Real Madrid vs Espanyol: Match review

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Isco Aalarcon of Real Madrid celebrate his goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Espanyol at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 1, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Isco Aalarcon of Real Madrid celebrate his goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Espanyol at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 1, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images) /

The Royal Whites grabbed a 2-0 win at home in pursuit of their 34th La Liga title. Zidane’s men had mixed performances but eventually, they got the job done.

The league leaders Barcelona are currently seven points ahead, so naturally every point matters for Madrid. Several players of Madrid’s squad were injured. This meant Zizou had few choices in terms of starters or substitutes.

The Starting XI

Madrid’s injuries this season seem similar to the ones prior in terms of their timing. As the new calendar year gets nearer, Real falls further into their injury crisis. In defense, there is no Marcelo, Theo, or Carvajal. In the midfield, there is no Mateo Kovacic. Finally, there is no Gareth Bale (as always) and Karim Benzema. With all these players out due to injury, Zidane’s choices were limited.

The French coach opted for his 4-4-2 diamond formation, on paper at least.

Nacho filled in for Marcelo’s spot, while Achraf replaced Carvajal. Furthermore, Asensio and Isco partnered with Cristiano Ronaldo up front in place of Bale and Benzema.

The Set-Up

Attack was the name of the game from Ronaldo and company. Even better, The Royal Whites maintained control of the game.

Los Blancos were creating chances through long balls from both the middle and the flanks. This meant Espanyol’s back four and goalkeeper had to be on the lookout for any balls in the air that might come their way.

The visitors had to stay in their defensive areas for a good chunk of the game in order to keep their nets clean. Moreover, Espanyol employed a tactic that made life very difficult for Madrid in the final third. That tactic was to force an extremely tight marking system on Cristiano whenever he had the ball near Espanyol’s third. By extremely tight I mean 3-4 players surrounding him.

This obviously made the Portuguese very uneasy. His size, age, and current skill set inhibit him from getting through defenders when there is very little space. What’s more, few clear-cut chances presented themselves for Ronaldo, so scoring was never going to be easy without another striker at Cristiano’s side.

The First Half

Espanyol couldn’t create a threat on Keylor Navas’s net for the majority of the half. What was frustrating, however, is that Real took 30 minutes to break the deadlock.

Espanyol couldn’t control the flow of the game. However, they maintained a strong fortress around their penalty area. A fortress that needed Cristiano’s brilliance and Isco’s magic to finally crumble.

Once Los Blancos scored the first goal, the pressure went off their shoulders, and it was all the pressure on the visitors. Real simply moved the ball around for the remaining minutes of the first half. They tried to snatch another goal, yet without risking too much.

More from The Real Champs

The Second Half

The next 45 minutes were more exciting. Real Madrid entered the pitch willing to kill the game. This time, however, they were faced with a much more notorious and reckless Espanyol. Also, Real’s defenders lost some of their focus so the visitors had several dangerous chances on goal. As a result, the match turned into a counter-attack festival.

Finally, around the 71st-minute mark, Real’s second goal came from Isco. It was the Spaniard’s second goal of the night. The second goal allowed Los Blancos to lift a lot of their pressure. It also stole the hope away from Espanyol’s players.

In return, Zidane’s men had more comfy for the remaining minutes of the 90. The substitutions were mainly about injecting some fresh blood into the pitch and resting key players. None of which made a big impact on the game.

Notes On Ronaldo & Isco

Cristiano Ronaldo

This is probably the first time since Ronaldo joined Madrid that he has failed to score in so many consecutive matches. Yet, this shouldn’t worry any of us.

Ronaldo proved mid-week against Borussia Dortmund that he is still a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention that Espanyol’s tight marking surely contributed to Ronaldo being off. No worries on Ronaldo. Not now at least, and probably not for the next couple of seasons.


The Spanish playmaker has developed a lot since last season. His pace has improved and the power and accuracy of his shots have improved. He makes more long passes. Most importantly, he is finally getting the hang of timing the release of the ball from his feet.

With this performance, one may wonder who Zidane will favor when Benzema returns from injury. The French striker seems integral to the system from Zizou’s perspective. Yet, Isco has been very crucial as of late.

Furthermore, he fits better into Zidane’s plans as an actual #10 in the 4-4-2 diamond, provided that a striker (or at least a very good finisher e.g Bale) partners with Ronaldo up front.

Next: Real Madrid 2 – 0 Espanyol: Three takeaways from the home win

For more news and analysis, stay tuned to The Real Champs.