Toni Kroos and Casemiro will return to the lineup while Marco Asensio will still not be fit enough to start when Real Madrid take on Espanyol.

Real Madrid will hope to build a two-point lead over rivals Barcelona who dropped points against Celta Vigo yesterday in a 2-2 draw. To accomplish that, Los Blancos will have to grab all three points when they take on Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium on Sunday night.

Zinedine Zidane has a lot of absentees ahead of his side’s game versus Espanyol, most notably missing Ferland Mendy and Luka Modric, who picked up suspensions against Mallorca. The Real Madrid manager will also be without the services of Nacho Fernandez, Luka Jovic and Lucas Vasquez, who are all dealing with long-term injuries.

We could see some changes this gameweek in Real Madrid’s XI, especially because they will be facing the team that are at the rock bottom of La Liga and one that have hired a new manager. However, during his pre-match press conference, Zidane hinted that he will field a strong lineup, if not his strongest.

“We won’t be complacent. We’re aware of the situation and that it’s top versus bottom, but that counts for nothing in football and you’ve got to go out there and prove it on the pitch. They’ll want to get the three points at home.”

Federico Valverde is expected to retain his spot in midfield while Casemiro and Toni Kroos will return to the starting XI after missing out last week. This is arguably Real Madrid’s strongest trio that has taken the pitch several times this season, including both El Clasicos in the current league campaign.

In defence, captain Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane will marshal the back-line, which will also feature Dani Carvajal and Marcelo on the right and left sides, respectively. Marcelo’s spot is pretty much confirmed courtesy of Mendy’s suspension. Thibaut Courtois will look to add to his incredible 14 clean sheets for the season starting in the Real Madrid goal.

Upfront, the main bone of contention will be for one spot, with Vinicius Junior, Gareth Bale, Isco and Marco Asensio all vying to start on the right wing. Vinicius is likely to get the nod ahead of the others because of his incredible form since the resumption of football in Spain, especially with Asensio not fit enough to be starting games yet.

Zidane spoke about Vinicius in his presser, saying, “All the players are aware where they are and all of us who work here have ups and downs in our work. Such is life. When you’re going through a tough time, you have to work hard. We’re in good form and Vinicius Jr. is too. He’s 21 and there’s a lot of room for improvement there. But the focus here is only on the team and that’s good.”

As for the other two positions in the side, Karim Benzema will lead the offensive line for Real Madrid against Espanyol, aided by Eden Hazard, who will play on the left. These two have formed a blossoming partnership in La Liga since the restart, courtesy of the three-month football hiatus which has helped Hazard return to his best touch.

Real Madrid Predicted XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Vinicius, Benzema, Hazard

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