Following an imperious performance in the UEFA Champions League in midweek, Real Madrid return to La Liga action at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday against Espanyol.
Julen Lopetegui's side were outstanding on Wednesday in the European Cup, producing a masterful display to beat AS Roma thanks to goals from Isco, Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz on his second debut for the club. That came after Madrid dropped two points to Athletic Club Bilbao last weekend in the league.
It means Los Blancos have ground to make up on rivals Barcelona, who have a perfect record through the first four games of the 2018-19 La Liga campaign. Espanyol sit in fourth after a strong start to the campaign, though, and have the ability to make this a tough afternoon for Madrid.
Here is the broadcast information for the contest on Saturday, how the bookmakers expect it to go and a preview of the showdown.
Date: Saturday, September 22
Time: 7:45 p.m. (BST), 2:45 p.m. (ET)
TV Info: beIN Sports (U.S.)
Odds (courtesy of OddsShark)
Real Madrid win (4-25)
Espanyol win (777-50)
Madrid Out to Close Gap on Barcelona
After a straightforward beginning to the season, Lopetegui received his first major test at Athletic last weekend, with his team eventually battling to a 1-1 draw.
Although some would have been disappointed with that performance, Madridistas will have been delighted with the manner in which the side went about their business on Wednesday, when they dominated Roma at the Bernabeu in the 3-0 win.
As noted by Spanish football journalist David Cartlidge, it was an outstanding display from the European champions:
There will, of course, be times when Los Blancos feel the absence of a goalscorer such as Cristiano Ronaldo, especially in tight matches like the one at the San Mames. However, the attacking players in the setup do appear liberated following his departure.
Karim Benzema is leading the line well, Isco and Marco Asensio provide a creative verve, while Bale has shown he can be the talismanic presence any elite team needs in the final third. At the moment, the Welshman is performing as well as he has done in his Madrid career.
Not only is his physicality, speed and creativity giving huge issues to defences, he's much more productive than last term, per ESPN FC:
Aside from slumping to a 2-1 loss to Alaves earlier in the campaign, Espanyol have impressed in La Liga, picking up a point on the road at Celta Vigo, as well as home wins against Valencia and Levante.
A trip to the capital will provide them with their biggest examination of the season, but they've shown they can dig in—defenders David Lopez and Mario Hermoso have been tremendous—and pinch a goal.
Even so, stopping this revamped and rejuvenated Madrid team feels like a step too far for Espanyol head coach Rubi and his team, especially with Bale and Benzema among the goals, and Mariano quickly settling into life again at the Bernabeu.
It may take Los Blancos some time to break through, but when they eventually do, a comfortable win is on the cards.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-0 Espanyol