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Sep 12, 2015 at 3pm UK at Estadi Cornellà-El Prat
Real Madrid
FT(HT: 0-4)
Ronaldo (7', 17' pen., 20', 61', 81'), Benzema (28')

Preview: Espanyol vs. Real Madrid

Sports Mole previews Real Madrid's visit to Espanyol as the Blancos look to kick on from their 5-0 drubbing of Real Betis last time around.

Real Madrid visit Catalunya on Saturday for a clash with Espanyol as Rafael Benitez's men bid to kick on from a hugely encouraging win over Real Betis last time around.

In contrast, the Periquitos come into the contest hoping to bounce back from a deflating 3-1 defeat at Villarreal - and end a 17-match winless streak against the Madrid giants in the process.


Victor Sanchez of Espanyol holds off pressure from Juanmi of Southampton during the pre season friendly match between Southampton and Espanyol at St Mary's Stadium on August 2, 2015© Getty Images

With one win and one defeat so far, little remains known of what to expect from Espanyol in a season which threw up so much hardship before a ball was even kicked.

Four of the players that helped Sergio Gonzalez's side to a respectable 10th-place Liga finish last term departed the Catalans for pastures new and left Sergio with a spine to rebuild.

Goalkeeper Kiko Casilla left for Real Madrid, defender Hector Moreno joined PSV Eindhoven, midfielder Christian Stuani left for Middlesbrough, while top goalscorer and striker Sergio Garcia - a member of Spain's successful Euro 2008 squad - opted for Qatar.

Despite the mini exodus of influential players, Espanyol opened their 2015-16 season with a 1-0 win over Getafe, with Salva Sevilla netting the winner, but two late goals at Villarreal a week later saw them go down 3-1.

Still, the latter was a game in which the visitors earned a half-time lead through Felipe Caicedo - the second time that Espanyol had scored within five minutes of kickoff this season - and Sergio will hope for another fast and furious start come Saturday.

Recent form: WL

Real Madrid

Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his second goal during the Spanish league football match Real Madrid CF vs Real Betis Balompie at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on August 29, 2015© Getty Images

Coming into the job, Benitez's brief as Real Madrid boss would have been simple: relieve Barcelona of as many of their three trophies as possible. Their fans will feel slightly better about that unenviable task now than they would have after gameweek one.

Despite an uninspiring start, having drawn 0-0 away to newly-promoted Sporting Gijon, the veteran Spanish coach restored optimism of a promising season with a 5-0 demolition of Real Betis. The Benitez era starts now.

Indeed, braces from Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, and another from Karim Benzema, helped the former Liverpool manager secure a stylish win in what was the 55-year-old's first game at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Eyebrows were raised when president Florentino Perez turned to Benitez to succeed Carlo Ancelotti - who had won them their 10th Champions League title - but the way in which they dismantled Betis will quell questions regarding his long-term suitability.

Following the unconvincing stalemate in Gijon, however, their early-season away form is a bud there to be nipped, and Real can ill afford any more dropped points with Barcelona already two points ahead after winning their two Liga openers - albeit with stuttering displays.

With games against Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid on the horizon after Saturday, victory over Espanyol is arguably even more important given the banana-skin nature of their future outings.

Recent form: DW

Team News

James Rodriguez for Real Madrid on February 4, 2015© Getty Images

Playmaker Rodriguez and full-back Danilo are expected to miss the trip with thigh and foot injuries, sustained on international duty with Colombia and Brazil respectively.

Right-back Dani Carvajal is expected to come in for the Brazilian, while Isco is the obvious choice to succeed the other.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas could continue between the sticks despite almost joining Manchester United on Spain's deadline day as part of the botched David de Gea deal.

Meanwhile, Sergio has the luxury of naming an unchanged side, but the 38-year-old coach is expected to make a number of changes from the side that went down at Villarreal.

Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Duarte, Alvaro, Arilla, Raillo; Sanchez, Montanes, Lopez, Alvarez; Moreno, Caicedo

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Navas; Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Carvajal; Kroos, Modric, Isco; Benzema, Bale, Ronaldo

Head To Head

If recent history is anything to go by then Sergio's men have little to no chance of a win this weekend. It has been a little under eight years since Espanyol beat Real Madrid, and over two years since they last took points off them.

Ominously for Saturday's hosts, Madrid have won 14 of the last 17 meetings - the rest of which were draws - and they take a six-match winning streak with them to Catalunya.

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We say: Espanyol 1-2 Real Madrid

Given the fact they are Real Madrid, and this is a fixture that they have dominated in recent years, all the pressure will be on Benitez's charges and we reckon that they will rise to the challenge. It will not be easy, but the visitors should certainly leave Catalunya with all three points.

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