Match Preview: Espanyol v Real Madrid
La Liga, Power8 Stadium
The league may be out of real Madrid’s hands ahead of their trip to Espanyol on Sunday but coach Ancelotti will ensure his side do not throw in the towel until the title is mathematically out of their hands.
Madrid trail Barcelona by four points going into the final two matches of the campaign, meaning the Catalans only need to match Madrid’s result when they visit Atletico Madrid at the same time on Sunday night (19:00 CET).
Luis Enrique’s side are expected to wrap-up their 23rd Liga title and all Madrid can do is finish their campaign with back-to-back wins after seeing their trophy chase all-but come to an end on Wednesday night when they crashed out of the Champions League.
The match may not have been going ahead at all had the Spanish High Courtourt not ruled on Thursday that a proposed strike planned by the Spanish Players’ Union (AFE) and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) was illegal.
Ancelotti will also be watching on from the stands at the Cornella tonight after receiving a two-match touchline ban for his actions during last weekend’s draw against Valencia.
Espanyol team news
The hosts can achieve their best Liga points return in a decade with one more point from their last two matches and will look to sew that up, and in turn help their city neighbours, against Madrid on Sunday night.
Sergio’s side have lost just one of their last ten matches and can sneak into a Europa League place before the end of the campaign.
Jose Canas is available after serving a suspension and he is expected to go straight back into Espanyol’s midfield to help temper the Madrid creativity in the middle of the park.
Alvaro Gonzalez is Espanyol’s only injury doubt but he is expected to be in the match day squad.
Real Madrid team news
Sergio Ramos will miss out through a calf injury so Pepe is expected to come back into the starting line-up to aperture Raphael Varane at the heart of the Madrid defence.
Ancelotti said in his pre-match press conference that he will give back-up goalkeeper Keylor Navas a starting role in one of his side’s final two matches but that he was yet to decide if that will be this weekend or in the final match against Getafe on home soil.
Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal are also doubts for Madrid, meaning Asier Illarramendi and Alvaro Arbeloa respectively could come in to the starting line-up.
Karim Benzema is expected to be fit enough to keep his starting role alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, chasing more goals for the Pichichi award, and Gareth Bale.
Carlo Ancelotti said…
“We know it is an important match and we need to bounce back from the result on Wednesday. It is going to be an intense and difficult match, but the have been training well and we’re completely focused. We want to give it our all in the next two games to fight for the La Liga title until it’s no longer possible mathematically”.
“Every team is fighting for something at the end of the season. Espanyol are fighting to finish as high up the table as possible, so it will be an intense and difficult test. Our objective has to continue being making our supporters happy with the team’s level of commitment and showing them that we’ll give it our all for them. We’ll have that same attitude tomorrow. We’ll show that we’ve reacted well to the setback and that our level of professionalism will be as high as ever.”
Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo, Kroos, James, Isco, Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.