Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wary of Espanyol threat
The defending Spanish and European champions are up to third in LaLiga after picking up 19 points from their last seven games.
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is not letting Espanyol’s lowly league placing fool him into thinking Tuesday’s clash will be a stroll in the park for his rejuvenated side.
Madrid head to the RCDE Stadium looking to build on a seven-match unbeaten run in LaLiga which has seen them pick up six victories and score 30 goals.
That improved form – Madrid also beat Paris St Germain 3-1 in the Champions League a fortnight ago – came after Zidane and his team had come under fire after winning just four of 10 matches either side of Christmas.
While Madrid still remain well adrift of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in LaLiga, they can keep the pressure up with victory over an Espanyol side who are 15th and winless in their last seven games.
Zidane, though, is taking nothing for granted.
He told a press conference: “We don’t look at the table. Espanyol have shown very good things against the best teams this season.
“We know who we’re up against and we’ll have to have a great game to win again.”
The Frenchman’s concerns are well founded.
Since December, Espanyol have beaten Barca and Atletico at home, and were denied a second triumph over city rivals Barca by an 82nd-minute equaliser.
Zidane added: “We want to continue the good run we’re on.
“Every match starts from zero and we want to have another good game at a difficult ground.”
Madrid’s latest victory saw Alaves vanquished 4-0 on Saturday with the team’s ‘BBC’ strikeforce of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale on the scoresheet.
Bale’s contributions during another injury-plagued season have been scrutinised in the Spanish media, as has his future at the Bernabeu beyond this campaign.
Zidane believes the club’s record signing is on the up, though.
He said: “He looks good to me, like always, but he feels better in himself every day.
“The other day he had a great game. He scored and was involved in play and in the match. He’s done very well”.
🔄⚽🌱 #RMCity— Real Madrid C.F.🇺🇸🇬🇧 (@realmadriden) February 25, 2018
The team turn their focus to Tuesday’s visit to @RCDEspanyol.
The players who played the most minutes last night carried out a recovery session, the rest did their standard training. 💪 #HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/ZTVsfhi7cd
Madrid welcome back captain Sergio Ramos after suspension but first-team regulars Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Marcelo remain out and battling to be fit for next week’s second leg against PSG.
For Espanyol, Javi Lopez and Jairo Morillas are back in training after illness and injury respectively, but neither will be involved on Tuesday.
Mario Hermoso also drops back out of the squad which drew 0-0 with Deportivo La Coruna, with Marc Roca coming in.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ men have drawn their last four matches to slip into the bottom six and, while they remain a healthy nine points above the relegation zone, striker Gerard Moreno knows they need to get back to winning ways.
He told a press conference: “We would like to be higher, with more points. That’s not the case and maybe that makes us a little more anxious going out looking to get the first goal and the win.
“We need to try and change this dynamic and start winning games in order to have the confidence to go out on the pitch more relaxed.
“Things aren’t going great but I have total faith in the team and that we can turn things around.”