Real Madrid - Espanyol Preview: Mourinho's men need a response to Copa del Rey disappointment
After a disappointing defeat in midweek, los Blancos will be desperate to recover with a win to ensure that they can keep within reach of league leaders Barcelona
By Tom Webber
Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Lopez, Colotto, Moreno, V. Alvarez
Garcia, Verdu, Simao
Real Madrid will be eager to ensure their Liga defence does not take another blow when they host Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho will welcome back a number of first team names who were rested in the midweek Copa del Rey defeat to Celta Vigo. Mesut Ozil is expected to fill the whole behind the striker while Sami Khedira returns to defensive midfield alongside Xabi Alonso.
The fans may feel more secure with Iker Casillas back between the posts, with Raphael Varane dropping out of the side to accommodate Sergio Ramos. With Marcelo still out with a fractured foot, Fabio Coentrao comes in at left-back.
Espanyol currently sit second from bottom in the table but Javier Aguirre can count on a full complement of players ahead of their trip to the capital. Christian Stuani will lead the line for the Catalan side while fellow South Americans Juan Forlin, Diego Colotto and Cristian Alvarez form the spine of the struggling side.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Real Madrid have won all of their previous six encounters with Espanyol.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the highest-scoring player for Mourinho's side with 13 league goals this term. Only Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao have scored more.
- Los Blancos ran out 5-0 winners in this fixture last season. Two goals from Gonzalo Higuain were added to by Ronaldo, Sami Khedira (pictured right) and Kaka.
- Espanyol have failed to score a single goal in their last six outings against los Blancos.
- The Catalan side have not tasted victory at the Bernabeu since a 2-1 win in the 1995-96 season.
- Los Blanquiblaus' 75 seasons in La Liga makes them the longest-serving top-flight side to have failed to lift the championship.
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Top 3 Predictions
Real Madrid CF 3-1 Espanyol
- 11.01 %
Real Madrid CF 3-0 Espanyol
- 9.57 %
Real Madrid CF 4-1 Espanyol
- 8.38 %
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||May 11, 2013||Espanyol 1 - Real Madrid CF 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Dec 16, 2012||Real Madrid CF 2 - Espanyol 2|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Mar 4, 2012||Real Madrid CF 5 - Espanyol 0|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Oct 2, 2011||Espanyol 0 - Real Madrid CF 4|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Feb 13, 2011||Espanyol 0 - Real Madrid CF 1|
|Real Madrid CF|
|Dec 7, 2013||CD Olímpic de Xàtiva 0 - Real Madrid CF 0||ESPC|
|Nov 30, 2013||Real Madrid CF 4 - Valladolid 0||LIGA|
|Nov 27, 2013||Real Madrid CF 4 - Galatasaray 1||UCL|
|Nov 23, 2013||Almeria 0 - Real Madrid CF 5||LIGA|
|Nov 9, 2013||Real Madrid CF 5 - Real Sociedad 1||LIGA|
|22||Ángel Di María||Midfielder|
|18||Juan Daniel Forlín||Defender|
|16||Javier López Rodríguez||Defender|
|3||Diego Daniel Colotto||Defender|
|34||Víctor Guillermo Álvarez Delgado||Defender|
|26||Víctor Sánchez Mata||Midfielder|
The Germany international was in sublime form in last weekend's 3-2 win over Valladolid, turning the game on its head with two moments of sheer quality. Having only played the second half against Celta Vigo in midweek he will be looking to prove to Mourinho that he is certainly the man to fill the position behind the striker. His passing will be instrumental if Angel di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are to get the better of the Espanyol defence.
This is one of those games were experience can be the most vital ingredient for a struggling side. The Portuguese winger will need to use his years of top-level football to try and unlock the Real Madrid defence. His guile and creativity on the wing will be needed to serve Stuani up front, but his delivery could also play a pivotal role. With Mourinho's side extremely vulnerable from set plays, Simao's quality from the dead ball could prove to be a very dangerous weapon.
Espanyol have failed to defeat Real Madrid in their previous seven meetings and it is hard to see that changing on Sunday. The Catalan side are only above the foot of the table on goal difference and Mourinho's side, keen to make amends for defeat to Celta Vigo, will be hungry for all three points. It should be a comfortable result, with the return of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil after a minimal role at most in midweek likely to play a huge role.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed