Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez was pictured shaking hands with Atlético striker Radamel Falcao on Monday evening at the awards ceremony of Madrid paper AS. He joked with the Colombian, that he should pass a napkin for him to sign, in reference to an incident involving Zinedine Zidane many years ago. Unsurprisingly, "El Tigre" looked bemused as he was unaware of such an altercation. Many a truth said in jest, though.
It wasn't so long ago that Mauricio Pochettino was continually linked with the Real Madrid job, this week he finds himself a spectator having been dismissed from Espanyol at the end of November. The other Catalan side will have to sell once again as the transfer window fast approaches. Javier Aguirre is yet to win as the new man in charge, the veteran has, however, stopped a run of defeats.
It's a case of déjà vu for Madrid as once again they are light of left-back and striker options, Fábio Coentrão has missed the last two games, but should return, whilst an ankle injury has cast doubt over Karim Benzema. Youngster Álvaro Morata will play some part as he wasn't even on the bench in midweek, though José Mourinho later admitted it had been a mistake.
Sergio García returns from suspension for Espanyol and Christian Stuani will once again play with a face mask protecting a broken nose. Goalkeeper Cristian Álvarez is the only doubt with a muscle injury.
Defeat to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey saw Mourinho lay the blame firmly at the players door: "I'll have words with some players." Before explaining why he thinks they weren't in the right frame of mind: "Cold, rain, in the cup… Maybe it isn't just the manager who carries a responsibility. I deliver on my responsibilities." A spectacular Mesut Özil free-kick gave them the win over Real Valladolid in the league - twice they had to come from behind to seal the victory.
Joan Verdú scored a 'panenka' style penalty and Simão Sabrosa scored the other as Espanyol drew 2-2 with Sevilla a week last Friday, they had twice taken the lead. They have drawn two consecutive matches, moving them off the foot of the table.
Los Blancos have won their last six meetings with Espanyol, with the away side failing to hit the net. Three of those matches have finished 3-0 (8.25), whilst Madrid have scored 19 goals, making over 2.5 goals a good option at 1.22.
Having been leapfrogged in the scoring charts by the long haired striker across town, expect Cristiano Ronaldo to make Espanyol suffer. With the winter break fast approaching he will be going all out, whether that's out wide or as the main striker. For first goal he is 2.60 or to score at least three goals it's 6.00. Özil's strike in Valladolid should lead to more free-kicks for the German, he is 5.50 to score from outside the area.
The 2-1 loss at Celta Vigo means Madrid have now lost more games already this season than they did in the whole of the last campaign. Irrepressible home form countered against an Espanyol team without a win in six, should lead to a comfortable victory for José's men at 1.09, even with the striker headache.
With forward issues for Madrid and Espanyol centre-back Diego Colotto revealing his side are rejuvenated: "We have laid a foundation of order, attitude and sacrifice, a makeover that the team needed." It could be a little closer than anticipated. To give Espanyol a handicap head start of 0-2 it's 1.75 for Real Madrid to win and 4.40 for the draw.
Score Prediction: Real Madrid 4-0 Espanyol (9.75)