ESPANYOL
v
REAL MADRID

Estadi Cornellà-El Prat
14.02.2011, 01:30 IST kick-off

After an incredible round of international friendlies, the players return back to their respective club teams and Jose Mourinho will be certainly impressed by the way his players performed at the international level. Karim Benzema impressed with his all round performance and Ozil and Khedira played well in their draw against Italy. The big contest of Portugal and Argentina produced goals from the two best players on the planet and Angel Di Maria managed to get his name on the score sheet.

After a lot of tussle inside the club regarding a new striker and then the Nistelrooy drama, football finally seems to be the focal point at the Santiago Bernabeu. With Real Madrid adding Adebayor to their star studded line up, Mourinho has got the centre forward he wanted since the start of the season and the lanky forward has responded by scoring two wonderful goals for Los Merengues. Barcelona look in supreme form at the moment and the title has already been declared as Barcelona’s to lose. Another slip up from Real Madrid will more or less seal the title in favor of Barcelona. Jose Mourinho will certainly look to carry a winning momentum into his Champions League match against Lyon.

Team News and Tactical brief:

Real Madrid

After a delightful performance against Real Sociedad, with many Madridistas already hailing it as the most impressive performance of Los Galacticos this year, Real Madrid will certainly look to continue this winning streak. The return of Kaka to the starting line up was a relief to football fans across the globe as Kaka was back to what he does best. Leading the midfield in attack and scoring delightful but effortless goals. His superb strike was an indication of his form and even his training session against Real Madrid C exudes confidence. DiMaria was dropped to the bench to accommodate Kaka and Ozil in the midfield and the move seems to have worked out just fine. Ronaldo had these delightful one-twos with Kaka,with Ozil running the show from the right cutting inside and creating chances for the forwards. Jose Mourinho might just be tempted to continue with the same formation in the midfield considering how successful they were against Real Sociedad.

The big news last week was the start given to Adebayor and Benzema dropping to the bench with Mourinho claiming that he was just giving rest to Benzema before his French assignment. Adebayor certainly took his chances as he put forward a delightful performance opening up spaces for Ronaldo and Kaka and rounded off his night with a cool finish and sealing the game in favor of his team. Mourinho will be more than happy with the performance of the Togo striker and might even start him against Espanyol. Benzema though would be disappointed if it happens. In all probability it will be a toss up between these two and the final nod might just depend on the training efforts of both these individuals.

The defense looked in shambles after the injury to Pepe, and Raul Albiol certainly didn’t help matters by looking nervous on the field. The performance of Garay must be gratifying for Mourinho as Garay bossed the central defense and formed a great partnership with Carvalho and hardly put a foot wrong. Ramos will be back for this game after serving a suspension and will take his place on the right wing back. The left flank is normally occupied by Marcelo but considering Arbeloa’s performances recently and Mourinho’s liking for Arbeloa, it will depend on Mourinho’ tactics whether he would want an overlapping defender or just a proper defender.

Selection worries?

The midfield fulcrum will be Xabi Alonso and the place beside him is up for grabs with Lass producing a vintage  performance and Khedira playing well for the German squad. Gago certainly has to wait for his chance to break into the first team. The other big complaint Madridistas have against Mourinho is lack of opportunities to players like Canales and Pedro Leon. Canales’ delightful back heel to Kaka in practice shows the skill of this amazing player and Leon is known for his passes into the box which might suit Adebayor perfectly. Real Madrid’s bench strength is top notch and with the talent on his bench, Mourinho can afford to take some risks and with Pepe rejoining training, mourinho must be a content man.

Probable starting line-up: Casillas, Ramos, Garay, Carvalho, Arbeloa, Kaka, Alonso, Lass, Ozil, Ronaldo, Benzema

Football Fans Know Better

Espanyol

Los Periquitos had a great start to the campaign and their coach, Mauricio Pochettino’s belief in his young team seemed to work out well. But Espanyol have fallen behind in the second half of the season with two defeats back to back defeats, more worryingly against Almeria, Espanyol do need to plug in their loop holes as quickly as possible to match their rivals in the Liga table. Espanyol are not a very rich club and have been forced to sell their star players to keep their boat floating. In Callejon and Garcia they have two strikers who are lethal in front of goal and Pochettino will be hoping that either of them can find the net as early as possible to pressurize Real Madrid and considering that the game is played at Cornella-El Prat, one can surely expect a tough night for the visitors if Espanoyal can take an early lead.

Pochettino certainly has his fair share of problems with his striker Pablo Osvaldo injured out and De La Pena and Mattioni also still unfit to make a start. Espanyol can only hope to score early and try to disrupt Madrid’s rhythm by pressurizing them as much as they can and hope that the crowd support will get onto the nerves of the Real Madrid players. But, a victory looks a far fetched expectation for Espanyol. They will be extremely happy with a draw. The performance of Kameni against Almeria has come under harsh scrutiny, deservedly so, and he would certainly wouldn’t want to repeat his blunders against Los Galacticos.

Probable starting line up: Kameni, David Garcia, Amat, Forlin, Chica, Marquez, Verdu, Baena, Callejon, Luis Garcia, Sergio Garcia.

THT Player to watch out:

Kaka (Real Madrid)

In a league of his own

After a delightful performance against Real Sociedad, Kaka might be awarded with another start and considering his performances in training sessions and his enthusiasm on field in the previous match, the Brazilian play-maker might just produce another masterful display in the heart of Real madrid’s central midfield.

TheHardTackle Prediction:

Espanyol 0 – 3 Real Madrid

Espanyol are a tough club and playing at their home won’t be easy for Real Madrid but it would be close to a miracle if  Espanoyal can stun the visitors with a victory here.