Real Madrid will have a chance against Espanyol to recover from any hangover that’s lingering from Wednesday’s calamitous win over Sporting.
The recent history of Real Madrid-Espanyol has been rather one-sided. It’s been two full seasons since Real beat Espanyol by fewer than three goals. Last season, Real won each meeting 6-0 (Ronaldo alone netted eight goals over two meetings). Following last year’s second 6-0 win, some speculated whether Espanyol deliberately mailed in their performances against Madrid as a way of spiting their shared rival, Barcelona.
What’s new about Espanyol: New ownership. Rastar Group, a Chinese toy car manufacturer (you are not misreading that) purchased RCDE last year, and aim to have the club in the Champions League in three years time. Headed by Chen Yansheng, the Rastar Group’s wealth isn’t so overwhelming that they’ll be able to compete with Barcelona financially, so this seems more of a passion project than anything. Yansheng said he invested because he’s “been an Espanyol fan for 20 years,” and that he sees no reason Barcelona can’t house two powerful clubs.
Espanyol brought in two veterans in the gaffe-prone Martín Demichelis and ex-Real Madrid keeper Diego López. Managing Espanyol is Quique Flores, who came over from Watford. Once upon a time Flores played for Real Madrid and coached the youth team, and he’s gone on to have a fine managerial career.
What’s the same about Espanyol: Their defense is still decidedly not-good. No other club in La Liga has leaked as many goals as they have so far this season. They’re also still nicknamed the Periquitos (after the birds that sang in the trees near their old Stadi de Sarrià, but lately it’s just for their terrifying mascot). They’re a stable La Liga club, and operate as such.
Real Madrid will look to wrap up this game long before stoppage time, even with a few key injuries.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are confirmed out, and Karim Benzema looked far from fit against Sporting. Keylor Navas is still recovering, and Isco has been out of the last two matches as well. Despite this, Madrid’s depth looked great against Sporting and Zidane will be happy to be able to the likes of Lucas Vázquez, Álvaro Morata, and James Rodríguez.
This is Madrid’s first time playing on the road in nearly a month, and as far as road stadia go, the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat is a preferable destination to get back on track.
Sunday, 18 September 2016 at 2:45PM EST.
Espanyol: Diego López; Mata, Durate, David Lopez, Javi Lopez; Platti, Diop, Roca, Perez; Moreno, Baptisto
Real Madrid: Casilla; Marcelo, Ramos, Varane, Carvajal; James, Kroos, Modrić; Lucas Vázquez, Morata, Asensio