When they step on to the field against Espanyol in Barcelona, defending champions Real Madrid will be looking to make it three straight wins in a row to begin their La Liga 2022/23 season in the most emphatic fashion. A visit to the Cornella El Prat stadium is no easy feat but Los Blancos have already thumped Almeria and Celta Vigo in their first couple of fixtures. Espanyol, on the other hand, only have a point to show for their efforts from the first two games against Celta Vigo and Rayo Vallecano.
Barcelona-based Espanyol were incredible relegated from the top flight of Spanish football in 2019-20 but since then, they have managed to return to the Primera Division at the first time of asking. They won the Segunda Division in 2020-21 to qualify for the top-tier where the Catalan outfit finished 14th last season.
The result was honestly, better than what Espanyol fans would’ve expected as their primary goal was to avoid getting drawn into the relegation battle. Although they finished just four points outside the relegation zone last season, there’s no questions that the fans and supporters will be demanding much more from the side and will be asking for clear signs of progress.
Under the coaching of former Granada and Osasuna boss Diego Martinez, Espanyol kicked off their La Liga 2022/23 campaign with a thrilling 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo that saw a lot of end-to-end action. While the point away from home against a tricky opposition like Celta, especially at the Balaidos, was a positive step forward, they failed to build on it and suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Rayo Vallecano in their most recent encounter last weekend.
Following the clash with defending champions Real Madrid, Espanyol will have to negotiate a tricky set of fixtures against Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Valencia. It will be interesting to see what their form is like and where they lie in the table heading into the September international break but the feeling is that the results from this pileup of fixtures could make or break their season early on.
The four-time Copa del Rey winners secured a sensational 2-1 win at home over Real Madrid last season. However, they then went on to suffer a 4-0 trouncing at the Santiago Bernabeu in April in a match that confirmed Los Blancos’s status as champions of La Liga 2021/22.
Real Madrid will have fond memories of their last encounter with Espanyol as it was the game where they officially got their hands on the title after a 4-0 demolition at the Bernabeu. The defending Spanish and European champions have gotten off to a tremendous start in the 2021-22 season. Winning La Liga, the Champions League, the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup will be the challenge for them in this upcoming season.
Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti’s team faced a tough and complicated challenge in the opening weekend against newly-promoted Almeria. However, they came back from a goal down to secure a desperate 2-1 victory with Lucas Vazquez restoring parity and David Alaba sealing the win with goals in the second half.
Madrid then made the trip to the Balaidos in Vigo to take on the home side. They were excellent against Celta last weekend and went on to annihilate the opposition and secure a flamboyant 4-1 win. Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and Fede Valverde all managed to get on the scoresheet, with Modric’s spectacular goal being one of the highlights of the previous weekend.
Victories in both the fixtures have left Real Madrid second in the table behind Villarreal. They have six points from a possible six and there’s no doubt that they will be looking to make it nine with three wins in a row to start the season with a bang.
Real Madrid will be well aware of the challenge that awaits them in the shape of a new-look Barcelona that have heavily invested into building a spectacular side during the summer transfer window. The arrival of Xavi also saw clear signs of progress, the highlight of which was the 4-0 thumping of Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu in El Clasico last season.
However, Ancelotti seems to be content with the squad he has at the moment. Despite missing out on Kylian Mbappe, who chose to extend his contract with Paris Saint Germain instead, as well as losing Casemiro to Manchester United, Madrid are not believed to be making dramatic late moves in the transfer market.
Los Blancos will be up against Espanyol and Real Betis in their next couple of league fixtures before their Champions League campaign begins. The defending champions have been drawn in Group F alongside relatively straightforward opponents in RB Leizpig, Celtic, and Shakhtar Donetsk. While defending the continental crown will be high on Ancelotti’s agenda for the season, they cannot afford to loosen their grip on the league and as thing stand, Real Madrid already have a two-point head start over Barcelona following the latter’s draw with Rayo Vallecano in the campaign opener.
ESP vs RMA, La Liga 2022/23
Date: 29th August, 2022
Time: 1:30 AM IST
Venue: Cornella El Prat, Barcelona
Espanyol La Liga form:
Espanyol form (all competitions):
Real Madrid La Liga form:
Real Madrid form (all competitions):
Espanyol wins: 7
Real Madrid wins: 35
Espanyol Team News:
Espanyol are concerned about the fitness and possible participation of three players ahead of what represents a summit clash with Real Madrid at home. Pol Lozano, Adria Pedrosa and star attacker Raul de Tomas are all doubtful for the home side this weekend. De Tomas’ absence, especially, could prove to be a big miss for Espanyol if he’s unavailable for this fixture.
The Catalan outfit will also be without the services of Sergi Gomez who had to see his marching orders in Espanyol’s 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Rayo Vallecano last weekend.
In the absence of Gomez, Fernando Calero could return to the side and shore up the back four. However, not too many changes are expected elsewhere on the park. Ruben Sanchez is likely to partner Joselu and Nico Melamed upfront and the trio will have the difficult task of trying to open up a formidable-looking Real Madrid backline.
Real Madrid Team News:
As far as Real Madrid are concerned, Toni Kroos and Rodrygo were unavailable to make the trip to Vigo to face Celta last time out due to a bout of illness and injury respectively. However, it is believed that Ancelotti will be able to count on the pair this time around for the trip to Catalonia.
Nacho’s participation is doubtful after he missed a training session earlier this week due to a muscular issue but he may be fit enough to make it to the bench in time.
Star signing of the summer Aurelien Tchouameni should continue through the middle as Real Madrid wake up to life after Casemiro. Toni Kroos is expected to take his place in the starting XI straight away relegating French international Eduardo Camavinga to the bench. Meanwhile, Valverde is expected to partner Vinicius on the flanks once again with Karim Benzema looking to wreak havoc through the middle.
New signing Antonio Rudiger is also struggling to break in to the starting XI at the moment with Ancelotti trusting the duo of Eder Militao and David Alaba over him so far. Rudiger is expected to start from the bench once again here following his arrival from Chelsea as a free agent.
Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Lecomte; Gil, Calero, Cabrera, Olivan; Darder, Exposito, Souza; R Sanchez, Joselu, Melamed
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Tchouameni, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius
Espanyol can prove to be difficult unit to negotiate with at home. They have often proven to punch above their weight, as was the case during their 2-1 victory over Real Madrid last season. However, the side from Barcelona are yet to get going as far as this particular season is concerned.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, are already making victory a habit with two wins out of the first two games. There’s no doubt that they have enough quality all over the pitch to make it three victories in a row and issue a statement to the rest of the league.