Real Madrid are off on their travels again and will hope to do a hell of a lot better than the first game of the campaign where they huffed and puffed but couldn’t break the Sporting Gijon door down.
A 0-0 to begin Rafa Benitez’s reign won’t necessarily have pleased the manager, nor will it have displeased him against a side who were always going to come out of the traps quickly to try and get some early points on the board.
The drubbing of Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu is a far better guide of the sort of football to expect from Los Blancos in 2015/16.
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Espanyol should provide a willing opponent so let’s take a look at three things that could affect the outcome of this game…
Ronaldo in a hurry
Poor Espanyol. They were put to the sword by Cristiano Ronaldo last season when the Portuguese grabbed a hat-trick in a 4-1 win at the Power 8 Stadium.
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Two games in and Real’s talisman has yet to register, and you can be assured he will be doing everything possible to reverse that trend in Catalonia.
It’s unlikely Benitez will appreciate Ronaldo’s efforts and will require a more rounded team performance, but Ronaldo hasn’t gone three games without a goal in almost three years.
There is an inevitability about his name on the score sheet this weekend.
Espanyol, the willing victim
Barcelona’s other team never really perform against the capital’s finest.
It’s been eight long years since their last victory over Real and in that time the Periquitos have failed to score against the all whites on 11 occasions.
The kind of form that often has a team beaten before they’ve even taken the field.
But a long-overdue win here will see Sergio’s men leapfrog their more illustrious visitors. If nothing else the hosts at least need to remain competitive for long periods.
Keeping Real at bay in much the same manner as Sporting managed in Week 1 will frustrate Benitez’s side and the associated loss of concentration could play right into Espanyol’s hands.
All three points might be beyond them but a point isn’t.
Weak link Marcelo
Espanyol should’ve done their homework.
If they have then the club’s opposition analysts will have noticed that Brazilian left-back Marcelo remains Real Madrid’s weak link in a defensive sense.
Far too eager to motor forward and join the attack, Marcelo often leaves acres of space in behind.
Sporting manager Abelardo picked up on it almost immediately and after an initial opening 20 minute burst, the Brazilian was moribund as a supplementary attacker, a role he evidently prefers.
Beaten far too easily, the defensive side of his game exposed his limitations.
Espanyol can profit from the game if work the left hand channel effectively and provide the service which Felipe Caceido can thrive upon.
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