Venue: Santiago Bernabeu Time: 7:30 PM GMT / 2:30 AM EST Date:31/01/2016
Television coverage: Sky Sports 1/HD UK, beIN Sports en Español, beIN Sports USA, beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A.
Last weekend’s tie against Real Betis is complicating things for Real Madrid in La Liga. They remain four points away from Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona, with the latter still waiting to play one pending match. RCD Espanyol will visit the Santiago Bernabéu with high morale after a surprising tie versus Villarreal. It won’t be an easy match as both teams must keep adding points.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
Ghosts of the past came back to haunt Los Blancos at the Benito Villamarín. The team walked into the pitch disconnected from the moment and it ended up costing them two valuable points. Zinedine Zidane must keep working with his men to instill the importance of being focused. Careless mistakes at this point can make the difference between winning the league or not.
GK: Keylor Navas
There was nothing he could against Cejudo’s brilliant volley. He must work with his teammates to make the defense an unbeatable one. The challenges will get tougher and tougher in the coming weeks.
RB: Dani Carvajal
Zizou admitted to his mistake by taking out Danilo, the worst performer at Betis. Carvajal is the ideal right back at the moment, as he’s helpful in the back and in the attack. The Brazilian is facing an uphill battle if he keeps underperforming.
CB: Raphaël Varane
His speed and potential are maintaining him as a regular starter. Even so, he should strive to deliver consistency, as Ramos and Pepe have what it takes to sit him down. His evolution under Zidane is something to look forward to.
CB: Sergio Ramos
The captain is expected to return on Sunday. He’s lost importance this season, standing third in terms of minutes played behind Varane and Pepe. With the FIFA ban’s delay, he should get worried about getting replaced.
The Brazilian is an asset and nobody can deny that. Nevertheless, as it’s been the rule this season, the lack of a natural replacement is something that could grow into a major inconvenience once the Champions League returns.
RCM: Luka Modrić
He’s the extension of his coach on the field. Quality, electricity, and great vision make him an essential part of the squad. It wouldn’t be all that negative to give Kovačić and Casemiro a chance to give rest to both him and Kroos.
LCM: Toni Kroos
The German is slowly, but surely gaining back the influence he once had over the team’s creativity. With Modrić by his side, they are both shining this new year and things can only get better.
RW: James Rodríguez
He beat Jesé and started last weekend. While he gave the assist to the equalizer, it was very clear that is isn’t the James that we’ve seen before. In order to fight for titles, he’s going to need to up his game.
Coach Zidane keeps trusting him to be the perfect link between the midfield and the attack. Despite not always being successful, he’s doing his best and clearly better than James Rodríguez.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
Adán, his former teammate, kept him from scoring and built up his anxiety. The Champions League is just around the corner, meaning that this inconsistency won’t be allowed if he hopes to win some silverware.
ST: Karim Benzema
He saved the team from the catastrophe of an embarrassing loss. His form continues to be very good, standing out when the squad needs him the most. He should have Gareth Bale back very soon to feed him with assists.