Welcome to our live coverage of Real Madrid vs Espanyol as The Santiago Bernabeu hosts Saturday's LaLiga Santander clash that will kick off at 16:15 (CET).
Zinedine Zidane's charges are the first of the three LaLiga contenders to play at the weekend (Sevilla play on Saturday night and Barcelona on Sunday) and could have extended their lead to four points ahead of Barcelona and six ahead of Sevilla with a game in hand by the time Saturday evening has drawn to a close. Espanyol have been a mixed bag this season and will not fancy traveling to the Bernabeu in search of a winning run. Sanches Flores has, however, brought the team a certain level of respectiability as they sit just four points away from an unlikely European place.
The big news coming out of Zinedine Zidane's pre-natch press conference was that Gareth Bale is in the squad and the intention is that he will play minutes at the Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon. He also confirmed that Alvaro Morata will start as he rotates the side that played in midweek against Napoli.
Sergio Ramos did not train with the group after he suffered a muscular injury against Napoli and will not play as Espanyol. Pepe and Raphael Varane are poised to start at centre-back in the absence of los Blancos' captain.
Pablo Piatti looks set to return to the starting team after missing his side's most recent 2-1 loss at the hands of Real Sociedad. The 27-year-old on loan from Valencia has been in scintillating form this season, notching seven goals so far and leading the team with nine assists in all competitions.
Marc Navarro, who has started his first team career in flying form, has been ruled out with a hamstring injury and will be a big loss to Quique Sanchez Flores, who above all else, is searching for consistency from his team this season. "The objective is to always compete," he said prior to the Real Madrid game and while traveling to the Santiago Bernabeu is never easy, there are different ways you can leave the capital: having gone down swinging or buckling at the first sign of Real Madrid dominance.
Casilla, Marcelo, Pepe, Varane, Danilo, Casemiro, Kovacic, Kroos, Isco, Cristiano, Morata.
Diego López, Aarón, Duarte, David López, Reyes, Diop, Fuego, Reyes, Piatti, Jurado, Caicedo.
As of 1700 CET, Real Madrid are heavy favourites (paying out just over a euro for every euro staked - you can get 17 for your euro if you think Espanyol will pull off an upset). According to the bookies, Alvaro Morata, who will start, is the third most likely to nestle one in the onion bag first (over four to one). Place your bet on Real Madrid - Espanyol.