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Espanyol Vs Real Madrid, Liga BBVA 2013-2014: Match Preview

The Santiago Bernabéu stadium will host Real Madrid's final game of the 2013-2014 season as Los Blancos take on Espanyol.

Adam Pretty

I know. We're all anxiously looking forward to May 24 when Real Madrid will play to win "La Décima." Still, considering the two draws and one defeat that Real Madrid earned since defeating Bayern Munich earlier this month, it's nice to have one more game for Ancelotti to tweak and tune his system before the Champions League final. Tomorrow, the majority of the football world will focus on Barcelona and Atlético Madrid as they duke it out for the Liga title, but we Madridistas should keep a close eye on our team to see how they perform in their last match before Lisbon.

Carlo Ancelotti revealed Cristiano Ronaldo will start the match after missing the Celta Vigo clash last week. The Portuguese winger is in contention for his third "Golden Shoe" Award and will be the sole recipient of the honor should he score against Espanyol. If he does not score, he will share the title with Liverpool's Luis Suarez (both players have scored 31 goals to date). Ronaldo is also on course to win Spain's "Pichichi" trophy, which is awarded to the top scorer in the Liga, unless Leo Messi scores a hat-trick tomorrow and Cristiano remains goal-less.

In the loss to Celta Vigo, Real Madrid struggled to generate opportunities with Morata as the sole striker and Modric, Marcelo and Isco as creators. While we know Ronaldo will be on the pitch, it'll be interesting to see whether Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will support him in attack. Both players have been called up by Ancelotti, as has a returning Di María.

Casillas, Jesús and Jacob.
Defenders: Varane, Arbeloa, Ramos, Coentrão, Marcelo, Carvajal and Nacho.
Midfielders: Bale, Xabi Alonso, Modric, Casemiro, Di María, Khedira, Isco and Illarra.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Morata.

Ancelotti has not called up Diego López and will use this match to give Casillas more minutes ahead of the final. Varane will partner Ramos as Pepe continues to nurse an injury, and, as always, it will be interesting to see who starts at left-back. Coentrão is the favorite to start in Lisbon, so Marcelo may get the nod tomorrow to ensure the Portuguese defender doesn't risk injury. On the flip side, Marcelo could be useful against a tight Atlético Madrid defense in the Champions League final, either as a starter or substitute. The left back question is a difficult one to answer as a fan, and I imagine it's an even harder one for Ancelotti and Zidane to resolve.

It's wonderful to have energizer bunny Di María back in the squad, but questions surround Ancelotti's recent use of Khedira and Illaramendi. The Boss said Illara remains the favorite to start in the final but also said Khedira did well against Celta and could have a part to play in Lisbon. Both players need minutes for form and fitness, but unless Xabi Alonso and Modric start on the bench, it's unlikely we'll see Illara and Khedira start together.

Fellow armchair managers: Who would you play and who would rest?

Real Madrid vs Espanyol: May 17 at 16:00 CET/ 10:00 am EST/ 7:00 am PST

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