Real Madrid v Espanyol preview: Zinedine Zidane hints at squad rotation as Gareth Bale returns
Last Updated: 18/02/17 3:32pm
Zinedine Zidane has hinted that he could rotate his squad as Real Madrid host Espanyol in La Liga on Saturday afternoon with Gareth Bale set to return.
The Real boss also confirmed striker Alvaro Morata will start the match after appearing as a late substitute in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
It remains to be seen how many other changes Zidane might make, but the Frenchman admits his star-studded squad leaves him spoilt for choice.
"For me they are all very good, they train phenomenally and it's difficult to have 24 players," he said.
"They are all important and sometimes we need to freshen things up and rotate. The squad is well prepared for everything. But I'm not going to say any more about tomorrow apart from Morata [starting]."
The current La Liga leaders have received a huge injury boost for the weekend with Bale set to make his first appearance in almost three months after recovering from his ankle injury, but is likely to play a bit part as he returns to full match fitness.
The Wales international has been sidelined since suffering tendon damage during a Champions League match against Sporting Lisbon in November, an injury that required surgery.
"He will be in the squad and the plan is for him to have some minutes. We're keen and he's keen as well," Zidane said of the winger.
"Bale is a very important player for us. We know the quality and speed that he has, and the damage he can cause the opposition. He's very happy to return to the team, to be with us, and be able to play again."
Real also boast a massive 17 points cushion over ninth-placed Espanyol, but Zidane is not expecting an easy game against a side who had won three games on the trot before last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Real Sociedad.
"It's a team that are coming off some very good results recently. It will be difficult," the Frenchman added.
While Zidane is bracing his side for a difficult game, Espanyol's former Real goalkeeper Diego Lopez has similarly left his team-mates in no doubt just how hard it is likely to be for them to get anything out of the match.
Only Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have beaten Real in a league game at the Bernabeu in the last six years and Lopez, who came up through the youth ranks at the 11-time European champions, has warned his current side they will need to be "perfect" to join that elite company this weekend.
"We must play a perfect match and hope that they don't have a good day and they aren't successful." he told the club's official website.
"We are playing one of the best teams in the world, they are favourites, but we will go out and play our match and see how much Espanyol have grown and what we are capable of doing. If we are able to obtain a good result it will be very positive."
Follow Real Madrid v Espanyol across Sky Sports' digital platforms with live commentary from 3.15pm and catch the game in full from 5.30pm on Sky Sports 5.