MX23RW : Monday, August 2 07:06:14| >> :120:54658:54658:
Dec 7, 2019 at 12pm UK at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu (Madrid)
Attendance: 64,125
Real Madrid
Varane (37'), Benzema (79')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Espanyol – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Espanyol, including team news and predicted lineups.

Real Madrid will be looking for their fourth straight La Liga victory when they welcome Espanyol to the Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon.

Los Blancos are currently second in Spain's top flight, level on points with the champions Barcelona, while Espanyol sit inside the relegation zone having struggled for results in the opening months of the season.

Match preview

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane pictured on November 30, 2019© Reuters

Madrid have not been without their problems this season but results on the field, particularly in recent weeks, have been impressive. There were suggestions earlier this season that Zinedine Zidane's position as head coach was already under threat, although the rumours appear to have dissipated.

Both Madrid and Barca have a game in hand on the rest of La Liga following the postponement of El Clasico, but Spain's two biggest clubs are currently first and second with 31 points to show from their 14 league matches this term.

Los Blancos have won their last three against Eibar, Real Sociedad and Alaves since dropping points against Real Betis on November 2, while they are unbeaten in Spain's top flight since a 1-0 loss at Mallorca on October 19.

Madrid have also gone four games unbeaten in the Champions League, booking their spot in the last-16 stage of the competition ahead of their final group match away to Club Brugge on Wednesday night.

Zidane's team have four more league matches before the winter break kicks in on December 22, including a trip to Barca on December 18, which could have a big say in which team leads the division heading into 2020.

Espanyol midfielder Marc Roca pictured in January 2019© Reuters

Espanyol have been present in La Liga since being promoted at the end of the 1993-94 campaign, but there is a genuine fear that the Catalan outfit could drop into the second tier come the end of the current season.

The White and Blues finished seventh in La Liga last term, while they have not been lower than 14th since 2005-06. As a result, the fact that they have struggled so badly this season has come as a huge surprise.

Two wins, three draws and 10 defeats – that is how Espanyol have performed in the league this term. A total of nine points has left them in 19th spot in the table, while they have the worst goal difference in the league with minus 18.

No team has conceded more times in La Liga this season, while they are already five points off the safety of 17th position, which is a concern at this stage, particularly heading into this particular contest.

Pablo Machin's side have booked their spot in the knockout round of the Europa League with a match to spare but have only picked up one league victory since the middle of September, losing four of their last five.

Real Madrid form: LWDWWW

Espanyol form: WLLLDL

Team News

Real Madrid's Eden Hazard limps off with an ankle injury against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on November 26, 2019.© Reuters

Madrid will again be without the services of Marco Asensio, James Rodriguez and Lucas Vazquez , while Nacho is also unlikely to feature despite recently returning to training following a knee problem.

Eden Hazard has also been ruled out for the remainder of 2019 after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right ankle, meaning that the Belgian will also miss El Clasico later this month.

Gareth Bale's involvement is also in doubt having not yet trained with his teammates this week, meaning that Rodrygo Goes could return to the side alongside Karim Benzema and Isco in the final third.

Thibaut Courtois, Raphael Varane and Federico Valverde are also in line for recalls having been left out of the XI against Alaves, while Ferland Mendy is expected to replace Marcelo, who is struggling with a calf issue.

As for Espanyol, Victor Sanchez will be unavailable as he serves a one-game suspension, while Javi Lopez, Facundo Ferreyra, Matias Vargas and Naldo remain on the treatment table.

Jonathan Calleri's strike against Osasuna last time out could see the striker come into the side, while Oscar Melendo and Pablo Piatti are also pushing for spots.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Isco

Espanyol possible starting lineup: Diego Lopez; Calero, Espinosa, David Lopez; Roca; Pedrosa, Darder, Melendo, Avila; Wu, Calleri

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Real Madrid 3-0 Espanyol

It is difficult to imagine a scenario where Madrid do not pick up all three points in this match. Zidane's side are on a bit of a run at the moment and we expect them to record a comfortable victory at the Bernabeu, despite the fact that a number of key players will be absent for Saturday's affair.

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Monday's key events

· There are no Brits in the women's 100m hurdles final, but Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, fresh from breaking the Olympic record in the semis, will hope to pip world record holder Kendra Harrison to gold (3.50am)
· The women's 5000m final also has no Team GB representation, but two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya will be looking to add an Olympic gold to her list of honours (1.40pm)

· The women's skiff 49er FX (6.33am) and men's skiff 49er (7.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races

· A place in the women's gold medal match is up for grabs, starting with an all-North American semi-final between United States and Canada (9am)
· Australia, who edged past Team GB's in a seven-goal quarter-final thriller, take on Sweden in the second semi-final (12pm)

· The track cycling schedule gets underway, with Team GB holding a particular interest in the team pursuit qualifying. Laura Kenny is part of the women's team (7.54am), while the men's team includes Ed Clancy (9.02am)

· The Gadirova twins Jessica and Jennifer will both take part in the women's floor final as they look to add to their team bronze (9.57am)

· Newly-crowned European champion Emily Campbell flies the flag for Great Britain in the women's +87kg, but faces stiff competition for medals from China's Li Wenwen and New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard (11.50am)

· The women's hockey quarter-finals begin, with Team GB last up against Spain (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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