Match Preview and Team News
Real Madrid boss Bernd Schuster is under intense media pressure ahead of Saturday's La Liga clash with Espanyol at the Bernabeu...
Real Madrid's 2-1 defeat against AS Roma on Wednesday was the side's fifth defeat in seven competitive matches. Having already been knocked out of the Copa Del Rey and now having seen their hopes of being crowned champions of Europe for a record tenth time, Real Madrid will now focus all of their energies on the defence of their Primera Liga title.
With Barcelona just five points behind Real in the La Liga table, defeat to Espanyol could be disastrous. However, Madrid President Ramon Calderon is keen not to place any more pressure on the German coach and said on Spanish radio last night that "I say it from my position as a fan and now as president, we believed in him (Schuster) and we continue doing so. What happened on Wednesday cannot be allowed to blind us or make us become pessimistic about his work. He has shown in other games that he knows very well what he is doing. We trust in Schuster and I want to continue trusting him."
A win over Espanyol on Saturday would extend Real's lead at the top of the table to 8 points for 24 hours at least and would certainly give Schuster some much needed breathing space. Defeat would ensure that the press rumours linking Jose Mourinho to Real Madrid will undoubtedly gather momentum.
Last seasons corresponding fixture saw a thrilling 4-3 win for Madrid in which the Merengues came from behind three times to snatch the points from Espanyol.
The Barcelona club will travel to the Bernabeu tomorrow looking to build upon last weeks 2-0 win over Valencia: a win that ended a three game losing run. Victory at the Bernabeu would certainly sustain Espanyol's Champions League dreams as they now sit just two points behind fourth placed Atletico.
Ahead of the match, Espanyol's Albert Riera said "We do not need any special motivation for the match, they are three very important points. We will go out as we have always done, to win and to play with nerve, trying to make the most of our strengths."
Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos misses the match through suspension after picking up a red card last weekend at Recreativo. Schuster faces a shortage of defenders as Michel Salgado and Fabio Cannavaro both face late fitness tests on Friday.
In attack, Ruud van Nistelrooy is still struggling with an ankle injury while Arjen Robben faces a further six weeks out. It is reported that Wesley Sneijder has recovered from his rib injury and has resumed training, but he is still a doubt for the starting line up.
Espanyol will be boosted by the news that captain Raúl Tamudo has recovered fully from his broken arm and the striker may be recalled to the starting XI.
Ivan de la Peña is sidelined for at least a fortnight after picking up a muscle injury in Espanyol's 2-0 win over Valencia last Saturday.
Argentine defender Clemente Rodríguez and reserve goalkeeper Iñaki Lafuente are both back in the squad. Jesús María Lacruz and winger Rufete both face fitness tests and are doubtful.