Real Madrid cruised to a comfortable, if unspectacular 2-0 win at home to Espanyol on Saturday lunchtime thanks to goals from Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema.
Zinedine Zidane’s men were without the injured Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and Marcelo, but had few problems dispatching the side second from bottom with just nine points from 16 games this season.
The absence of Bale and Hazard allowed the Brazilian duo of Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr to start, with Vinicius, who has been left out in the cold recently by Zidane, enjoying a bright 45 minutes against a rival that offered little in attack and was content to try to pressure Madrid’s possession.
The opening goal came from an unlikely source, with Varane scoring with a left-footed effort after the ball fell to him following a corner, with Espanyol’s veteran goalkeeper Diego Lopez given no chance.
The second half saw Madrid content to conserve their energy and maintain control of the game but managed a second goal 12 minutes from time, when the previously quiet Benzema finished off a move he had started deeper in the Espanyol half.
Earlier, Vinicius had gone close, while Benzema had an effort saved by Lopez when one-on-one with the keeper.
Left-back Ferland Mendy then managed to get himself sent off with eight minutes remaining – which may become a problem for Zidane given Marcelo’s injury – but by then Espanyol were happy to wait for the whistle, having not suffered any further damage after last week’s humiliation at home to 10-man Osasuna.