Real Madrid are back in La Liga action after an impressive performance in their opening Champions League tie and now await a visit from Espanyol.

Last weekend Real Madrid dropped their first points in the La Liga race after a draw against Athletic Bilbao and they already trail Barcelona by two points. But, the European Champions proved the draw was only a blip as they swept AS Roma aside in their Champions League group stage opener, and there has been no indication of a major dip in form so far.

However, Julen Lopetegui and his star-studded side know that in the end, the points would matter, and they aim to quickly close the gap on Barcelona. But more importantly, Real Madrid would want to avoid a situation in the league like last season and continue winning as many games as possible.

After a strange summer during which period Cristiano Ronaldo left the club, the mood is still positive around the Bernabeu. And while everyone suggested they might miss the Portuguese for his goalscoring prowess, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have stepped up to the challenge with four strikes each already this season.

Espanyol, on the other hand, have not had a bad start to their La Liga campaign, collecting seven points from four games so far. That form has seen them ascend up to fourth on the league standings with Getafe above them only on goal difference. But, the Catalan side have had difficulties in winning back-to-back games in the last few years, having done so only once since the 2016/-7 season.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Julen Lopetegui will have his sights on the next games against Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, and could well rotate his side heavily. The Real Madrid manager could start with resting Dani Carvajal as Alvaro Odriozola is available to play at right-back. Nacho could also get the nod in at the heart of defence if Sergio Ramos is rested.

Dani Ceballos was omitted from the starting lineup to play Roma in the midweek Champions League tie and the midfielder could come into the side in place of Casemiro.

However, there could be late decisions taken by Lopetegui on the inclusion of Isco, who continued his goalscoring run against Roma. If he is on the bench then, Marco Asensio could well come into the side, although Lopetegui should retain prolific duo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in his starting lineup.

Apart from those changes, the Real Madrid boss is expected to keep his personnel more or less the same, with the likes of Luka Modric, Raphael Varane, Marcelo and Toni Kroos virtually guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Odriozola, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Ceballos; Asensio, Benzema, Bale

Espanyol

Centre-back David Lopez could miss this clash through injury, although if even somewhat fit, the defender could yet play a part. The changes could be based on if Espanyol will be able to play Lopez.

But, manager Rubi has kept an unchanged side for the last three games, and he will likely do so against Real Madrid as well. Diego Lopez will start in goal, and if David Lopez starts, then he would be partnered by Hermoso at the heart of the Espanyol defence, with Javi Lopez and Didac Vila expected to provide support being full-backs.

Rubi is set to go with his usual 4-3-3 setup to match Real Madrid in every part of the playing field.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Diego Lopez, Javi Lopez, David Lopez, Hermoso, Vila; Roca, Darder, Granero; Baptistao, Garcia, Iglesias

Key Stats

  • Espanyol haven’t beaten Real Madrid at the Bernabeu since 1996.
  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 11 games played at home.
  • Real Madrid have 100 victories over Espanyol, the only Laa Liga side to achieve the feat against a single opposition.
  • Real Madrid have scored the most headed goals this season in the La Liga.
  • Gareth Bale has scored ten goals in his last 11 games for Real Madrid.

Player to Watch

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale is pocking up form this season having already scored four goals in La Lia. (photo courtesy: AFP/Getty

Gareth Bale is picking up form this season having already scored four goals in La Lia. (photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Gareth Bale was considering leaving Real Madrid at the end of last season after reportedly being unhappy upon being overlooked for many crucial games. But, with Cristiano Ronaldo the one departing, Bale would be praising his stars for the fact that he has finally got the importance he’s been craving for all this while.

The Welshman has shown his presence on the pitch ever since, scoring four goals this season in the league already, and much is expected out of him over the course of the campaign. Against Espanyol, he has another opportunity to showcase that he is not a hit and miss product but the man who can fill the gap left by Ronaldo in the summer.

Prediction

Real Madrid 3-1 Espanyol

Real Madrid are expected to bounce back from the draw against Bilbao last weekend and take all three points against Espanyol. Another factor would be the Bernabeu, where Espanyol have not beaten Madrid since 1996 and are unlikely to start a new trend now. Julen Lopetegui’s setup of his team has also received praises, for despite the drastic change in manager and playing personnel, Madrid have not lost their edge over things.

However, there are some talented players at Espanyol currently, who can hurt any defence. That said, expect the Catalan side to score at least one goal, but with the likes of Bale and Benzema up front for Real Madrid, Lopetegui & co. should sweep their opponents aside comfortably.

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