• Real Madrid welcome Espanyol to the Bernabeu in La Liga 
  • Victory would take Real within four points of leaders Barcelona 
  • Real Madrid: Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Isco, Modric, Kroos; James, Benzema, Ronaldo
  • Espanyol: Arlauskis; Lopez, Alvaro, Roco, Duarte; Diop, Sanchez; Mamadou, Jordan, Sevilla; Perez 
  • Karim Benzema opened the scoring for the hosts inside seven minutes 
  • Cristiano Ronaldo doubled their lead from the penalty spot
  • James Rodriguez’s curling effort took a slight deflection for Real’s third
  • Ronaldo sped away in the break to score his second just before half-time 

Richard Arrowsmith for MailOnline

  • Richard Arrowsmith

    Host commentator

75 MINS: Real have made their tird and final substitution by replacing Benzema with Lucas.

The France international has only played the full 90minutes in 53 of his 205 appearances for the Madrid club, but leaves the field having scored his 18th league goal of the season.

French striker Benzema rarely finishes a full 90minutes for Real Madrid

68 MINS: Ronaldo tries one of his famed punted free-kicks, which manages to get over the wall but dips slightly too late and finishes skimming the roof of the net.

Meanwhile, Kroos is replaced by Brazilian holding midielder Casemiro.

63 MINS: Shortly after Benzema misses a headed opportunity to score the host’s first goal after the interval, Real make their first substitution – taking off Modric for another attacker in Jese, which won’t offer Espanyol any respite.

55 MINS: Substitute Fuentus gets a rare shot on target for the visitors, although his effort is routinely palmed away by Real No 1 Navas.

Real appear content to let the game come to them in the second half while preserving their energy for more important games to come.

 

Legendary boss Zidane expresses himself from the sidelines

Real Madrid                                    Espanyol
12                        Shots                      5
5                        On target                  1
73%                  Possession                27%
343                      Passes                   107
2                         Corners                    0

46 MINS: Espanyol mada a pair of substitutions for the sceond half, brining on Fuentus and Oscar Duarte for Ruben Duarte and Sevilla

H T: Zidane’s side have been irresistible in the opening half – scoring three goals in the opening 15 minutes before Ronaldo’s second of the evening takes them into the interval with a deserved 4-0 lead.

James has excelled in Bale’s absence – scoring and providing an assist for Benzema’s opener.

Real will move to within touching distance of Barcelona after this game, the only question is how many more goals will they score?

Ronaldo scored a wonder goal for his 18th league goal of the season

45 MINS: Real break after Espanyol have a rare effort at the opposite end, leaving Ronaldo to race up the pitch.

A pair of mesmerising tricksleaves a trail of defenders in his wake before he unleashes an Exocet strike into the top corner to send Real 4-0 up on the stroke of half-time.

James high-fives with former Spurs playmaker Luka Modric after scoring

30 MINS: The game has understandably slowed since the lightning opening 15 minutes, although Real are still constantly camped in their opponent’s half and playing with the nonchalance of an exhibition match.

There have been more chances James, Benzema and Ronaldo – the ‘JBC’? – but at three goals to the good there is less urgency to their game.

Ronaldo wheels away after scoring from the spot – his ninth goal in three games against Espanyol

James has scored his 1st goal for Real madrid in 11 hours and 56 mins, since he netted against  Sevilla on November 8

Meanwhile… Benzema’s opener saw him reach 155 goals and draw level with Amancio as the Real’s 10th highest ever scorer

Benzema nodded Real into the lead after only seven minutes

15 MINS: There has now been a goal scored every five minutes at the Bernabeu, effectively ending this match as a contest before most players have started to sweat.

James scores a third straight from the school of Lionel Messi – cutting inside from the right and curling a left-footed shot into the top corner, albeit helped by a slight deflection.

11 MINS: Ronaldo continues his exceptional scoring record against Espanyol by slotting home a penalty after being brought down in the box himself.

The Portuguese rifled his shot into the left corner – beating Arlauskis for pace despite the Espanyol keeper going the right way.

7 MINS: It is going to be a long night for the visitors as Real have spent the opening five minutes peppering Espanyol’s goal. Marcelo, Ronaldo and Isco have all had chances before Benzema hands the hosts the lead.

James, who is effectively playing in Bale’s role, whips in a cross from the right leaving the France international to nod home unmarked.

0 MINS: The game at the Bernabeu between Real Madrid and Espanyol has kicked off.

Marcelo takes less than a minute to record Real’s first attempt. the Brazilian is played through by James but blazes his shot over the bar

Espanyol: Arlauskis; Lopez, Alvaro, Roco, Duarte; Diop, Sanchez; Mamadou, Jordan, Sevilla; Perez

Espanyol have been forced to make a slew of changes. In addition to Caciedo and Asenio, Gerard Moreno and Victor Alvarez are suspended while Burgui is another Real loanee who is not allowed to play for his parent club. 

Real Madrid: Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Isco, Modric, Kroos, James, Benzema, Ronaldo

Subs: Casilla, Nacho, Casemiro, Vasquez, Kovacic, Jese, Danilo

Captain Sergio Ramos is expected to return to the starting XI after recovering from a calf injury and will partner youngster Raphael Varane in central defence after Pepe picked up a knock.

Bale remains sidelined with a calf injury, meaning James Rodriguez will be given another opportunity to impress Zidane as part of an attacking trident with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Welsh wizard Gareth Bale remains sidelined for Real with a calf injury

Despite being criticised for some below-par performances this season, Zidane has backed Ronaldo to return to his prolific ways against Espanyol.

‘He (Ronaldo) hasn’t lost his goalscoring ability – he hasn’t lost anything,’ the Frenchman told a press conference.

‘He is happy with the work he’s doing – training has been lighter than normal so that the team will be fresh for tomorrow, but we are in good shape physically and I have no worries about the quality,’ he added.

Real madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane expects Ronaldo to fire his side to victory

Espanyol have an historically poor record in this fixture, while their cause tonight will not be helped by the absence of five key players, including leading scorer Felipe Caicedo and provider Marco Asenio (who cannot play against his parent club).

‘We need to be loose out on the pitch and play our own game,’ said new Espanyol manager Constantin Galca. ‘We’re going to try to do the best we can with the players we’ve got.”

Madrid have netted 35 times in the last six home matches – and scored six against Espanyol earlier this season – so goals are expected against a team who have not won in seven games.

And, with Ronaldo scoring five against them in their last game – and a hat-trick in the previous game last May – the Portuguese is the most likely source.

Cristiano Ronaldo has a sensational scoring record against Espanyol

Good evening and welcome to Sportsmail’s LIVE coverage of this evening’s La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Espanyol at the Bernabeu.

Zinedine Zidane’s collection of superstars will be striving to gain lost ground in the title race after surprisingly being held to a 1-1 draw by Real Betis in their previous match.

Victory tonight would take Los Blancos to within four points of leaders Barcelona and a single point behind second placed Atletico Madrid – after their neighbours imploded in yesterday’s 2-1 defeat by Lionel Messi and Co.

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Real Madrid welcome Espanyol to the Bernabeu on Sunday evening hoping to gain some lost ground in the La Liga title chase. 

After surprisingly losing points against Real Betis last weekend, Zinedine Zidane’s expensively assembled side of superstars can move to within four points of leaders Barcelona if they return to winning ways.

Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the assault on the under-strength visitors who are missing several key players and, with Real Madrid netting 35 time in their last six home games, expect there to be goals. 


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