Real Madrid take on Espanyol at the Bernabéu on Saturday. Real are currently in second still, tied at 31 points with Barcelona and goal differential the only thing separating the two clubs.
Espanyol have had a dreadful season so far with them being 19th in the league table. They haven’t won a match since the end of October. They haven’t even hit double digits in points yet, holding only 9 points total currently.
This is the first time this season these two clubs are meeting on the pitch. Espanyol had a pretty uneventful summer window, their most significant signing being Matias Vargas. However, they did lose both Borja Iglesias and former Blancos defender Mario Hermoso, which has definitely affected their squad.
Real are dealing with some injuries this match. They have just determined that Hazard will be out much longer than previously expected. That being said, this is a good opportunity for them to utilize a weaker opponent for rest.
Real have had a terrible time with injuries again this season and can’t seem to catch a break from them. Eden Hazard is now out around a month, when it was previously expected to be about 10 days. This means he won’t be back until after El Clasico.
Bale is also missing this match with a hamstring injury. Asensio, Vazquez and James all remain out as well. Marcelo is suffering with a calf injury and may end up missing El Clasico as well. Nacho is still out, but he has returned to training and should be back soon.
Espanyol will be without Naldo, Javi Lopez and Matias Vargas. Facundo is also a doubt for this match.
Víctor Sanchez is the sole suspension for Espanyol and Saturday’s match.
Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Militão, Mendy; Isco, Valverde, Kroos; Rodrygo, Vinicius, Jovic
As mentioned before, with injuries and a struggling opponent this is a good chance for Zidane to get some of the reserves starting minutes.
Militão could use a start and he could be brought in for either Ramos or Varane.
Casemiro is one yellow card away from suspension, so Zidane might want to rest him as well. Modric may also be rested.
Vinicius hasn’t been seen in a good while and needs some minutes with Hazard out. Rodrygo is also the natural replacement for an injured Bale. Like Vinicius, Jovic also needs to see some playing time. Benzema has been phenomenal this season, but he does need a good rest for a young striker who hasn’t played all that much.
Diego López; David López, Bernardo, Calero; Roca, Pipa, Darder, Granero, Pedrosa; Campuzano, Wu Lei
Real Madrid—Espanyol 3-1
If there were a match where Zidane could incorporate more of the younger players that don’t get much time, this is the match. I certainly don’t want to make it sound that it’s a given Espanyol loses, but this is certainly a club that Real should be beating regardless.
Espanyol are currently in a relegation spot and haven’t won many matches. Real, being where they are in the standings, should be winning this match. It’s also a great chance to see what the youngsters like Jovic and Vinicius can contribute if starting.
Real Madrid have another fairly easy matchup midweek against Brugge. Since Real have already qualified for the Round of 16, these two matches could be where more rest is seen for the starters before having to face Valencia next weekend.
Los Blancos are at home and still have a more than capable squad of securing a win and 3 points to keep pace with Barcelona through another weekend of league play.