thine Enemy: Atlético Madrid-Rayo Vallecano Q&A with Paul Reidy

A conversation with the Spanish football journalist on Rayo’s return and their weekend clash with Atlético.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Rayo Vallecano - La Liga
Juanfran of Club Atletico de Madrid ends off Adrian Embarba (#11) and Robrto Roman Triguero “Tito” of Rayo Vallecano de Madrid during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Rayo Vallecano at Vicente Calderon Stadium on April 30, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Rayo Vallecano are back in LaLiga! Despite a loss in matchday one, how was the atmosphere at Vallecas?

Once again, sadly events off the field at Rayo overshadow the action on the pitch. The defeat was marred by the dreadful state of the stadium following summer work on areas of the ground which clearly is not complete, with scaffolding and work materials still visible and apparent.

The state of the stadium is such a major issue that members of Rayo supporter groups met with representatives from the Communidad de Madrid (stadium owners) and club officials with calls to move the next scheduled home game (vs. Athletic) to San Mamés. The decrepit condition of the stadium is not one in line with a top-flight sporting institution in terms of basic hygiene and is an issue that fans have been vocal about for many seasons. But these calls have sadly fallen on deaf ears, with the club president Raul Martin Presa once again swerving key issues that affect the week-in, week-out support.

It may be hard to explain, but what makes Rayo’s support so unique?

They are so unique for so many reasons. The team represents a neighbourhood with a very strong identity, which marks it apart from other major LaLiga sides. Fans of the club are realistic, knowing they will never win the title but their main demands are that the players who join the club give their all for the shirt and finishing 17th is a small victory for one of the league clubs who run on a shoestring. Politics is another key driver of the support, with many of the fans rallying behind social initiatives, all with a left-leaning perspective.

Rayo Vallecano v Las PalmasX
Míchel (#8) came up through Rayo’s academy. The midfielder played for the neighborhood club from 1993-2003 and from 2006-2012.

Club legend Míchel brought Rayo back up in his first year in charge. How has his coaching rejuvenated this team?

Míchel is in the fortunate position of not having to win over the supporters being a club legend. This lack of pressure and taking the more positive elements from the Paco Jémez era of a possession-based style of play but with a more measured approach being key in his success. The real test starts now however, with playing in the top flight upping the stakes.

What did Rayo lose when Fran Beltrán completed his move to Celta Vigo earlier this month, and does this side still have enough to stay up?

Beltran was a deep-lying midfield playmaker and played with such poise and composure for a teenager. There are still many unresolved factors on his motives for leaving and the player himself even declared that “one day he’d reveal the reasons for his move to Vigo.”

Latest signing Álvaro García will bolster the midfield and the imminent return of Raúl de Tomas on loan will sharpen the attack, but doubts remain if the Real Madrid player will be able to find the target with the same ease in Primera.

Sevilla and Atlético Madrid to start the season is pretty rough luck. Is there any chance Rayo get anything out of their first trip to the Wanda Metropolitano?

Sadly not. Atlético look impressive and now have real depth to their bench. I’m worried about the lack of speed that Abdoulaye Ba, Jordi Amat and Chechu Dorado possess at the back faced with the likes of Griezmann, Costa, Lemar and co.