Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol: Isco Brace Helps Los Blancos to Crucial La Liga Victory

​A brace from the excellent Isco helped Real Madrid overcome Espanyol and secure a crucial three points at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

The ethereal, elegant Spaniard gave his side the lead in a dominant first-half, and added a second twenty minutes from time to seal the win.

Espanyol came close on more than one occasion to levelling the scores in the second-half, but they were unable to convert the chances they created.

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Beginning the game an unprecedented ten points behind Barcelona, Real Madrid were very nearly in front within the first minute when Isco raced through on goal but saw his shot saved by Pau Lopez.

There was a palpable sense of expectation around the Bernabeu, a feeling that anything but a comfortable win would be inconceivable. And the inexorable dominance of the hosts in the early stages suggested that the players were aware of it, too.

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Despite Real Madrid’s complete control, though, Espanyol remained relatively compact and resilient, albeit having hardly ventured out of their own half.

But just before the half-hour mark, Isco made amends for his earlier miss to poke Real Madrid into the lead after a delicate through ball from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Zinedine Zidane’s side threatened to run away with the game after the goal, Ronaldo squandering two chances to double the lead.

Espanyol would have been grateful to reach half-time just one goal down, but they came very close to an unexpected equaliser when Gerard Moreno turned and struck a left-footed shot against the post.

Immediately after the break, Keylor Navas was forced into action to keep out substitute Marc Navarro, who had found space on the right-hand side.

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There was a notable improvement from Espanyol, who had grown more adventurous in search of an equaliser and appeared far more confident than they had for the majority of the first half.

The visitors continued to create the better chances of an increasingly open second-half, but they were punished for their profligacy with 70 minutes played when Isco doubled his tally with an expertly taken finish after a rapid counter attack.

The second goal ultimately spelled the end for Espanyol, who had been dogged and combative, but lacked enough of an edge in attack.

Victory saw Real Madrid climb to fifth in the fledgling La Liga table, but still seven points behind Ernesto Valverde’s impressive Barcelona.

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Wales Could Be Without Gareth Bale Following Calf Strain as Dragons Prepare for Crucial Qualifiers

Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has left Wales sweating following his calf muscle strain that has excluded him from Real Madrid’s squad for Sunday’s game against Espanyol. 

Bale was left out of the squad for the game following the calf strain which forced him off in their 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last Tuesday. The Welshman scored the opening goal for Madrid on the night, with Ronaldo getting a brace. 

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When manager Zinedine Zidane was questioned on Bale’s substitution on Saturday, he responded: “It’s muscle fatigue, but we don’t like to take any risks.”

The Frenchman continued on as to what would determine whether Bale would join up with the national team or not: “His state of fitness will determine whether he joins up with the national squad or not.”

Wales face Georgia and the Republic of Ireland which will prove to be two crucial games for the side who are second in their qualifying group. They are only one point ahead of the Republic of Ireland as it stands. 

Although Gareth Bale hasn’t scored for Wales in their last two games, the 28-year-old will be a huge miss if he was forced to withdraw from Chris Coleman’s side. 

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All Hands on Deck as Real Madrid Boss Zinedine Zidane Provides Update on Trending Issues at Club

Two-time Champions League-winning manager Zinedine Zidane has come into the light in recent days due to several topics relating to his Real Madrid side.

Talking to the press, the Frenchman gave an update on Gareth Bale’s health, Los Blancos’ run of form and whether Cristiano Ronaldo would sign a contract extension with the club, ​Marca  reports. ​

Real Madrid Training And Press Conference

In the Espanyol pre-match conference, Zidane explained to the press that he wasn’t going to take any risks if Bale is not 100% fit, but still hasn’t ruled him out of the potential lineup for Sunday night. 

“We will see tomorrow [how he is],” Zidane said regarding the Welsh winger’s health. “It is a strain, so nothing too significant.

“But, as always, when a player has even a small problem then we don’t want to risk it.”

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With international break around the corner, the Los Blancos manager insists that there isn’t any issue between the club and Bale’s national team around playing him, but rather a focus on his fitness.

“As for him playing for his national team [next week], I don’t think there will be any issue between Real Madrid and his national team.

“It’ll depend on his injury niggles and his state of fitness.”

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When asked about Madrid’s poor form at home this season, Zidane focused on the recent away wins at Alaves and Borussia Dortmund, stating that his side are looking forward for more successive games.

The Frenchman strongly believes that the game against Espanyol will change things for Madrid this season and give fans the form they are used to seeing. 

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Marco Asensio’s contract renewal was another topic that the press queried about and Zidane revealed his pleasure in the young Spaniard extending his stay at the Bernabeu.

“I am happy that he has renewed,” he said. “He trains with Cristiano [Ronaldo] every day and he is learning from him.”


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Zidane was finally asked about Ronaldo’s contract renewal, but the 45-year-old refused to comment on the star man.

“It is a club issue and I’m not getting involved in it,” he said.

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Real Madrid vs Espanyol Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battles, Team News & More

Real Madrid return to domestic action this weekend in their bid to get translate their Champions League form into some of kind of consistency in La Liga.

Espanyol are the visitors to the Santiago Bernabeu for Zinedine Zidane’s team.


Classic Encounter

Real haven’t lost against Espanyol since the 2007/08 season when Albert Riera and Raul Tamudo scored in a 2-1 win for the Catalan club.

Contests between the two have been notably one-sided at times and one particular example is the 5-0 Real win in the latter weeks of the 2011/12 campaign.

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It came as a 10th win in a row for Jose Mourinho’s Blancos team and contributed to what eventually became a first league title in four years.

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the opening goal that day, while former Real players Sami Khedira, Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain all added their name to the score-sheet as well.


Key Battles

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Pau Lopez

Cristiano Ronaldo is yet to score in La Liga so far this season, partly as a result of only playing two games after suspension. But the Ballon d’Or holder was in top form in the Champions League this week, netting twice, and so it could be a busy day for Espanyol stopper Pau Lopez.

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Gerard Moreno vs Sergio Ramos

Espanyol striker Gerard Moreno was on the scoresheet twice last weekend as his team ran up the score-line against Deportivo. He will therefore be identified as the visitor’s greatest goal threat and the player that Real skipper Sergio Ramos needs to pay special attention to.

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Team News

Real Madrid: Gareth Bale may miss out as a precaution after a calf complaint in midweek, handing Lucas Vazquez the chance to start. Karim Benzema remains out, as do Marcelo and Theo Hernandez. That means Nacho will likely be asked to play at left-back once more.

Espanyol: The visitors have no injury concerns, with long-term absentee Oscar Duarte the only one to definitely miss out as he continues to recover from knee ligament damage. Javi Fuego may fancy his chances of returning in the centre of midfield after missing out last week.

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Lineups

Real Madrid (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Nacho; Isco, Kroos, Modric; Vazquez, Ronaldo, Asensio

Espanyol (4-4-2-): P. Lopez; Sanchez, D. Lopez, Hermoso, Martin; Jurado, Darder, Diop, Piatti; Baptistao, Moreno


Prediction

In Espanyol, Real face a team that enjoyed a 4-1 win over Deportivo in their last outing and so ought not to be underestimated. That is especially important seeing as Real haven’t kept a clean sheet in La Liga since they themselves met Deportivo in gameweek one.

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Real are under pressure to close the gap that has opening behind Barcelona at the top of the table and are also dealing with injuries as well. But they should still have enough quality to cope and win this game if things go as they should.

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Picking the Best Potential Real Madrid Lineup to Face Espanyol on Sunday

​Real Madrid return to domestic action in La Liga this weekend desperate for three points as they look to close the widening gap to early leaders Barcelona after a mixed start to the campaign.

Zinedine Zidane saw his team secure a 3-1 win in Germany against Borussia Dortmund in Europe during the week and will hope that form continues into Sunday when Espanyol are the visitors to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Here’s a look at the starting XI the coach could pick.

Goalkeeper

  • Navas

    Navas1

​Surprisingly, Real haven’t kept a clean sheet in La Liga since the opening game of the season.

Keylor Navas was also denied a shutout in the Champions League this week by a single goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Defence

  • Carvajal

    Carvajal2

  • S. Ramos

    S. Ramos4

  • Varane

    Varane5

  • Nacho

    Nacho6

​Raphael Varane will celebrate signing a new long-term contract by playing his 197th game for the club after initially arriving as a teenager from Lens in 2011.

Injuries to both Marcelo and Theo Hernandez will likely see Nacho continue to fill in on the left, despite it being an unnatural position for the centre-back.

Midfield

  • Isco

    Isco22

  • Kroos

    Kroos8

  • Modric

    Modric10

​Casemiro could be the one who makes way in the team rotation in midfield this week.

Toni Kroos and reigning UEFA Midfielder of the Year Luka Modric should give Real full control in the middle of the park with their influence and passing abilities.

Kroos has managed to complete 92% of his La Liga passes so far this season (WhoScored).

Forwards

  • Vázquez

    Vázquez17

  • Ronaldo

    Ronaldo7

  • Asensio

    Asensio20

​Gareth Bale may be forced to miss the game as a precaution after a calf problem flared up during the closing stages of the midweek win over Borussia Dortmund.

That could mean a place for Lucas Vazquez in the lineup, while Marco Asensio is likely to be given an advanced role in the continued absence of Karim Benzema.

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Real Madrid Boss Zinedine Zidane Reveals New Injury Concern for Gareth Bale as Wales Games Loom

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Gareth Bale is a doubt for Los Blancos’ game against Espanyol on Sunday.

The Wales international is suffering with a calf strain, which Zidane describes as ‘nothing important’. However, he won’t put the player at risk.

“[Bale] has a strain, nothing important,” Zidane said in a press conference, via ​ESPN. “But here we do not like to take risks if a player has something small. We will see if Gareth is with us tomorrow.”

The French boss also insisted that he has no problem letting Bale travel with the Wales side during the international break.

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Chris Coleman’s men are to play in Georgia and then host the Republic of Ireland next month, and the manager will be hoping to have the Madrid man fit enough to compete.

“[Gareth] will go with his country if he has to go with his country,” Zidane continued. “There is no problem between Madrid and [Wales]. It depends on his fitness, nothing else. We will go day by day.”


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The club haven’t officially confirmed Bale’s injury, but he hasn’t trained since they returned from Germany after beating Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League during the week. He also missed Saturday’s session, along with Marcelo, Mateo Kovacic, Theo Hernandez and Karim Benzema, who are all injured.

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Mauricio Pochettino Denies Comparing Harry Kane to Ronaldo and Messi as Spurs Man Leads UCL Scoring

​Tottenham Hotspur boss Maurico Pochettino has rubbished the notion of Harry Kane being on par with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, despite his prolific form in front of goal these last three years.

The England international is one of Europe’s best strikers, having won two consecutive Golden Boot awards in the Premier League, but his manager doesn’t believe he can be compared to the Primera Division attackers just yet, based on his age and style of play.

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Kane, who notched his first Champions League hat-trick against Apoel during midweek, has been tipped to improve even further. Yet at the moment, Pochettino will brush any likening to the superstars aside.

“He is one of the best strikers in the world and because he’s still so young, he can improve,” he ​told reporters on Thursday. “His potential, his professionalism; he has a gap to improve a lot.”

“I never said he is better than Cristiano and Lionel Messi, who are at a different level. They are the best and are showing that for the last five to 10 years.

“We cannot put so much pressure on Harry because he is so young… Harry is a striker, a killer; they are killers too but play in different positions and have different styles. It will not help Harry if we start comparing him to these players.”

The Argentinian coach will watch his team attempt to collect three points against Huddersfield when Premier League action resumes this weekend. And while he expects a tough challenge, especially based on the fact that the newcomers have had more time to prepare, Pochettino has backed his team to withstand the pressure.


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“A big challenge. I think they will be very motivated to play against us and have had the whole week to prepare for the game against Tottenham. But of course I know we will arrive in our best condition and ready to compete. That is most important.”

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​Real Madrid President Wades Into Refereeing Debate to Imply Barcelona Star Is a ‘Cheat’

​Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has continued to wage his club’s war on referees, this time appearing to take a jibe at Barcelona striker Luis Suarez following Cristiano Ronaldo’s five-match suspension for pushing a referee earlier this season.

The 70-year-old insists he remains baffled as to why their Clasico rivals seem to continue receiving the rub of the green when it comes to officiating, stating the men in the middle should be concentrating their attention more on those who simulate in the game than his Blancos stars.

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During a meeting with the club members, the Spanish businessman, without naming names, seemed to accuse Barca’s Uruguayan striker of trying to deceive the officials, and stated he believes it is people like the 30-year-old who should be sanctioned for their actions. 

“There are gentlemen who pretend and don’t get anything…” Perez said, as reported by Spanish news outlet ​Sport. 

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“In the end, the broken dishes are paid for by those who never simulate (Cristiano Ronaldo). Everyone makes mistakes, but it is always against a player. You have to punish the cheaters.”

The 2017/18 La Liga campaign is just six fixtures old, but already there are signs of the unrivalled animosity showing between the two European giants. This could be partly due to the fact Madrid already find themselves seven points adrift of league leaders Barca – with the Catalan giants showing no signs of slowing up any time soon.

In addition, with the first Clasico of the term not until five days before Christmas, there is still a long way to go before both sides are able to settle their differences on the pitch. 

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Zinedine Zidane Considers Shock Move for German Winger After Summer Fallout With PSG

​German international Julian Draxler could be offered an escape route out of PSG after an uneventful stint at the French club. 

Since his move to PSG in January for £30m, the young winger hasn’t been able to secure a spot in the starting lineup with the additions of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Don Balon (via The Sun) report that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane is extremely tempted with the prospect of signing Draxler. 

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Real Madrid have had a rough start to this La Liga season and could only scrape a 2-1 win against Alaves. Zidane wants to add depth to his attacking options. 

Despite already having a terrifying set of forwards in Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema, Asensio and Isco, Zidane hopes Draxler’s versatility could prove vital in defending the League and Champions League. 

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Draxler was impressive in Euro 2016 for Germany and while he hasn’t been a guaranteed starter for PSG sincer his move in January, he has been a key contributor and has even been involved as recently as UCL Gameweek 1, where he set up an own goal in PSG’s win over Celtic. 


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If any injuries were to occur throughout the season, or any of the current Madrid forwards happened to go through a bad spell of form, Draxler could be the perfect player to have in reserve. 

The German has played on the wing a lot for Germany and PSG, however played extremely well behind the striker as an attacking midfielder a few years ago at Wolfsburg and Schalke. 

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Real Madrid Confirm Marco Asensio Will Sign New Deal With European Champions Until 2023

​Real Madrid today announced that midfield starlet Marco Asensio will sign a new deal – keeping him at the club until 2023.

The Spaniard will put pen to paper officially at 2pm Spanish time on Friday, and the club have invited the media to attend the club’s press room at the Bernabeu.

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Asensio has taken the world by storm over the past year or so, particular because of his knack for scoring spectacular goals and on specific debuts.

He has emerged as one of world football’s top youngsters, and is knocking on Zinedine Zidane’s door for a start.

A testament to his ability is that he is getting to play a decent amount of football for Madrid, despite the world class players in their ranks such as Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It would appear los Blancos rate Asensio as highly as everyone else, and have acted relatively swiftly in tieing him down to a longer contract.


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He was signed for a paltry €3.9m from Mallorca, who will undoubtedly be kicking themselves at this point as they watch his rapid rate of development.

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