Real Madrid team news, injuries, possible starting line-up vs Espanyol
Real Madrid must do without Karim Benzema when they welcome Espanyol to the Bernabéu on LaLiga matchday 25 today.
Real Madrid host Espanyol today in a clash that’s fundamental to their dwindling hopes of retaining their LaLiga title. With Barcelona nine points clear at the top, this weekend is shaping up as a good opportunity for Carlo Ancelotti’s side to cut that gap. The Catalans face a tough away assignment at Athletic Club tomorrow, and will go to San Mamés with their lead reduced by a third if Madrid can beat Espanyol.
Los Blancos cannot afford to drop points against Los Pericos, and must hope for a favour from Athletic to allow them to head into next weekend’s LaLiga Clásico within reach of Barça.
Benzema ruled out, Rodrygo at No. 9
However, Madrid will have to beat Espanyol without Karim Benzema. The European champions’ joint-top scorer this season - he and Vinícius Júnior both have 18 goals - Benzema has been unable to train at full pace this week because of an “ankle niggle”, club sources explain. Given that the week ahead not only includes a crunch Clásico, but also a Champions League last-16 decider against Liverpool, the striker has opted not to take any risks this weekend.
As has become customary, Rodrygo Goes will deputise. The Brazilian has been Madrid’s best performer at No. 9 when Benzema has been unavailable, and is one of the team’s top scorers this season: his tally of 10 is only bettered by Benzema and Vinícius.
Asensio set to return to Madrid line-up
With Rodrygo shifting to centre-forward, Marco Asensio looks likely to start on the right wing, having failed to get any game time in the Copa del Rey defeat to Barça or the league draw with Real Betis. On the left, meanwhile, Vinícius will lead Madrid’s attack.
Asensio’s return to the XI will see Fede Valverde drop back into the midfield, where he’ll operate alongside Luka Modric and Aurélien Tchouaméni, a player searching for form. Since returning from the World Cup, Tchouaméni has struggled to produce the level of performance that persuaded Madrid to pay Monaco €80m for his services in the summer.
After starting against Barça and Betis, Toni Kroos will be rested ahead of the upcoming clashes with Liverpool and the Blaugrana, while Dani Ceballos is also expected to be on the bench today.
Camavinga or Nacho at left-back?
The same goes for Camavinga - unless Ancelotti opts to play him at left-back. That’s the Madrid head coach’s chief selection doubt: he could go for Nacho Fernández, an option that would add steel to the backline; alternatively, Camavinga would offer the hosts much more going forward. In particular, the 20-year-old would be able to drift inside when Madrid are in possession, giving them an extra man in central midfield.
The rest of the defence appears to pick itself: Dani Carvajal at right-back, and Antonio Rüdiger and Éder Militão at centre-back. David Alaba and Ferland Mendy both remain injured. As ever, Thibaut Courtois will be in goal.
Real Madrid’s possible XI against Espanyol:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rüdiger, Nacho/Camavinga; Modric, Tchouaméni, Valverde; Asensio, Rodrygo and Vinícius.
Lunin, Luis López, Lucas Vázquez, Odriozola, Vallejo, Nacho/Camavinga, Kroos, Ceballos, Hazard, Mariano and Álvaro Rodríguez.
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