Real Madrid host Espanyol at the Bernabeu on Saturday as the home side look to get back to winning ways in La Liga following the disappointment of a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao last time out.
That draw halted a rampant start to the season from Los Blancos after Julen Lopetegui’s side won their first three games of the La Liga campaign, with back to back 4-1 victories coming before their more recent draw in Bilbao.
Espanyol arrive at the Bernabeu in impressive form, with an encouraging start to the season of their own helping the away side sit in the top four heading into this weekend’s match.
Here’s how Madrid could look on Saturday.
1. Goalkeeper & Defenders
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – Having seen Keylor Navas start ahead of him in goal following a late arrival in Madrid during the summer, Courtois has now seized his spot as Real Madrid’s first choice goalie following his big summer move from Chelsea.
Dani Carvajal (RB) – Though Alvaro Odriozola arrived from Real Sociedad in the summer to provide greater competition at right back, Carvajal remains one of Madrid’s best defenders and one of Spanish football’s finest in his position.
Raphael Varane (CB) – After winning a third successive Champions League title with Madrid last season, Varane went on to star in France’s World Cup winning squad during the summer. Still only 25, Varane is as accomplished at defending as he is at boasting the biggest titles in football to his name.
Sergio Ramos (CB) – An ever-controversial figure for his ruthless approach to defending, Ramos’ captaining of his side to a succession of back to back Champions League titles has established the defender as a Madrid icon, and his winning mentality shows no signs of waning.
Marcelo (LB) – An era-defining full back, Marcelo remains as integral as ever to Madrid’s back line and has become a real leader of the side he has served with such distinction.
Casemiro (CDM) – Despite being left out of the starting lineup in favour of the more attack-minded Dani Ceballos last time out in La Liga, Casemiro remains one of Madrid’s most crucial players in terms of bringing natural balance to Los Blancos’ midfield and great organisation and protection ahead of a defence that can be suspect at times.
Luka Modric (CM) – The winner of the World Cup’s player of the tournament, Modric seems to get better with age and remains as capable as ever at running games from midfield with his drifting dynamism and effortless control.
Toni Kroos (CM) – The maestro of the side, Kroos’ sublime passing and deliveries make him an essential part of the Madrid set-up with his ability to keep his side ticking and pick out an incisive pass into the front men.
Gareth Bale (RW) – Following years of debate over his long-term role at Real Madrid and his place in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo since arriving in Madrid in 2013, Bale finally has centre stage at the Bernabeu following Ronaldo’s departure in the summer and the Welshman has grabbed the opportunity with three goals in Madrid’s first four league games this season.
Karim Benzema (ST) – Like Bale, Benzema has responded to Ronaldo’s departure and the added goalscoring responsibility on his shoulders in fine form early in the season, with four goals in Madrid’s first four games.
Marco Asensio (LW) – Whilse Bale is Madrid’s answer to Ronaldo’s exit in terms of their next big superstar in the short-term, it is Asensio who is Los Blancos’ biggest hope for the future, with the 22-year-old Spaniard’s importance and influence ever-growing for both club and country.