Gareth Bale will return to Real Madrid's squad this weekend, almost three months after surgery on his injured right ankle, although he is unlikely to start against Espanyol in La Liga.
The 27-year-old Wales winger hurt his ankle on Nov. 22 in a match against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said ahead of the match: "the idea is that (Bale) will play some minutes" against Espanyol on Saturday.
Prior to his injury, Bale had scored seven goals in 16 appearances for Madrid this season. Madrid, who leads the Spanish league, will be without defender Sergio Ramos for Saturday's match as he recovers from a right leg injury.
Quique Sanchez Flores' Espanyol are meanwhile without two of their best players. Argentine Pablo Piatti, is expected to miss out through injury, along with Pape Diop
It’s a big game for…
Kiko Casilla. First-choice goalkeeper Keylor Navas misses out through injury, and so Zidane will hand a rare chance to 30-year-old back-up stopper Casilla. The Catalan moved to Real from Espanyol in 2015, having made 115 league apperances for the Periquitos. There's also a reunion in the opposite goal: former Real Madrid B number one Diego López returns to the Bernabeu.
Espanyol have had the fewest shots away in La Liga this season (69) while Real Madrid have had the most at home (208). This could be one-way traffic...
Luis Figo, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane all starred in Real Madrid's 2-1 victory over Espanyol in the 2003/04 season.
Player to watch…
Alvaro Morata. Karim Benzema is set to be rested, giving Morata a rare chance to impress. The Spanish international enjoyed a superb two season with Juventus and has done well when called upon by Zidane — he has scored six goals in 14 La Liga matches so far this season — but will need to make the most of opportunities such as these if he is ever going to be considered first-choice.
Espanyol 0 Real Madrid 2, La Liga, September 2016
Real Madrid 6 Espanyol 0, La Liga, January 2016
Espanyol 0 Real Madrid 6, La Liga, September 2015
Real Madrid: LWDWWW
Kick-off: Saturday February 18, 3.15pm, Santiago Bernabeu.
TV: A full replay of the match will be shown on Sky Sports 5, beginning at 5.30pm.
Real Madrid to win: 1/6
Espanyol to win: 6/1
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