The international break is over and La Liga is back for week three. Real Madrid are looking to break the four-way tie at the top and find a spot there. In order to do that, they will have to do without Danilo and James and the added fatigue from the national teams. RCD Espanyol on the other hand hope to stay in the upper side of the table and benefit from the home advantage.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
More of the same by now, but Benítez will have to make some tweaks given the new injuries and the exhaustion of his key players these past two weeks. Isco and Carvajal will occupy the impaired positions in the coming weeks, yet that likely won’t be the only change if Rafa sticks to his rotation philosophy.
GK: Keylor Navas
The coach reiterated in the press conference that he trusts the Costa Rican player. While it would be a nice touch to let Casilla play against his former side, there are no indications that it will happen.
RB: Dani Carvajal
Danilo had apparently beaten him in the race these past few games. Nevertheless, his unfortunate injury will open the door for Dani. He will have a good month to prove his worth and keep the fight interesting.
The Portuguese hasn’t played a single minute in La Liga and only played one international game. Varane has been consistently the top choice, still this might be one of the unpredictable moves Rafa will make.
CB: Sergio Ramos
This is one position that won’t change too often considering the importance of the team captain. His extracurricular statement this week might get him a very hostile welcome by the Cornellà-El Prat crowd.
The lack of trust in Cheryshev and Coentrão’s departure set up the Brazilian as the solid option week after week. In a tough stadium, his offensive mentality will give a huge boost to the attack.
Benítez is a firm believer in keeping everyone fresh and avoid injuries as much as possible. Kroos arrived with more minutes played and Casemiro didn’t even leave Madrid during the break.
LCM: Mateo Kovačić
Similar to Casemiro’s situation, the newest signing came back more rested than Modrić. This could be the ideal opportunity to start him, as he still has to show his boss that he’s worthy of playing more often.
The other player that will benefit from the FIFA virus for the upcoming matches. James had been an integral part to this day and while unfavorable for the team, Isco has shown he’s capable of great things.
CAM: Gareth Bale
His latest showings in the club and international level bring some excitement to the table. He seems to be getting more comfortable with his new role as time goes by. Let’s hope he keeps this going.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
Strange as it may be, he hasn’t scored this season. The last time he met Espanyol he scored a hat trick, and that wouldn’t be a bad way to get rid of this spell. He needs to improve his form a bit.
ST: Karim Benzema
His return was triumphant the past match and it’s likely that he will repeat as the starting striker. He’s one of Ronaldo’s best partners and it could lead to a satisfactory result in Catalonia.