Real Madrid vs Espanyol Preview: Form, Previous Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More

?Real Madrid host Espanyol at the Bernabeu on Saturday in a La Liga clash between two sides who have enjoyed bright starts to the season.

The hosts have begun their post-Zidane and post-Ronaldo era in positive fashion, having lost their manager and star player during the summer. Los Blancos have showed little sign of weakness despite those key departures, winning three and drawing once in their first four league games.

Espanyol, meanwhile, have been one of the surprise packages of La Liga so far, recording two wins, drawing once and suffering one defeat in a generally positive start which has seen them storm to fourth.

Saturday’s trip to the Bernabeu promises to be a tough test of the Catalan side’s improvements this season and is sure to put their promising start under intense scrutiny.


Form

?Real Madrid began their season strongly with a 2-0 victory at home to Getafe as the European champions looked to dispel any notions of weakness following the summer departures of Zinedine Zidane and ?Cristiano Ronaldo.

?Gareth Bale immediately picked up the striking mantle from Ronaldo in that match, as would have been expected as Madrid’s next in line Galactico forward, and the Welshman continued to carry the burden along with ?Karim Benzema as Los Blancos dispatched Girona 4-1 in their second game.

Girona FC v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

The same striking duo repeated the trick the following week, with Benzema once again at the double and Bale finding the net once more, as Madrid secured another 4-1 win over Leganes to continue their emphatic start.

Madrid’s momentum was halted, however, as Athletic Bilbao held Julen Lopetegui’s side to a 1-1 draw, with ?Isco netting a second half equaliser to earn a point after Los Blancos fell behind.

They’ve also made a positive start to the defence of their Champions League title, with a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Italian outfit Roma in midweek, with Gareth Bale scoring and starring once more.

Espanyol have recorded more mixed form so far this season, though 2-0 and 1-0 wins over Valencia and Levante respectively have elevated the Catalans into the top four, whilst a 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo and a 2-1 defeat to Alaves are reminders that their positive start will give them little to rest upon when they travel to Madrid on Saturday.


Previous Encounter

If Espanyol are to earn a positive result this weekend, they will be hoping to reproduce something similar to their shock 1-0 win over the European champions when the sides last met in February.

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At that time, Madrid were 14 points behind league leaders Barcelona, and Espanyol struck further difficulty into their league campaign with a last-minute winner from Gerard Moreno to condemn Zinedine Zidane’s side to an unlikely defeat at the RCDE Stadium.

In what was generally regarded as a poor match of little quality, it is Espanyol who will have by far the fonder memories of a game which will go down in the club’s history.

However, Madrid fielded a heavily rotated side on that occasion, with their Champions League campaign taking priority by that stage of the season, and Espanyol can expect to face the full armoury of Los Blancos in what is likely to be a tougher task this time out.


Key Battle

With the previous encounter between the two sides having been a generally low-quality affair, the key to Saturday’s game could be which side is able to produce greater quality and create more on the ball this time out.

With creativity key to the outcome of the match, it is in the centre of midfield where the game could be most intriguingly contested, with particular focus on which side’s technicians in the middle of the park are able to produce telling moments of quality.

For Madrid, the pass master of the side is Toni Kroos. The German maestro is the man who makes Los Blancos tick from the central areas, and the onus will be on the World Cup winner to unlock the Espanyol defence and break through the midfield with quality passing and incisive movement on Saturday.

Espanyol, meanwhile, have a former Real Madrid playmaker of their own to assume similar responsibilities for the away side in Esteban Granero.

The Spaniard never quite made the grade during his short stint at the Bernabeu but displayed on numerous occasions his eye for a key pass and a strong ability to provide good deliveries into the box. His ability to pick out teammates in dangerous areas could be key to Espanyol’s chances of success.


Team News

Real Madrid are set to be without defender Jesus Vallejo for this weekend, though with Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Nacho Fernandez all fit it is unlikely that the young Spaniard would have featured against Espanyol if fit.

The away side, meanwhile, are set to be without a central defender of their own, with Oscar Duarte absent through a knee injury for Espanyol, whilst winger Javi Puado also remains sidelined for Rubi’s side with ligament damage.


Potential Real Madrid Lineup: ?Courtois; Carvajal, ?Varane, ?Ramos, ?Marcelo; ?Casemiro, ?Modric, ?Kroos; Bale, Benzema, ?Asensio.

Potential Espanyol Lineup: Diego Lopez; Javi Lopez, David Lopez, Hermoso, Vila; Darder, Roca, Granero; Baptistao, Iglesias, Garcia.


Prediction

Though Espanyol will be buoyed by their positive start to the season and top four place heading into Saturday’s match, a showdown with the European champions is likely to prove a more telling test of the away side’s quality.

Real Madrid  v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League Group G

Having been held to a disappointing 1-1 draw in their previous league outing, Madrid will be gunning to get back to winning ways in La Liga and will likely have too much quality going forward for the visitors.

Score prediction: Real Madrid 3-0 Espanyol

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Real Madrid Star Luka Modric Admits the World Cup Left Him Physically & Mentally Exhausted

?Luka Modric has admitted that the 2018 World Cup took a heavy toll on his body, as well as his mind.

The Real Madrid midfielder’s performances helped Croatia reach the tournament’s final and saw him win the Golden Ball in the end. But the Vatreni would stumble at the final hurdle, losing to France in an exciting showdown on the last day.

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Modric was in action for Madrid on Wednesday night as they beat Italian side AS Roma 3-0 in the first group stage match of the new Champions League campaign and put on a grand display. Speaking after the match, he said he is feeling better every day, following his gruelling and mentally challenging World Cup exploits.

?“The World Cup caused me a lot of physical and mental exhaustion, but I feel better every day and I hope to continue playing as I did tonight,” he told reporters, via MARCA.

The 33-year-old also praised his team’s performance against the Serie A side, claiming that they played a “complete match”.

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“Very happy for our performance as a team and for the victory, we played a very complete match,” he declared. “We created many chances and we were able to score more than three goals.”

Asked what it’s like to work alongside the likes of Casemiro and Toni Kroos, the veteran midfielder boasted they could play together with their eyes closed.

“Of course I feel very comfortable with them,” he said. “We have played together for more than three years, we know each other almost with our eyes closed, but I also feel very comfortable with others.”

It has been quite the year for Modric. The Croatian captured the Champions League for the third straight time with Los Blancos at the end of last season, before going on to win the World Cup’s Golden Ball and then the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award.

He’s now thought to be a top candidate for the Ballon d’Or, but he says he isn’t obsessing over it, although winning the accolade would make him very happy.

Real Madrid CF v CD Leganes - La Liga

“Proud that the fans and teammates ask for it, but it does not obsess me,” he claimed. “The important thing is the team, if I win it, very well, I will be very happy, but if that’s not the case, life goes on.”

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Real Madrid’s Mariano Reveals Desire to Represent Spain After Champions League Strike Against Roma

??Real Madrid striker Mariano has spoken of his desire to represent the Spanish national side following his? goal against Roma in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

The club’s new signing was born in Barcelona, yet represented the Dominican Republic until recently when he retired from the team in order to pursue a call-up to the Spain’s squad. 

Real Madrid  v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League Group G

In an interview with Spanish newspaper ?M?arca following his injury time goal in Real Madrid’s 3-0 win against last season’s ?Champions League semi finalists Roma on Wednesday, the 25-year old forward reiterated his desire to become part of Luis Enrique’s team. 

“I would love a call from Luis Enrique, I hope I can be in the national team,” he explained in his post-match interview.

“I’m very happy for the goal and would like to thank my teammates.

“Marcelo’s pass made sure that I was able to debut in this wonderful way.”

Mariano worked his way up through ?Real Madrid’s youth ranks, making his debut for the club in 2016, and featured in eight matches in total before French club Lyon signed the striker for €8m at the beginning of the 2017/18 season. 

Real Madrid  v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League Group G

However, Julen Lopetegui brought the player back this summer in a five-year deal, handing him the famous number seven shirt previously worn by ?Cristiano Ronaldo. 

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“The personal goal for me is to help the team, winning the Champions League would be great,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to return here so I’m very grateful for this chance.”

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Team of the Round: Picking an XI of the Best Performers on Gameweek 1 of the Champions League

The greatest club competition on earth made its highly anticipated return this week, and as expected, threw up a whole shed load of drama and stunning goals as Europe’s best did their thing. 

We saw Real Madrid embark on their first Champions League match without Cristiano Ronaldo since 2009, Liverpool humble Paris Saint-Germain, and much, much more. 

In what has been an extremely tough task given the vast amount of exquisite performances across the board this week, here’s the team of gameweek one. 

Enjoy…

1. GK: Wojciech Szcz?sny – Juventus

The Polish international now holds the number one jersey in Turin after the departure of Gianluigi Buffon, and based on his performance against Valencia, it will be his for some time. 

Szczesny, formerly of Arsenal, managed to keep a clean sheet despite his side playing over an hour of the game with 10 men after Cristiano Ronaldo’s red card. 

Even more impressively, the Pole managed to preserve his clean sheet even after Valencia had been awarded a penalty, diving smartly to his right to keep out Dani Parejo. 

2. RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool

Liverpool’s academy graduate looked set to face one of the toughest tests of his short career when Neymar and Kylian Mbappe rocked up to Anfield, but the 19-year-old dealt impeccably with the £360m duo, while providing a key attacking outlet for the hosts.

Alexander-Arnold completed both of his dribbles, had 91 touches and completed five out of his six tackles, whilst also making 45 passes against the French champions. 

He was crucial in the build up to Daniel Sturridge’s opening goal, and even managed to clip the bar with a free-kick late on. 

Seriously accomplished stuff. 

3. CB: Abdou Diallo – Borussia Dortmund

A £25m summer arrival from Mainz, Abdou Diallo has taken to life at Borussia Dortmund, and the Champions League, like a duck to water. 

The Frenchman, who captains the France Under-21 side, was imperious on his debut in Europe’s greatest club competition against Club Brugge, making nine recoveries. 

He completed more accurate long balls (11) than any other player in gameweek one, whilst also recording a clean sheet as well as almost getting on the scoresheet. 

Not bad for a 22-year-old. 

4. CB: José Giménez – Atlético Madrid

The Uruguay international was at his dominant best against Monaco on Tuesday night, helping his side come from behind to beat the Ligue 1 side. 

Gimenez scored what turned out to be the winning goal when he met Koke’s corner with a thumping header in first half stoppage time. 

The 23-year-old marshalled the Ateti backline admirably, so much so that Monaco didn’t even look like getting an equaliser. 

5. LB: Nicolás Tagliafico – Ajax

Ajax left-back Nicolas Tagliafico became the first defender to score a double for the Dutch giants since Frank de Boer back in 1995, a stat which I’m sure he’ll be proud of. 

The Argentine’s two goals, including a wonder striker (misjudged cross) from the left wing, saw his side record a dominant victory in their opening Champions League game. 

6. CDM: Tanguy Ndombele – Olympique Lyon

This kid is special. 

Tanguy Ndombele ran the show against Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking Manchester City side, putting in a man of the match display as Lyon recorded a 2-1 victory. 

The 21-year-old had an 83% passing accuracy, made two tackles, won five of his six duels and completed three accurate long balls. 

Ndombele also made two key passes, including a stunning, defence splitting ball to Memphis Depay which say the Dutchman hit the post. 

7. CM: Renato Sanches – Bayern Munich

Like Tanguy Ndombele, another 21-year-old bossed the midfield in the Champions League this week, but Renato Sanches’ story has a different romance about it. 

The Portugal international moved away from Benfica to Bayern in a £35m deal two years ago, but had tailed off significantly. 

A failed loan move to Swansea last season looked to spell the end of his Bayern career, but he has been resurgent under Niko Kovac. 

On his return to his boyhood club, Sanches scored his first Bayern goal against his old club, whilst dominating the midfield with his powerful running. 

Oh, and he also got a standing ovation from both sets of supporters. 

8. CM: James Milner – Liverpool

Like a fine Ribena, James Milner is simply getting better and better with age. 

The 32-year-old continued his fine form from the previous Champions League campaign – in which he set a new record for assists – with a goal against the French champions. 

Milner also completed 86% of his passes, and made a game-high five tackles, including the one high up the pitch on Kylian Mbappe that led to Roberto Firmino’s last gasp winner. 

Oh, and he dumped Neymar onto the turf, much to the satisfaction of the Anfield faithful. 

9. CAM: Paul Pogba – Manchester United

When he’s up for it and on song, Paul Pogba is just about the best midfielder in the world.  

With the captain’s armband around his arm and Jose Mourinho’s trust bestowed in him, the World Cup winner put in a scarily good performance against Champions League debutants Young Boys. 

His first goal was a contender for the tournament’s goal of the season award even at such a premature stage of the competition, whilst his 26-step penalty oozed control and swagger. 

10. ST: Lionel Messi – Barcelona

Do I even need to write anything? 

The GOAT recorded a record eighth Champions League hat-trick with his treble against PSV Eindhoven, opening the scoring with a phenomenal, but delicate free kick. 

Amazingly, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s 16 goals in Champions League matchday one fixtures is an all-time high. 

We really are running out of superlatives for this man, so much so that nobody has even batted an eyelid at yet another hattrick. 

11. ST: Gareth Bale – Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo is no more at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Spanish capital needs a new hero. Step forward, Gareth Bale. 

The Welshman, with his emphatic strike against Roma, now has 10 goals in his last 10 games for Los Blancos. 

His goal on Wednesday evening put him level with Ronaldinho on 18 Champions League strikes; esteemed company, no doubt about that. 

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Ronald’oh! Twitter Goes Into Meltdown After Cristiano Ronaldo Is Controversially Sent Off in UCL

These days we associate ?Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League with stunning overhead kicks, sublime hattricks and iconic images of him lifting the trophy on numerous occasions.
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?However, not tonight! His Champions League debut for ?Juventus lasted just 29 minutes, after the forward was sent off for violent conduct against Valencia.

UEFA Champions League'Valencia FC v Juventus FC'

There was much confusion when the initial decision was given, and even once the replays were shown fans still weren’t entirely sure what Ronaldo actually did. The cameras seemed to show the Portuguese hit Jeison Murillo’s head, however, whether it was malicious or intentional is yet to be decided.
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?Regardless, it is his first ever red card in the competition and he left his Juventus teammates a lot to do with still an hour left to play in their clash with the Spaniards. Once he was given his marching orders, Twitter users were almost instant to react to the incident and have their say.
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Before ?Manchester United fans get too excited thinking he’ll be suspended for both their clashes against Juventus, the Champions League rules state a straight red card warrants a one-game suspension. This means he’ll miss the Bianconeri’s next clash against Young Boys, but will still be eligible for both ties against United.??

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