Estadi Comella-El Prat, Barcelona
January 12, 2014; 18:00 GMT
With Barca and Atleti playing each other on Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti’s side will make ground on one or both of them if they can extend their unbeaten run over Espanyol to 12 games. The pressure will be on Real Madrid to beat Espanyol on Sunday and close the five-point gap to La Liga’s top two, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Coach Ancellotti will be hoping for his team to continue the chase of leading two, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. With both these sides meeting on Saturday in a classic clash at the Vicente Calderon, Madrid will be hoping for some favorable news while picking up maximum points against Espanyol.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Espanyol is having an inconsistent season so far under Javier Aguirre with only six league wins to their credit. Although, one of those did come against table toppers Atletico at Estadi Cornella El Prat in October.
If found guilty of abusing the referee on their last week’s 1-0 defeat to Osasuna, Coach Aguirre will not be on the sideline for the Catalans.
Javier Aguirre’s men followed up their defeat at Osasuna last week with a shock 1-0 loss at Alcoron in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday evening.
Real went on to beat Osasuna 2-0 in the same competition on Thursday.
Suspended captain S. Garcia is out for the hosts, but Aguirre will be boosted by the return of Victor Sanchez and Juan Rafael Fuentes, who have both served one-match bans.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Casilla; Fuentes, Colotto, Moreno, J Lopez; Simao, Sanchez, V Lopez, Fernandez, Stuani; Cordoba.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti will feel confident that his side can extend their unbeaten league run to nine matches against this Espanyol side that has lost three of their last six games.
Good news for Real Madrid is that, Portugal international Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most in-form players across the continent and is odds-on favourite to lift the FIFA Ballon D’Or on Monday after his displays in 2013.
Real are unbeaten in eight games in the league and Ancelotti is expecting a win from his players when they travel to Catalunya.
“It is hard to think about what the best result (between Atletico and Barca) for us would be,” the Italian said ahead of the match.
“They cannot both lose, but neither can they both win. We have to win to make up points with Barcelona or Atletico.”
The Italian boss is likely to return Daniel Carvajal to the starting side as well as Xabi Alonso, who missed the midweek Copa del Rey match due to a problem with his ear. Jese went off with a knock against Osasuna on Thursday night so will likely start from the bench with Isco returning to play in behind Karim Benzema and considering the current form of both Ronaldo and Bale, Madrid will be very strong going forward..
Raphael Varane and Sami Khedira (both knee) are the only players unavailable for the visitors.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Lopez; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Alonso, Modric; Ronaldo, Isco, Bale; Benzema
Player To Watch Out For
Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)
Xabi Alonso has just renewed his contract and will be eager to make his mark on the Madrid midfield. As the Basque is now back at his peak in terms of fitness, he and Luka Modric will form a solid creative central midfield partnership which will help Madrid to control the tempo of the game.
Espanyo 0-2 Real Madrid
Stopping Real Madrid will be difficult for the Catalans given the 32-time league winners have amassed 31 goals in their last eight league matches. Absence of leading scorer and assists provider Sergio Garcia will also limit the creativity of the home side. And given the ability of the strike force of Madrid, it will be a surprise if hosts can even manage to get a draw.
BLAST FROM THE PAST