Every Liga game is tough. That was what Mourinho said in the pre-match press conference yesterday at the Santiago Bernabéu. And that's why he said Coentrao will play instead of reserving him for the match in Málaga.
Espanyol is currently one of the worst teams in the Spanish competition, but Javier Aguirre's defensive style could complicate Real Madrid's gameplan. Jose Mourinho's team is having trouble against tight defensive lines that defend well the center of the pitch, and with Di María's current performances, Real Madrid doesn't have a good winger to break the defense.
If Espanyol is going to play a defensive match, it'd be interesting to place Luka Modric besides Alonso. That way, Real Madrid would have another playmaker that could find his teammates. Furthermore, Sami Khedira is not playing great lately. He was too soft against Beñat when Betis beat Madrid, and against Valladolid, he didn't help his teammates with the ball.
If Benzema is able to start, Madrid would have a very good playmaker upfront too. Benzema understands the game well, but he isn't playing at the level he was used to last season. It'd be essential for Real Madrid to recover Gonzalo Higuaín to have another option when Benzema isn't having a great day, but the Argentinian player won't comeback sooner than 2013.
Thanks to Coentrao' recovery, Mourinho will be able to line up his usual defensive line with Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos and the Portuguese left back. Real has been struggling lately in both wings, so maybe Coentrao's deep runs will open up space for Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates.
One way or another, Real Madrid needs a win. Barcelona will play against Atlético Madrid right after the game against Espanyol. And with a complicated game in Málaga next week, Real Madrid can't afford any more mistakes.