Real Madrid had a nerve-wracking win against Portuguese giants Sporting in the midweek but will have to shift their focus back to La Liga as they travel to Estadi Cornellà-El Prat on Sunday to take on winless Espanyol. Thanks to newly-promoted Alaves’ shocking 1-2 win over Barcelona last week, Real Madrid have an early lead over the Catalan giants and will be looking to keep it that way.
Espanyol are currently in the 15th spot and will be looking to impress in front of the home fans. But they will be aware of the challenge and hope to sit tight and keep their shape throughout the 90 minutes in a bid to frustrate Real and try to hit on the counter.
Here are three key battles those could decide the game.
Javi Fuego Vs Luka Modric
Modric is the prime playmaker for Real Madrid who likes to control the game from deep. The Croat has been in an impressive form this season having already scored one goal in two La Liga games. The little magician of Real Madrid boasts a passing accuracy of 86.2% and has made 4 dribbles every game. If Espanyol hope to salvage anything from the game, they will have to keep the 31-year-old silent. Javi Fuego, an experienced La Liga campaigner, will have to play a key role for Espanyol in order to do that. The Spaniard has made an average of 4.3 tackles, 2.7 interceptions and 2.3 clearances every game and will be looking to keep Modric off-colour although that won’t be an easy job.
Javi Lopez Vs Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo has played just twice for Real Madrid this season, one in La Liga and one in Champions League and has found the net in both games. He inspired the Los Blancos to a come back from being 1-0 down against Sporting and eventually win the game. The Portuguese superstar will be the biggest threat to the Espanyol defence and their skipper Javi Lopez will be assigned the duty to stop him. Ronaldo, even on his off day, is unstoppable but this battle can potentially decide the game.
Leo Baptistao Vs Pepe
Leo Baptistao will be the biggest threat to Real Madrid defence with his dribbling skills and pace. The Brazilian has made two assists this season in three games and can test Real Madrid’s strong defence. Pepe, the oldest member of Real Madrid back line needs to take a cautious approach in order to deal with the flamboyant 24-year-old. The Euro Cup winner with Portugal has played just once for Real Madrid this season and scored one goal in their 5-2 rout.