Real Madrid clung on to a slender 1-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday night at the Santiago Bernabeu. Marco Asensio scored in the first half after a dominating 45 but Real Madrid retreated in the second half and might consider themselves lucky to come away with three points.
Real Madrid got to rest two of their undisputed starters in Gareth Bale and Marcelo for a pair of big tests coming up. They remain unbeaten this season under Julen Lopetegui recovered from the draw against Athletic Bilbao last weekend in the league and jump ahead of Barcelona in the table to reclaim top spot despite their rivals having a game to come on Sunday.
This was far more difficult than it needed to be. Real Madrid were dominating the game but couldn't put it beyond Espanyol. They have far sterner tests lying ahead, and in games where chances are harder to come by, the spectre of Cristiano Ronaldo's strike rate hangs over the Bernabeu.
Last season, Real Madrid suffered when they rotated, and it looks like that might be set to continue this year.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Lopetegui made five changes to the side that beat Roma on Wednesday night with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid on the horizon. They barely missed a beat in terms of style, but there was a lack of threat in attack at times especially in the second half, when Espanyol started to take over. Lopetegui managed to rest some of his best, give minutes to squad players and still earn three points despite how unconvincing it was.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Had one save to make in the first half and stood up to it. Made a couple of routines in the second half but never really asked to do any more. Borja Iglesias almost lobbed him after Sergio Ramos' mistake, but it was hardly the Belgian's fault.
DF Alvaro Odriozola, 7 -- A couple of heavy touches in the first half, which can be put down to rustiness. He improved as the game went on and was always an outlet at right-back when needed.
DF Sergio Ramos, 6 -- Slightly slow to react in one instance, which let Espanyol in for their first real chance. Mistake in second half nearly led to Borja Iglesias equaliser. Started and nearly finished an attack with lovely header in the second half though and made a couple of important interjections with Espanyol pushing for an equaliser.
DF Raphael Varane, 6 -- Rarely taxed and had the measure of Borja Iglesias. Looked a little lost at times when forced to come out of position and face Espanyol attackers one-on-one but good overall.
DF Nacho, 6 -- Not as adventurous as Marcelo tends to be on the left, but that's no bad thing. Rarely caught out of position and gave Asensio more room to attack down that side of the field.
MF Dani Ceballos, 6 -- Struggling to find his feet. Never consistently involved in build-up play but always capable of a moment of magic though and got better as the game progressed with Espanyol taking over once he went off. Replaced after an hour despite starting the second half brightly.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- Plays so well with Modric at the base of midfield and beyond. Went close with a header in the first half. His importance to Zinedine Zidane's team was unquestioned and he's becoming an anchor for Lopetegui too.
MF Luka Modric, 7 -- Back to his best in the first half. Linked well with Casemiro in the first half and his technical brilliance makes him so hard to play against. Got tired as the game progressed.
MF Marco Asensio, 6 -- Failed to get anything going in the early stages but slotted him after a nervy first half for Real Madrid. Sloppy at times aside from that one finish, which settled the game.
MF Isco, 8 -- Drifted all over the front line for Real Madrid and his creativity and unpredictability threw Espanyol out of whack a number of times. A few nice connections with Odriozola that might have yielded more on another day. Getting his groove back one game at a time.
FW Karim Benzema, 4 -- Another game, another performance when Benzema seemed out of place. His movement remains good, but he offered nothing as a centre forward. Replaced after an hour.
FW Mariano, 5 -- If he does nothing other than add energy, it's still an upgrade on Benzema, whom he replaced after an hour. Had a couple of chances but nothing concrete and couldn't replicate his debut against Roma.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 4 -- Came on for Dani Ceballos after 63 minutes. Cut in a couple of times from the right with no end product. A quiet night for Vazquez as his frustrating start to the season continues.
MF Marcos Llorente, NR -- Replaced Isco after 78 minutes. Really asserted himself on the game and looked like a man crying out for minutes. Made one lung-bursting run up the field and ended with a shot, which he fired straight into Diego Lopez's chest.