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Real Madrid play key game against Espanyol

Madrid, March 10 (IANS) Real Madrid have a vital home game against Espanyol on Saturday as they look to remain in the battle for the title. Carlo Ancelotti’s side will kick off nine points behind FC Barcelona, but knowing that Barca have a difficult visit to play Athletic Club Bilbao on Sunday and that next weekend, they travel to the Camp Nou for the second league ‘Clasico’ of the season.

A win against Espanyol will cut the gap at the top to six points ahead of Barca’s game on Sunday and should Barca drop points in San Mames, a win in the Clasico would bring Barca back into touching distance, a Xinhua report said.

“It’s an important moment in the season because we want to go into next Sunday’s game against Barcelona in the best possible frame of mind. That means defeating Espanyol and reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday,” said Ancelotti.

The big issue for Real Madrid seems to be in attack, after a 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Madrid, a 1-0 defeat at home to Barca in the Copa del Rey and a 0-0 draw away to Betis last Sunday.

Karim Benzema misses out after sitting out training on Wednesday and Thursday with an ankle injury.

“He was hoping to recover but hasn’t been able to because he hasn’t trained with the team. He started individual training today and will be available for Wednesday’s game. His absence inevitably has an impact because he’s such an important player,” commented Ancelotti, who confirmed Rodrygo will replace the Frenchman.

“Rodrygo will be playing as a center forward against Espanyol. He has to play where the team needs him. He can play in a lot of positions and we have to take advantage of his quality,” said the coach.



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