Real Madrid not taking Rayo Vallecano lightly

Not too many teams can hang with Real Madrid at the moment, but the blistering pace set by the La Liga leaders does not indicate that they are taking any teams lightly.

Real Madrid has a large cushion atop the Spanish top flight, eclipsing fierce rivals Barcelona by 10 points. But if there was ever such a thing as a trap game, it would come in the form of a road tilt against Rayo Vallecano, which will take place at the Teresa Rivero on Sunday.

Rayo Vallecano has quietly climbed up the La Liga table, improving to eighth place on 31 points after winning three straight league games. The club is only two points shy of fourth-place Athletic Bilbao, underlining how tight the race for Spain's final Champions League spot has become.

That impressive form has not fooled Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain though, as the Argentine striker exclaimed that his side is wary of the threat Rayo can pose to the leaders.

"It will be difficult because they are a fighting team who are in European positions and have good players," Higuain told the media.

Real Madrid has had a couple of close calls in its current eight-game winning run. Los Blancos were force to come from behind in four of those wins.

Three points for Madrid would go a long way in the title race as it would place additional pressure on Barcelona to pick up a win later on Sunday when it faces Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon.

The Catalans sit firmly in second place on 51 points, 10 points behind Madrid but 11 points in front of third-place Valencia. They fell to Osasuna in a shock 3-2 defeat recently, but bounced back with a convincing 5-1 thrashing of Valencia in their last league outing.

Atletico has enjoyed a respectable season thus far, sitting sixth on 32 points. Diego Simeone's men have drawn three straight, but are unbeaten in their last seven league matches.

Third-place Valencia, meanwhile, will look to rebound from its 5-1 loss to Barcelona in as it squares off against Sevilla at the Mestalla on Sunday. Sevilla defeated Osasuna, 2-0, in its last league match to snap an eight-game winless run.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Real Sociedad hosts Mallorca at the Anoeta, Osasuna welcomes Granada to the Reyno de Navarra, and Athletic Bilbao heads to El Madrigal to face Villarreal.

Espanyol is only one point above Levante, but the two sides will battle it out in a crucial match at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat on Saturday with fourth place up for grabs, at least until Sunday's slate of fixtures.

Saturday's La Liga play also consists of Real Betis hosting Getafe, Racing welcoming Sporting Gijon, and Real Zaragoza heading to Malaga.