Rafael Benitez will hope Real Madrid can shake off the absence of James Rodriguez when they take on Espanyol at Estadi Cornella-El Prat on Saturday.
Real were dealt a big blow on Thursday as scans confirmed attacking midfielder James had torn a muscle in his left thigh, the former Monaco and Porto man having picked up the injury in Colombia’s midweek international friendly with Peru.
James is now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines, where he will be joined by full-back Danilo, who is out for a month because of a foot problem.
Nevertheless, Real will still be expected to extend an unbeaten run over Espanyol that stretches back to 2007.
Rodriguez was instrumental in Real’s 5-0 win over Real Betis prior to the international break, scoring twice. Yet with Cristiano Ronaldo – who Florentino Perez recently valued at €1billion – and Gareth Bale available, scoring goals should not be an issue.
Real are likely to come under increased scrutiny at the other end of the pitch, however, with goalkeeper Keylor Navas needing to regain his focus after being enveloped in the David de Gea transfer saga.
Navas was set to be used as a makeweight in the deal to bring De Gea from Manchester United to the Santiago Bernabeu, but a well-documented failure to submit paperwork on time led to the collapse of the transfer.
The Costa Rica international kept clean sheets in Real’s opening two league matches and will attempt to record another shutout against an Espanyol side that followed up a 1-0 win over Getafe with a 3-1 defeat to Villarreal.
Former Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo, who has recently retired, will be honoured before the game and winger Paco Montanes knows Sergio Gonzalez’s men need to be at their best in order to have any chance of marking the occasion with a surprise triumph.
“Tamudo is an idol and it’s very good that the club is recognising him,” Montanes said in quotes reported by Sport.
“We have to be very focused and not make mistakes. We’ll have to endure and keep our nerve because Madrid will have chances.
“If you go looking for goals you take more risks, but at the same time you engage the fans. It’s a decision we have to take.”