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Real Madrid Vs. Espanyol, 2012 La Liga: Preview And Open Thread

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Real Madrid host RCD Espanyol tonight (21:30 CET, 3:30 PM EST) in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, and all eyes will be on struggling goal scorer Gonzalo Higuain. Real Madrid has been in a bit of a rut over the past couple of weeks, managing a 0-1 win against surging Rayo Vallecano last week, and a 1-1 draw in Moscow against CSKA a few days before that. Coach Jose Mourinho lost in-form striker Karim Benzema to a groin injury during the CSKA Champions League match, and he called on Higuain to try to fill in for the Frenchman; so far, the Argentinian has struggled with his form, barely managing to bring anything to the pitch in the past two games.

But all of that could change against Espanyol: the last time the two sides met, Higuain scored three goals, including this absolute stunner. He has traditionally fared well against Espanyol, and Real Madrid have played well this season in the Bernabéu--two ingredients that could make for a explosive comeback performance from the madridistas and el Pipita in particular.

Madrid are also semi-obligated to win tonight, as arch-rivals (and the other side of the Liga duopoly) FC Barcelona won a tight match in the Nou Camp against Sporting Gijón yesterday, leaving los blancos' Liga lead at seven points. Both sides are dealing with myriad injuries at the moment, and Madrid need to keep pace to ensure that the Liga title doesn't slip from their (admittedly strong) grasp.

Finally, Mourinho has made it a point to suggest that he will start José María Callejón tonight against his ex-team. This could be a brilliant move--he'll probably start over the slumping Kaka--or it could backfire if Callejón doesn't come out with the fire that has characterized his performances over the course of the year. Should be interesting whatever happens. Actually, Mourinho has decided to start Kaká over Callejón, despite what we heard. It's a move to keep possession and dominate the game, as he must have decided to opt for a slower building style over the quick attack.

Consider this your forum to discuss the game, comment on the stadium, the pitch, Mourinho's outfit, and Cristiano Ronaldo's hair. Try to be civil and welcoming--we're a great group, and we want to make sure everyone knows it. Also, follow us on Twitter @managingmadrid, "like" us on Facebook, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes for up-to-the-minute analysis and Real Madrid commentary. HALA MADRID!

Real Madrid XI: Iker Casillas; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Ricardo Carvalho, Marcelo; Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso; Kaká, Mesut Özil, Cristiano Ronaldo; Gonzalo Higuaín

RCD Espanyol XI: Casilla; J. López, Raúl Rodríguez, Moreno, Dídac; Forlín, Romaric; Weiss, Verdú, Coutinho; Álvaro

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