Real Madrid will be closing in on crisis mode if they fail to beat Espanyol in Sunday’s La Liga clash at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Six matches in, Los Blancos find themselves sixth in the standings, a full seven points behind archrivals Barcelona, who have made a perfect start to lead the way early on. Their recent 1-0 loss to Real Betis, preceded by draws against Valencia and Levante, has taken some of the lustre off manager Zinedine Zidane in the eyes of Madrid’s notoriously fickle fans.
However, Madrid did win their most recent match, 2-1 against Deportivo Alaves, and recorded a big away win over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in midweek.
For Espanyol, the visit to the capital isn’t quite as hot-blooded as when their Catalan neighbours Barcelona head there. They may have been beaten 5-0 by Barca recently, but have gone undefeated in the three matches since then, including a 4-1 win over Deportivo La Coruna last weekend.
Nonetheless, Zidane is optimistic that Gareth Bale will be fit despite a calf concern against Dortmund. He said, "I hope that there are more turning points like tonight’s, but Gareth is now on really good form. His calf has swelled up but it’s nothing major."
With that said, defender Victor Sanchez believes the visitors can stop Real if they defend well. He said, "We are prepared. Last year we had were more injuries but in this last week, we have done well and are ready."
In team news, Madrid have a number of absentees including Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, and Marcelo. Theo Hernandez and Matteo Kovacic are also ruled out. For Espanyol, Oscar Duarte and goalkeeper Adrian Lopez miss out.