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Espanyol v Read Madrid: Ancelotti looks for win to end torrid week

The future of Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is shrouded in doubt as he takes his side to Espanyol for the penultimate game of their La Liga season.

A four-point gap between Real and leaders Barcelona means Ancelotti’s men require victories from their final two Liga matches and for Luis Enrique’s side to fail to win their remaining fixtures to clinch the title.

Four points from their last two games would be enough for Real should Barca lose to both Atletico Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna, but given that the Catalan giants have been defeated just four times in the league in the whole of 2014-15 and have won 11 of their last 12 Liga outings, the task facing Real is bordering on the impossible. 

Regardless of how Barca fare at Atletico on Sunday, Ancelotti will be keen to bounce back from the midweek UEFA Champions League semi-final exit to Juventus and quieten the fierce speculation over his position.

The headlines following Real’s 3-2 aggregate defeat spoke of a crisis at the Santiago Bernabeu and much is being made of Ancelotti’s failure to win La Liga during his tenure, although he did deliver Champions League glory last season. 

Real are hoping to avoid a fourth consecutive winless game and the Italian coach has the backing of his players.

Defender Sergio Ramos told Marca: “It’s not up to us if Ancelotti stays, although no one has spoken more highly of our manager than I have. But it isn’t up to me.”

He added: “The stats back him up. Other people have to weigh things up and draw conclusions.

“If Real Madrid ruled Europe, part of the reason was Ancelotti.”

Ramos faces a fitness test to determine whether he will feature at Espanyol, having allegedly played the entire second leg against Juventus with a tear in his calf muscle.

Should Ramos miss out, Pepe could return to the starting line-up alongside Raphael Varane, but Ancelotti is unlikely to make any other changes to the team that lost to Juventus.

Toni Kroos and Isco are expected to continue in midfield in the absence of the injured Luka Modric and Sami Khedira, and Gareth Bale should keep his place despite being the target of criticism after both legs of the Juventus defeat.

Espanyol will be keen to continue the good form that has seen them lose only one of their last 10 games.

After a convincing 2-0 win over Eibar in their last outing, Sergio Gonzalez’s side will be keen to leapfrog Athletic Bilbao and Malaga into seventh and make a vast improvement on their 14th-placed finish in La Liga in 2013-14.

Fri 15 May, 2015
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